Greek mythology - Sample Essay
George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion in the early 20th century; it’s first performance being in Vienna, German spoken in the year 1913. The play was written with the intention of highlighting the injustices that occurred in society of the time. The injustices being the limitations people faced because of their upbringing or their colloquial dialect. Another theme of the play is the teaching of roles of women in society. George Bernard Shaw was a strong believer in equality.
The class system is also a theme, the fact that somebody was born with a specific status, in the play we see Eliza moving up the social ladder. The plot of the play involves a bet in which a highly skilled upper class phoneticist is challenged to teach a common flower girl to speak with grammatical correctness. The title Pygmalion originates from Greek mythology. Pygmalion being the King of Cyprus – a man who fell in love with a statue he sculpted himself, his prayers to Aphrodite giving his statue life.
The story of Pygmalion has parallels to the play of the same name. George Bernard Shaw was a great writer, he knew how everything should appear on stage, how the characters should move and speak. He used stage directions to get this across. The stage directions at the beginning of Act 2 immediately alert the audience, they are very descriptive and you are soon aware of the fact that the contents of Mr Higgins drawing room in unlike that of an average upper class male. Phonographs and laryngoscopes are objects that the audience would want to find out more about.
The attention of the audience has now been gained by a small number of unusual furnishings. The stage directions mention the appearance of Mrs Pearce, which alerts the audience to a new character. “What’s the matter? ” This is Higgins first correspondence with the new character and he uses a rather direct manner, however she replies seemingly untroubled by the way at which she has been spoken to. She is clearly perplexed by the fact that a young woman with a common tongue has come to see Mr Higgins.
We can take a guess at the identity of the visitor and our suspicions are confirmed when we are told that her accent is something awful. Mrs Pearce is used to strange people turning up, we can tell this from the line “I thought perhaps you wanted her to talk in to one of your machines”. This explains us what the odd equipment is use for. The main objective of Higgins is to record a new voice on one of his machines. Mr Higgins hobby is also his life; his hobby is one of his main goals from day to day.
Mrs Pearce tells Higgins that Eliza’s accent is “something dreadful” this means the bet Higgins is about to accept will be even more challenging. The workings of Higgins machines are revealed when he is talking to Pickering. A man who looks at home in the drawing room of a fellow upper class man, this show class companionship. Stage directions again become something of importance as we see the arrival of Eliza. They illustrate that she has made an effort to make herself somewhat acceptable. The audience are impressed that she has made an effort.
She gains their sympathy. Higgins talks to Eliza in an awfully rude fashion and he shows extreme arrogance in saying “I don’t want you”. Eliza is shocked by his bad manners and she answers him back. She makes it very clear to all that she will have her say. This will excite the audience, as they will want to know the outcome of the argument. Eliza feels that she should be treated differently as she arrived in a taxi, this will amuse the audience as they will be shocked to learn that she think she is superior as she turned up in a taxi.
It is evident that Eliza is not your everyday lower class girl, as nobody would expect a girl in Eliza’s position to go knocking on the door of an upper class phonetician asking to be taught to speak properly. The audience would find this enthralling. They would also be amused at the way in which Eliza talks to Higgins and even more entertaining that she misapprehends Higgins when he jokes with Pickering about her departure. Mr Higgins seems unconcerned about Eliza, although she is adamant that she will not leave until she gets what she wants.
Onlookers would be humoured at how Pickering is silenced from the shock of the way that the young lady speaks and laughter would almost certainly be heard as Eliza instructs Higgins on how to behave as a gentleman. Higgins once again shows his disrespect in calling Eliza baggage. Pickering shows he is not like Higgins when he speaks gently when asking her what she wants, once again guided by the stage directions. This is the first point at which the audience is made aware of Eliza’s intentions. The crowd are now interested to learn if she will ever fulfil her ambition.