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Shaw, Bernard - Pygmalion Myth

Presentation / Essay (Pre-University) 2001 3 Pages

Didactics - English - Literature, Works

Excerpt

The Pygmalion Myth

The myth

Bernhard Shaw takes the title of his play from a myth. There are two similar versions of it.

In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was king of Cyprus and fell in love with a statue of the goddess Aphrodite. Pygmalion went to the temple of Aphrodite and prayed for a wife as gorgeous as the statue. When Aphrodite heard him, she went to the home of he sculptor to see what all the fuss was about. She was delighted when she saw the sculpture and so she brought it to life. When the sculptor returned home he found it alive and threw himself at her feet. They soon got married, and Pygmalion didn’t forget to thank Aphrodite for his good fortune. Both brought gifts to her altar as long as they lived.

The Roman poet Ovid invented in his “Metamorphoses” another version: Pygmalion was a very talented sculptor. Venus was very angry because the Cypriot women weren’t worshiping[1]) her enough and so she punished them with making them lose their sense of shame. Pygmalion was so disappointed by the imperfections of the opposite sex that he decided to sculpt a beautiful female statue out of ivory representing his ideal of womanhood. After he finished this work, he immediately fell in love with his own creation. The sculptor clothed the figure, gave it jewels and prayed that his statue would come alive. The goddess Venus breathed life into the statue in answer to his request. The sculpture became a living girl named Galatea and Pygmalion married her. Shaw’s drama is based on the second version.

Another source of Shaw’s “Paygmalion” was Shakespeares “The Taming[2]) of the Shrew[3])”. Petruchio, the hero of this book, wants to heal his wife because she doesn’t stick to the norm. In order to do this he plays the tyrant and uses brutality and ruthlessness. After sche agrres to behave as he wants her to, Petruchio stops treating her in this way. After Eliza had changed her way of life Higgins goes on treating her nastily.

Similarities and differences

Of course the sculptor Pygmalion is Professor Higgins and the statue that comes alive is Eliza Doolittle.

In the myth the statue changes into a woman, Eliza also changes. First she was a flower girl without much money and by the end of the play she is transformed into a lady. Henry Higgins and Pygmalion both create something new and beautiful out of a kind of untouched and raw material. At the end of the story neither Higgins nor Pygmalion are the dominating characters but Galatea and Eliza.

One of the most important differences is Higgins’ attitude to women and his reason for changing Eliza. He alters Eliza for his own satisfaction and to win a bet. He is only motivated by his ambition to rid the uneducated girl of her dialect and to introduce her in society. After she becomes a lady he loses interest in her. On the other hand Pygmalion changes the statue into a woman because he desires a perfect woman and he loves her. The ending of Shaw’s “Pygmalion” is also different from the myth. Eliza wants to be independent and to live her own way, not as a creation of Higgins. They don’t marry like Pygmalion and Galatea and so there is no real happy ending.

[Handout für die Klasse]

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The Pygmalion Myth

Greek mythology

Pygmalion fell in love with a statue of the goddess Aphrodite and prayed for a wife as gorgeous as the statue. When Aphrodite saw the sculpture she brought it to life. Pygmalion and the woman married.

“Metamorphoses” by Ovid

Pygmalion was a very talented sculptor. Venus wasn’t worshipped[1] enough by the women of Cyprus and so she punished them with making them lose their sense of shame. Because of that Pygmalion was disappointed and decided to sculpt a female statue out of ivory. After he had finished this work, he fell in love with his sculpture. The sculptor prayed that his statue would come alive and in answer to his request the goddess Venus breathed life into the statue. Pygmalion named the living girl Galatea and married her.

Another source of Shaw’s “Pygmalion” was Shakespeare’s “The Taming[2] of the Shrew[3] ”. (German title: Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung)

Similarities and differences

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Sources: B. Shaw “Pygmalion”; http://www.britannica.com; http://www.ditto.com;

[...]


[1] worship: the practice of showing respect for God or a god

[2] to tame: make something tame or easy to control

[3] shrew: Spitzmaus, Xanthippe

Details

Pages
3
Year
2001
File size
326 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v99611
Grade
12 Points
Tags
Shaw Bernard Pygmalion Myth
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Title: Shaw, Bernard - Pygmalion Myth