19. october 2018 / 09.30 - 12.00
PYGMALION is a masterpiece of English ( or Irish!) dramatic literature.
Eliza Doolittle , a penniless girl selling flowers in the street, wants to lern how speak English correctly so that she can get a decent job. She meets henry Higgins, a speech expert who makes a bet with his friend Pickering that he can pass her off as a Princess. Eliza is trained to talk and behave like a lady and when at end of her intense studies, she is presented at a grand ball, she indeed passes for a Princess and Higgins wins his bet. But for Eliza, it is much more than just a bet. Her life has been changed forever. Now she is a princess, all she can do is get married. The play is not only a wonderully written comedy but also an attempt by George Bernard Shaw to expose the inequality of opportunity that women suffered in the last century.
When the play opened in London on 11 April 1914, it caused a stir mainly because the word „bloody” was heard on a London stage for the first time. Time has proved that the play’s lasting impact results not from the controversial language. We all know that modern English now contains swear words far stronger than ”bloody”. In fact PYGMALION deals with many important contemporary issues. Shaw claimed it to be a play about language and class. He believed passionately that people should not be discriminated against because of their birth , their envoronment or their speech.
Seeing the play today, one is amazed at the issues and themes which still resonate with today’s audiencs. Our newspapers are filled with stories of people who are transported from a word of poverty to one of riches and sophistication. I suspect that only those with the spiryt and tenacity of eliza doolittle are likely to survive the transformation.Shaw gives us an added twist with the charakter of Eliza’s father, who opens our eyes to another perspective, and in particular to misery of middle class morality. But what I enjoy most about this play is Shaw’s ability to articulate some of the timeless fundamental issues which arise when a women becomes emotionally involved with a man. As Higgins reflects:
„ I suppose a women wants to live her own life: and a man wants to live his: and each tries to drag the other on to the wrong track. One wants to go north and the other wants to go south: and the result is that they both have to go east , though they both hate the east wind”
When you have read Shaw’s Pygmalion, try to answer for yourselves the following qestion. Let’s see if your answers change after seeing the show…. Enjoy it!
- 1. Does Higgins help Eliza? Or does he harm her?
- 2.Is Eliza to blame for wanting to change her life?
- 3.Is Eliza happy at the end of the play?
- 4.Is Higgins being honest when he says he has no romantic interest in Eliza?
- 5. Is Pickering any better than Higgins?
- 6. Alfred says he is too poor to follow „middle class morality”. Do you agree with him?
- 7. Which charakter do you like best and why?
- 8. At the tea party Eliza tells the story of her poor family and how they perhaps murdered an aunt. Do you find this funny? If so why and what do you think Shaw is doing with this story?
- 9. Is there anything attractive or good about Higgins’ character?
- 10. Are people today judged by how they speak? Can you think of anyone who is powerful or influential in public life or the arts who speaks with a strong accent or dialect?
- 11.Does watching a play or film set in the past ( or future) allow you to think about serious themes better than contemporary stories?
- 12. Mrs Higgins says that Eliza was about to throw herself in the river at nigt after the Ball. Could Pygmalion be tragedy?
Why do you think it is a comedy?
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