Essay on Pygmalion a Play by Bernard Shaw

Essay on Pygmalion a Play by Bernard Shaw

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Pygmalion is one of Bernard Shaw’s most famous and beloved plays, which he published in London in 1912. This play was written during the Edwardian era which was characterised by major political, social and economical changes. Politically, the reign of king Edward VII witnessed a relative involvement of social segments such as labourers and women in political life. Socio-economically, the British society was marked by a strict and a clear-cut social class system in the early twentieth century. During this period and up to First World War, it was believed that 1% of the British population owned approximately 70% of the country’s wealth. As an outcome of the industrialisation and urbanisation processes, however, people increasingly started to get interested in socialist ideas and called for the improvement of women’s position. Given this historical background, Shaw was devoted to write a type of plays different from the Victorian plays which he regarded to be superficial and meaningless. In his view, drama has to be about ideas and conflicts and not about unimportant matters. Thus, Pygmalion can be considered as a social criticism on various topics such as social identity, social class and the power of language. This essay is an attempt to examine the themes of language, social class and gender in Pygmalion. Firstly, a brief summary of the play will be provided. Next, the theme of language and social class will be addressed. The last part will be devoted to the theme of gender and specifically the position of women.
George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion is based on an ancient Greek myth where a sculptor fell in love with a statue he created himself. In this play, Shaw tells a story of the protagonist, Eliza Doolittle, a poor flower gi...


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...nd an upper-class gentleman while she is ignorant and a lower-class flower girl. The man is superior, intelligent and reasonable whereas the woman is inferior, stupid and emotional. However, in Act 5, which can be considered as a climax, Eliza begins to disobey Mr. Higgins and oblige him to treat her equally and respectfully. This shows Eliza’s independence and maturity. This self-confidence and revolution against the existing conventions is a plain criticism of Shaw on the existing ideas at that time.
To conclude, Shaw tried to use his play Pygmalion as a statement to illustrate that class differences are strengthened by language. Throughout the play, it is shown that wealth, power and social position determine who the individual is. Moreover, gender differences and women’s position are wittily addressed by means of the relationships between different characters.

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Essay on Pygmalion a Play by Bernard Shaw

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