George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, first premiered in 1913, is a satirical play that investigates issues of class, identity, and social mobility. The plot centers around Professor Henry Higgins, a phonetics expert, who takes on the challenge of transforming Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl, into a refined lady. The play is set in early 20th-century London, a time when social hierarchies were rigid and the English class system was deeply ingrained.

The setting of Pygmalion is crucial, reflecting the norms and expectations of the time. Shaw uses the characters and their interactions to critique the prevailing attitudes toward class distinctions and the limitations imposed by language and accent. The play engages with the broader social issues of the era, including the suffragette movement and the evolving roles of women in society.

Shaw’s play challenges traditional notions of class and gender roles, inviting audiences to reconsider the impact of language and social expectations on individual identity. Pygmalion remains relevant for its exploration of social issues that transcend its original time period. The play has inspired numerous adaptations, including the well-known musical My Fair Lady, which further emphasizes its enduring appeal and impact on popular culture. Director Anthony Asquith’s 1938 film adaptation of Pygmalion is considered the best and most straightforward film adaptataion of the play.

Explore the full plot summary, an descriptions of the play’s characters, and three mini essays about key topcs from Pygmalion.

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