Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. Author. Born in Dublin in 1856 and moved to London in 1876 Produced a few novels with little success Finally received recognition with his play, Pygmalion Member of the Socialist party, very outspoken about politics Won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925
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Author • Born in Dublin in 1856 and moved to London in 1876 • Produced a few novels with little success • Finally received recognition with his play, Pygmalion • Member of the Socialist party, very outspoken about politics • Won Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 • Believed that the transformation of the individual could lead to the transformation of society • Champion of women’s rights
Play’s Setting • London, 1912 • During this era, there were huge differences between the rich and the poor. 70 % of England’s wealth was owned by 1% of the population.
Social Classes • Upper Class: cultural elite, didn’t work, noble men and women • Upper Middle Class: worked but were employed in safe, clean jobs (lawyers, doctors, professors) • Lower Middle Class: worked in dangerous jobs and unsanitary conditions • Lower Class: did not work or worked little, had no financial freedom, were often servants
Social Classes in the Play • Upper Class: Host and Hostess of the Embassy Reception • Upper Middle Class: Professor Higgins and his mother, Pickering • Lower Class: Eliza
Position of Women • Did not have equal rights, couldn’t vote until 1918 • Violence against women was common (in the play, Higgins advises Mr. Doolittle to hit Eliza) • Had little social status
A Romance? • Shaw described Pygmalion as a “romance in five acts,” but it is not the typical romance we think of today. • Victorian romances, such as Pride and Prejudice, set out to examine social issues, and often showcase leading ladies who are impoverished yet inherently moral and male protagonists who learn that money and character do not necessarily go hand in hand.
Shavian Drama • Type of politically and socially charged “discussion play” made popular by George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. • In Pygmalion, Shaw tackles issues about women’s rights, language, social class, and the idea of self-transformation.