George Bernard Shaw and Pygmalion. Shaw’s Biography. Born in 1856 in Dublin, Ireland Born into the lower-middle class: father an alcoholic and mother a professional singer Mother eventually left husband and son to start a household with another man and her eldest daughter in England
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Shaw’s Biography • Born in 1856 in Dublin, Ireland • Born into the lower-middle class: father an alcoholic and mother a professional singer • Mother eventually left husband and son to start a household with another man and her eldest daughter in England • Many of his plays deal with problematic parent-child relationships
Shaw cont. • Shaw hated school and eventually left Dublin to move in with his mother, where he began trying his hand at writing. • He wrote 5 novels. • He became active in politics, eventually founding the Fabian Society, a socialist organization. • He was a freethinker who believed in women’s rights, equality of income, abolishment of private property, and many other liberal ideas. • He also wanted to revamp the English alphabet and reform spelling in the English language to make it simpler.
Shaw cont. • He worked as an art, music and theatre critic. • He wrote his first play in 1891 and wrote close to a dozen more over the next 12 years. • Pygmalion produced in 1914. • He became disillusioned when WWI started and spoke out against it, angering enough people to almost be tried for treason. • He expressed his reactions to the war in the play Heartbreak House.
Shaw cont. • Won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925, and dedicated money to another writer to help him with his work. • Began to be internationally recognized for his plays and works. • Fell off a ladder in 1950 and died at the age of 94, leaving money in his will to revamp the English alphabet and to several arts societies who continue to receive royalties from his plays and My Fair Lady.
The Myth of Pygmalion • Originally written down by Ovid in The Metamorphoses (a collection of various Roman myths) • Quick Synopsis: • Pygmalion, a man who thinks all woman are whores, decides to sculpt a statue of his ideal woman, which he falls in love with. He then asks Venus, the goddess of love, to give him a wife like his sculpture. Venus brings the statue to life, and Pygmalion and his new wife Galatea live happily ever after (supposedly) and have a son named Pathos. • Major Theme: Trying to Create Perfection
Shaw’s Pygmalion • Play is set in early 1900s in London, England • Shaw uses satire—making a critical statement, usually poking fun, about society • Shaw is speaking through Higgins (he is Higgins) • Shaw is criticizing various things; some of the majors include: • The class system • The way people speak • Alcoholism and immorality of lower classes • Romantic notions of “happily ever after”