Pygmalion Better without Music

         The 1913 play Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw, and the 1956 musical adaptation, My Fair Lady, written by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, and filmed in 1964 by George Cukor, are both based on a legend about a sculptor who produced a statue of a woman who was so beautiful that he fell in love with it. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, feeling sorry for the sculptor made the statue come to life and gave her to the sculptor as a wife. Even though these two stories are based on the same legend, the reader can find many differences upon reading.

         The first major difference in the two stories is that My Fair Lady is a musical, and Pygmalion is a play. The songs in My Fair Lady were meant to help the reader/viewer have a little more insight into the story and also allow the reader/viewer to enjoy the story a little more. However, I did not enjoy the singing at all and felt that it actually took away from the story. One example is at the race at Ascot. Everyone went on singing as the horses raced around the track, which had nothing to do with Eliza learning how to speak phonetically correctly.

         Another difference in the two stories is the setting in which Eliza is first tested in her new social skills. In Pygmalion, it is at Higgins' mother's house. Eliza is brought over for tea with some of the mother's friends. Even though Eliza talks rather slowly, she does well with her pronunciation and conversation until she is ready to leave. When Freddy, a young man who is mentioned throughout the story and makes very clear that he has feelings for Eliza, asks her if she is walking across Green Park because he wants to go with her, she blurts out: "Not bloody likely" and horrifies the other guests, except Higgins. However, in My Fair Lady. Eliza's (Audrey Hepburn) first test is at the socially prominent Ascot races. At the race track Eliza also talks slowly, but as the horse race is nearly over, she is overcome with excitement and curses, "Come on, Dover, move your blooming arse," while an upperclass woman faints at such language.

         A third difference is the ending. In Pygmalion, Eliza finds Higgins so rude and arrogant that she leaves him for Freddy. However, this does not even bother Higgins (Rex Harrison), who laughs at Eliza's decision. In My Fair Lady, Eliza returns to Higgins even though she has come to realize that his rude and arrogant character will not change. She has such strong feelings for him that she does not care.

         Even though these stories have many differences, they both tell the same story. Higgins, the "sculptor," does end up loving Eliza, his "statue"; but in one version he ends up with her, and in the other he does not.

Jill Hawanchak

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