. In the process, Higgins and Doolittle grow close, but she ultimately rejects his domineering ways and declares she will marry Freddy Eynsford-Hill – a young, poor, gentleman. This play is based on Pygmalion, a sculptor from Greek Mythology who was a known woman hater - a trait, somewhat shared by Prof Higgins in this play.
Shaw wrote the lead role of Eliza Doolittle for
Mrs Patrick Campbell(though at 49 she was considered by some to be too old for the role). Due to delays in mounting a Londonproduction and Mrs. Campbell's injury in a car accident, the first English presentation did not take place until some time after "Pygmalion" premiered at the Hofburg Theatre in Viennaon October 16, 1913, in a German translation by Shaw. The first production in English finally opened at His Majesty's Theatre, London on April 11, 1914and starred Mrs Campbell as Eliza and Sir Herbert Beerbohm Treeas Henry Higgins; it was directed by Shaw himself.
The Pygmalion myth was a popular subject for
Victorian eraEnglish playwrights, including one of Shaw's influences, W. S. Gilbert, who wrote a successful play based on the story in 1871, called " Pygmalion and Galatea". Shaw also would have been familiar with the burlesque version, " Galatea, or Pygmalion Reversed".
'Covent Garden' - 11.15p.m. A group of people are sheltering from the rain. Amongst them are the silly, shallow, social climbing Eynsford-Hills, consisting of mother and daughter, Clara. Freddy Eynsford-Hill enters after being unable to find a cab to take them home. He is a weak and ineffectual character. His sister bullies him, and enjoys seeing him look ridiculous. As he goes off once again to find a cab, he bumps into a flower girl, Eliza. Her flowers drop into the mud of
Covent Garden, the flowers she needs to survive in her poverty-stricken world. Shortly they are joined by a gentleman, Colonel Pickering. While Eliza tries to sell flowers to the Colonel, a bystander informs her that a man is writing down everything she says. The man is Professor Henry Higgins. A row occurs when Higgins tells people where they were born, which creates both amazement and irritation. One man accuses Higgins of coming from Hanwell Insane Asylum. It becomes apparent that he and Colonel Pickering have a shared interest in phonetics. Indeed, Pickering has come to meet Higgins and Higgins was planning to go to India to meet Pickering. Higgins tells Pickering that he could turn the flower girl into a duchess. These words of bravado spark an interest in Eliza, who would love to make changes in her life and become more mannerly, even though, to her, it only means working in a flower shop. At the end of the act, Freddy returns after finding a taxi, only to find that his mother and sister have gone and left him with the cab. The streetwise Eliza takes the cab from him, using the money that Higgins tossed to her out of pity, leaving him on his own.
Higgins' Laboratory - Next Day. As Higgins demonstrates his equipment to Pickering, the housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, tells him that a young girl wants to see him. She is shown up, and to his disappointment it is Eliza. He has no interest in her, but she says she wants to pay to have lessons, so she can talk like a lady in a flower shop. Higgins claims that he could turn her into a duchess. Pickering makes a bet with him on his claim, and says that he will pay for her lessons. She is sent off to have a bath. Mrs. Pearce tells Higgins that he must behave himself in the young girl's presence. He must stop swearing, and improve his table manners. He is at a loss to understand why she should find fault with him. Then Alfred Doolittle, Eliza's father, appears with the sole purpose of getting money out of Higgins. He has no interest in his daughter in a paternal way. He sees himself as member of the undeserving poor, and means to go on being undeserving. He has an eccentric view of life, brought about by a lack of education and an intelligent brain. He is also aggressive, and when Eliza, on her return, sticks her tongue out at him, he goes to hit her, but is prevented by Pickering. The scene ends with Higgins telling Pickering that they really have got a difficult job on their hands.
Mrs Higgins' drawing room. Henry tells his mother he has a young 'common' whom he has been teaching. Mrs Higgins is not very impressed with her son's attempts to win her approval because it is her 'at home' day, in which she is entertaining visitors. The visitors are the Eynsford-Hills. Henry is rude to them on their arrival. Eliza enters and soon falls into talking about the weather and her family. The humour stems from the knowledge the audience have of Eliza, of which the Eynsford-Hills are curiously ignorant. When she is leaving, Freddy Eynsford-Hill asks her if she is going to walk across the park, to which she replies; " Walk! Not bloody likely..." (This is the most famous line from the play, and, for many years after, to use the word 'bloody' was known as a "pygmalion".) After she and the Eynsford-Hills leave, Henry asks for his mother's opinion. She says the girl is not presentable, and she is very concerned about what will happen to the girl; but neither Higgins nor Pickering understand her, and leave feeling confident and excited about how Eliza will get on. This leaves Mrs Higgins feeling exasperated, and she says "Men!Men!!Men!!!"
Higgins' laboratory - The time is midnight, and Higgins, Pickering, and Eliza have returned from the ball. Pickering congratulates Higgins on winning the bet. As they retire to bed, Higgins asks where his slippers are, and on returning to his room Eliza throws them at him. The remainder of the scene is about Eliza not knowing what she is going to do with her life, and Higgins not understanding her difficulty. Higgins says she could get married, but Eliza interprets this as selling herself like a prostitute. "We were above that at the corner of
Tottenham Court Road." Finally she returns her jewellery to Higgins, including the ring he had given her, as though she is cutting her ties with him, but retrieves it from the hearth.
Mrs Higgins' drawing room. Higgins and Pickering are perturbed at discovering that Eliza has walked out on them. Doolittle returns now dressed in wedding attire and transformed into the middle class in which he feels '..intimidated..'. The scene ends with another confrontation between Higgins and Eliza, which is basically a repeat of the previous act. The play ends with everyone leaving to see Doolittle married, except for Higgins, who stays behind shuffling through his pockets and pacing about the room.
Despite the intense central relationship between Eliza and Henry, the original play ends with her leaving to marry the eager young Freddy Eynsford-Hill. Shaw, annoyed by the tendency of audiences, actors, and even directors to seek 'romantic' re-interpretations of his ending, later wrote an essay [http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=6390&pageno=86 page 86] of the Project Gutenberg edition.] for inclusion with subsequent editions, in which he explained precisely why it was impossible for the story to end with Higgins and Eliza getting married.
Some subsequent adaptations have changed this ending. Despite Shaw's insistence that the original ending remain intact, producer Gabriel Pascal provided a more ambiguous end to the 1938 film: instead of marrying Freddy, Eliza apparently reconciles with Henry in the final scene, implying that they probably will get married. The musical version "
My Fair Lady" and its 1964 film have similar endings. However, some productions of the play have emphasised that Eliza does marry Freddy.
The play led to a series of adaptations:
* "Hoi Polloi" (1935), a film adaptation by
The Three Stooges
* "Pygmalion" (1938), a film adaptation by Shaw.
My Fair Lady" (1956), the Broadway musical by Lerner and Loewe, based on the 1938 film.
* "My Fair Lady" (1964), a film version of the musical starring
Audrey Hepburnand Rex Harrison.
Trading Places" (1983), a comedy film starring Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroydand Jamie Lee Curtis.
* "Pretty Woman" (1990), a modern film take on Pygmalion starring
Julia Robertsand Richard Gere.
The Opening of Misty Beethoven" (1976) A more modern adaptation by the pornographic film industry.
She's All That" (1999), a modern film take on Pygmalion.
Pygmalion (2007)" , a broadway revival of Pygmalion starring Jefferson Maysand Claire Danes.
Ti Fulrani (The Queen of Flowers)", an adaptation by Pu La Deshpandein Marathi
Santu Rangeeli", an adaptation by Pravin Joshiin Gujarati
Pygmalion (2007)", an adaptation by Aka Morchiladzeand Levan Tsuladzein Georgian at the Marjanishvili Theatrein Tbilisi
"Man Pasand" is a 1980 Hindi movie directed by Basu Chatterjee. The storyline seems inspired by "My Fair Lady". the film stars Dev Anand, Tina Munim, Girish Karnad, Mehmood and Dimple Kapadia. The film's music is by Rajesh Roshan.
Willy Russell's 1980 stage comedy " Educating Rita", and the subsequent film adaptation, are similar in plot to "Pygmalion". [ [http://www.willyrussell.com/page2intro.html Willy Russell - Introduction ] ]
There is a play "
The First Night of Pygmalion" depicting the backstage tensions during the first British production.
References in popular culture
On May 22, 2008, the Final Jeopardy question response was "What is Pygmalion"? The answer was which work's preface includes the line "The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it."
In the 2004 film "
Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" starring Lindsay Lohan, the drama club musical is a modern-day adaptation of "Pygmalion" (with the Eliza character a New York woman).
In the 1993 film "
Six Degrees of Separation", the character Ouisa ( Stockard Channing) calls Trent Conway ( Anthony Michael Hall) "the Henry Higgins of our time" for his rapid transformation of a street hustler ( Will Smith) into a refined, bourgeois con artist.
In the popular 1937 musical "
Me and My Girl" which has had successful runs and revivals both in London and Broadway, the Duchess sends Cockney character of Sally Smith to "Wimpole Street" -- Higgins' address -- for refinement training. Shaw's play was so universally popular that no more reference than that was needed to set up the scenario.
Television references include the following:
The Fresh Prince of Bel Airepisode "Kiss My Butler", Geoffrey uses Naomi Campbell's accent to work out her precise residence in London, although he is mistaken by one block. This is a reference to the way that people's accents were used to identify their location within London in the play.
The Andy Griffith Showepisode "My Fair Ernest T. Bass" in 1964, Andy and Barney attempt to make over mountain man Ernest T. Bassand introduce him to Mayberry Society.
* In "
The Simpsons" episode " Pygmoelian", Moe Szyslakhas cosmetic surgery in order to be socially accepted. The show also made reference to Pygmalion in the episode " My Fair Laddy" where Lisa Simpsonmakes a bet with her brother Bart Simpsonthat she can turn Groundskeeper Willieinto a proper gentleman by the school science fair.
* In the "
Family Guy" episode " One If by Clam, Two If by Sea," Stewie Griffinattempts to turn a little Cockney-accented English girl named Eliza Pinchley into a proper lady.
* In the "
Will and Grace" four part episode " Fagmalion" in which Will and Jack make-over newly queer Barry.
* In the "
Boy Meets World" episode "Turnaround", Cory and Shawn enlist the help of a friend to turn Cory's date to the dance popular. Shawn gets the idea from reading Pygmalion in English Class.
* In the "
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" episode " My So-Called Wife," Mr. Harriman has to pretend Coco is his wife and attempts to teach her English using the following sentence: "The sleet in Crete stays neatly in the street."
* In the "
The Beverly Hillbillies" episode " Pygmalion and Elly" Sonny resumes his high-class courtship of Elly May, by playing Julius Caesar and Pygmalion.
* In the "
Magnum P.I." episode "Professor Jonathan Higgins" of season 5 " Jonathan Higgins" tries to turn his punk rocker cousin into a high society socialite. Higgins will even reference Pygmalion in the episode.
SomeWho|date=July 2008 have speculated that
Alexander Melville Bellwas the model for Professor Higgins. Evidence supporting this includes the fact that Eliza is not a common name, and Eliza Grace Bell was Alexander Melville Bell's wife. However, in earlier retellings of Ovid's story a similar name is used; Goethecalls her Elise, based upon the variants in the story of Dido/Elissa. Evidence against this is the preface to the play, in which Shaw writes at length about Henry Sweet and notes that Higgins is not a portrait, but has several Sweet touches, and says of Sweet that "with Higgins's physique and temperament [he] might have set the Thames on fire." The play also owes something to the legend of King Cophetua. Joseph Weizenbaumnamed his artificial intelligence computer program ELIZAafter the character Eliza Doolittle.Fact|date=July 2008
A story goesFact|date=July 2008 that Shaw, as part of an ongoing feud with
Winston Churchill, sent Churchill tickets to the opening night of "Pygmalion", with an attached note saying that "I have included two tickets so that you may bring a friend, if you have any." Churchill sent a reply: "I regret to say that I am unable to attend that night; I would like tickets to the second performance, if there is one."
Thanks to "Pygmalion", George Bernard Shaw was the first person to have been awarded both a
Nobel Prize(Literature - 1925) and an Academy Award(Pygmalion - 1939).
* [http://www.pygmalion.ws/stories/ Pygmalion stories across history]
* [http://www.asiaing.com/pygmalion-by-george-bernard-shaw.html "Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw] - Availbale in PDF format.
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