Canada Heirloom Series. Vol. 4. Festivals. 1996-99.  28 June 2002. <http://collections.ic.gc.ca/heirloom_series>

Pygmalion

 by

 George Bernard Shaw

(1856-1950)

Biography

Historical Setting

Internet Sites

Characters Themes Journal Articles
Plot Library Catalog Criticisms

 

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

George Bernard Shaw was born the son of an unsuccessful Protestant merchant in Dublin, Ireland on July 26, 1856.  Though his childhood was marked by neglect due to his father's alcoholism, Shaw's mother supported him in his first unsuccessful writing attempts.  When his parents separated in 1876, Shaw, his mother, and sisters moved to London. In 1884, William Archer, a prominent journalist and drama critic, urged Shaw to write plays.  With his strong background in economics and politics, George Bernard Shaw's socialist viewpoint gave real purpose to his writing with a sense of hope for human improvement.  His political feelings encouraged him to found The Fabian Society in 1884.  By 1895 Shaw was writing regularly as a drama critic for a well-known weekly newspaper.  After the turn of the century, Shaw's plays gradually began to achieve production and, eventually, acceptance in England.  Shaw received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925, which was considered to be the high point of his career.  In later life, he traveled extensively throughout the world.

Galens, David and Lynn Spampinato, ed. Drama for Students.  13 vols.  Detroit: Gale, 1998.  

BOOKS with BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

REF PN 41. D5

 Vol. 10 Part 2

Dictionary of Literary Biography DLB is a multi-volume work which provides detailed biographical sketches as well as general critical commentary.  
REF PN523 .M29 1993

Vol. 5

Magill's Survey of World Literature Magill's is a multi-volume work with biographical information and an informative article on Pygmalion.
REF PR85 .B688 Retro. Suppl. 2 British Writers British Writers is a multi-volume work with very insightful biographical information relating Shaw's life, influences on Shaw, and specific writings including Pygmalion.
REF PN1601 .D595 1998  

Vol. 1 

Drama for Students Multivolume work which contains very complete information on the play including plot summary, characters, themes, style, and historical context.

Back to top


PLOT SUMMARY

Pygmalion is a comedy about a phonetics expert who, as a kind of social experiment, attempts to make a lady out of an uneducated Cockney flower girl.  Pygmalion probes important questions about social class, human behavior, and relations between the sexes.

Galens, David and Lynn Spampinato, ed. Drama for Students.  13 vols.  Detroit: Gale, 1998.  

Back to top


CHARACTERS

Alfred Doolittle
Liza Doolittle's father, "an elderly but vigorous dustman..." who can borrow money from his most miserly friends.  Doolittle describes himself as "the undeserving poor".

Eliza Doolittle
Eliza Doolittle is an uneducated, streetwise Cockney flower girl.  Eliza's intelligence allows her to recognize her own self-worth and the worth of others.  

Henry Higgins
Henry Higgins is a phonetics expert and a scientist who loves anything that can be studied as a scientific subject.  His enthusiasm for the study masks his human qualities.

Mrs. Higgins
Henry Higgins's  mother is a compassionate, sympathetic character who understands those she encounters well.  She is the gracious lady of the house who deserves the honor accorded her.

Frederick Eynsford Hill
Eliza Doolittle's young suitor from the upper class.  Freddy shows complete devotion to Eliza throughout the play.

Miss Clara Eynsford Hill
Clara is the sister of Frederick, Freddy, very comfortable in society, though without the wealth to actually support the lifestyle.

Mrs. Eynsford Hill
The mother of Freddy and Clara, Mrs. Hill is very socially conscious and interested in those people her offspring associate with.

Nepommuck
Henry Higgins's first language student, very adept in several languages.

Mrs. Pearce
Henry Higgins's  housekeeper, a very practical, proud woman.  Mrs. Pearce is not at all afraid of Henry, but is, at the same time, conscious of her middle class status.

Colonel Pickering
An acquaintance of Higgins's  who has lived in the British Colonies in India and become very adept at the Indian dialects.  Pickering becomes the  caring, compassionate voice  in Henry Higgins's  scientific experiment. He views Eliza Doolittle as a person worthy of respect.

Galens, David and Lynn Spampinato, ed. Drama for Students.  13 vols.  Detroit: Gale, 1998.  

 

Books containing Information about Characters 

REF PH56.4 .S49 1992 Dictionary of Fictional Characters Check the index under Shaw, George Bernard and Pygmalion.
REF PR106 .S7 1991 

Vol. 3

Reference Guide to English Literature. Second Edition Within a synopsis of the story each character is introduced and discussed.
REF PN1601 .D595 1998  

Vol. 1 

Drama for Students Multivolume work which contains very complete information on the play including plot summary, characters, themes, style, and historical context.

Back to top


THEMES to CONSIDER

Language Human Evolution Roles of the Sexes Personal Identity
Social Roles Manners Class Distinctions Idealism

Back to top


BOOKS containing CRITICISMS

REF PN1601 .D595 1998  

Vol. 1 

Drama for Students Multivolume work which contains very complete information on the play including plot summary, characters, themes, style, and historical context.
REF PN771 .G27

Vol. 45

Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism This is a multi-volume work containing criticisms of literature from the 20th century.  This particular volume contains approximately fifty pages of criticisms on Pygmalion.
PR5367 .G34 1983b George Bernard Shaw Book by Arthur Ganz has a criticism of Pygmalion.
PR5368 .T4 B4 1990 Playwrighting Self of Bernard Shaw Contains a criticism of Pygmalion entitled "The Self and the Mother Tongue".

Back to top


HISTORICAL SETTING at the time the novel was written

In the year, 1914, the disturbances in Europe that eventually produced World War I, The Great War, began with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo, Bosnia.  Personally, Shaw's interest in education preventing the tragic devastation of human life due to wars was demonstrated in Pygmalion.  Great Britain was still a colonial power with colonies in the Pacific, Atlantic, Africa and the Caribbean.  Queen Victoria characterized the times with a set of values called Victorianism which revolved around "social highmindedness, domesticity, and a confidence in the expansion of knowledge and the power of reasoned argument to change society."  Industrialization had brought a demographic shift causing many more unskilled laborers to seek work in the city.  Such was the nature of the Doolittles in Pygmalion.  Gradually, during the nineteenth century, there had been a relaxing of the traditional property requirements to allow many more Englishmen to vote.  This also brought the introduction of women's suffragette organizations. "Increased political participation further prompted a shift in sex roles:  British society had already noted the phenomenon of the new woman, and was to see further changes such as increasing numbers of women in the work force, as well as reforms to divorce laws and other impacts upon domestic life."

Galens, David and Lynn Spampinato, ed. Drama for Students.  13 vols.  Detroit: Gale, 1998.  

 

BOOKS to EXPLAIN the TIMES

REF PN1601 .D595 1998  

Vol. 1 

Drama for Students Multivolume work which contains very complete information on the play including plot summary, characters, themes, style, and historical context.
REF PN50 .L574 1997                   

Vol. 3

Literature and Its Times Offers information on events occurring at the time of the setting of the play, a moderately lengthy synopsis of the play, sources of the play, the myth of Pygmalion, and the productions of the play. 
PR5361 .W4 1977b

Pages 325-331

Portable Bernard Shaw Includes a letter written by Shaw to an actor and the preface to the written play, Pygmalion.

Back to top


JOURNAL ARTICLES

Interlibrary loan is available for any information needed from other libraries.  Allow plenty of time for this free service. Forms for articles from NHMCCD colleges are available at the computer tables.  Ask at the reference desk for Interlibrary Loan forms if you need something outside the NHMCCD college system.  

Try the following databases:

MLA Bibliography
This is the most important database for your research.  Use it to find references to articles in journals.  Because this database has no full-text articles,  you will need to use the Periodical Holdings listing for NHMCCD to find the articles available at each college. Any articles that you find referenced on the database will need to be viewed in the microfiche or microfilm form. Any librarian will be glad to help you with this task.

ACADEMIC SEARCH PREMIER
Ebscohost database with an article on Pygmalion.  Be sure to check the scholarly, peered reviewed journals and full-text before searching.

Back to top


INTERNET SITES

The English Page
This site contains a biography, a bibliography of works by and about George Bernard Shaw, a timeline of Shaw's life, and selected works.

BBC Education - George Bernard Shaw
This site is a lengthy biography of Shaw produced by the British Broadcasting .

Bernard Shaw: a Brief Biography
Biography of Shaw written by Cary Mazer of the University of Pennsylvania. This biography does a nice job of relating the influences on Shaw's life with his writings.

Nobel Prize Internet Archive
Shaw won the Nobel Prize in Literature.  This site addresses that prize and displays a list of Internet links on Shaw added by visitors to this website.

Back to top

 

Kingwood College Library

   |  District Library |  NHMCCD E-Campus   |  

 Page by July 2002 updated July 31, 2002 Instructor: