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September Week 2

Teen Reader



Click here for the text version of Pygmalion

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George Bernard Shaw

About the Author

Geroge Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Born in Dublin, Shaw moved to London in 1876, where he struggled to establish himself as a writer and novelist, and embarked on a rigorous process of self-education. By the mid-1880s he had become a respected theatre and music critic.  In the final decade of his life he continued to write prolifically until shortly before his death, aged ninety-four, having refused all state honors, including the Order of Merit in 1946.

Since Shaw's death scholarly and critical opinion about his works has varied, but he has regularly been rated among British dramatists as second only to Shakespeare; analysts recognize his extensive influence on generations of English-language playwrights


Pygmalion (1941)

Pygmalion is a play by George Bernard Shaw, named after a Greek mythological figure. It was first presented on stage to the public in 1913.  In ancient Greek mythology, Pygmalion fell in love with one of his sculptures, which then came to life. The general idea of that myth was a popular subject for Victorian era British playwrights, including one of Shaw's influences, Shaw’s play has been adapted numerous times, most notably as the 1938 film Pygmalion, the 1956 musical My Fair Lady and its 1964 film version.

Shaw mentioned that the character of Professor Henry Higgins was inspired by several British professors of phonetics: Alexander Melville Bell, Alexander J. Ellis, Tito Pagliardini, but above all, the cantankerous Henry Sweet.


Questions for Pygmalion

Could Pygmalion be set in the modern day, at a time when there are, generally, more options and opportunities for women?

It has been said that Pygmalion is not a play about turning a flower girl into a duchess, but one about turning a woman into a human being. Do you agree?  Why or why not?

What is the Pygmalion myth? In what significant ways, and with what effect, has Shaw transformed that myth in his play?

Could Pygmalion take place in a different country, a country with a different language? Or is it a play specifically about England and English?

Higgins claims that he treats everyone equally, that he does not change his behavior under different circumstances. That said, does Higgins himself change over the course of the play?



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