Pygmalion: A Myth or Not a Farfetched Fantasy?

         The Pygmalion myth comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Pygmalion the king of Cyprus found so many faults in womankind that he resolved to live unmarried. But as a sculptor he creates a sculpture of a woman so perfectly formed that he falls in love with her. Goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love, is moved by his love and brings the statue to life so that she becomes Galatea, and the sculptor can experience live bliss with his own creation. This myth is the backbone of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, filmed in 1938 by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard.

         While Shaw maintains the basic fantasy of the myth in which a man fashions a woman out of lifeless raw material into a worthy partner for himself, Shaw does not allow the male to fall in love her in the original play. Right to the last act, Higgins is still grouchy and sarcastic in his interaction with Eliza and does not even think of her as an object of romantic interest. However, in the movie, Shaw was persuaded by the producer, Gabriel Pascal, to allow Eliza (Wendy Hiller) to return to Higgins (Leslie Howard) as there are hints of a growing romance between them.

         Shaw goes on to undo the myth even more by injecting the play with other figures like the housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce (Jean Cadell on screen) and Colonel Pickering (Scott Sunderland in the film), and to suggest that the primary the myth itself is incomplete, and not ideal. In transforming the Pygmalion myth in such a way, Shaw calls into question the ideal status afforded to the artist and further exposes the shortfall of myths and romances that overlook the ordinary, human aspects of life.

         So Shaw combines the magic of a myth into the crafting of a book through a linguistic extravaganza that later on comes to life through the movie Pygmalion but does not let his readers or viewers to get lost in fantasy and forget that the basic life structures and features of life apply throughout his book and the later cinematic version. Hence, Pygmalion is a real classic that has earned its spot in the golden bookcase of fame, and it is a must see for the lovers of cinema.

Evanthia Sotiriou

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