"Pygmalion" by Bernard Shaw

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I would like to select Film as the media to adapt Bernard Shaw’s play ‘Pygmalion’. There has been two films on Shaw’s Pygmalion, ‘Pygmalion’ and ‘My fair lady‘. And they have been instant hit. Film is one of the most popular media today. It has the potential of reaching to people all over the world.

When I read Bernard Shaw’s Plays like ‘Arms and the Man’, ‘Candida’ or ‘Pygmalion’, I want the characters to come alive.

The scenes are memorable. Shaw’s characters are lovable, they touch our heart. The plays have such potential that they can truly be adapted into films. This has been proved correct by many attempts by film makers on his plays. Some names are ‘Arms and the Man‘, ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ , ‘Androcles and the Lion’ and of course play ‘Pygmalion‘.

The play ‘Pygmalion’ is based on a Greek myth. Pygmalion is a sculpture who craved a woman of ivory so beautiful, that he himself fell in love with his own creation. This classic play ‘Pygmalion’, tells the story of Eliza Doolittle, a poor flower girl of twenty who takes speech lessons from phonetician Henry Higgins in order to fulfill her dream of working in a flower shop. Eliza succeeds to outgrow her low social status and she is thought as a princess by the high society.

According to the myth, Professor Higgins falls in love with Eliza.

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And thus the play has a happy ending. This claim is negated by Shaw in his Sequel. Shaw says: “The rest of the story need not be shown in action, and indeed, would hardly need telling if our imaginations were not so enfeebled by their lazy dependence on the ready-mades and reach-me-downs of the rag shop in which Romance keeps its stock of “happy endings” to misfit all stories” . I believe that she should neither marry the professor nor should she marry Freddy.

This idea has been elaborated in this essay. To accommodate the play into a film, I have contrived changes in the characters, setting and scenes in the play.

In the first scene of the play Professor Higgins is shown as a man standing at one corner of portico of St Paul’s church taking notes.  To adapt the play in to a film, I would like to add a beginning by pointing out how the professor comes to be present near the Covent Garden in the first place. I suggest that the professor was passing through Covent Garden when it started raining. He takes shelter under the portico of St Paul’s church where he meets the characters of the play, Colonel Pickering, Mrs. X Eynsford Hill, her daughter Miss Clara Eynsford Hill and her son Frederick Eynsford Hill and finally Eliza Doolittle, the flower girl.

And it is here that he bets to Colonel Pickering that he can transform the unmannered, low class girl to a polished woman and can pass her as the duchess in high society.In the next act we find Eliza in the professor’s home asking him to give her lessons on English pronunciation.

I would like to add another scene here to show the realization of Eliza because of which she ultimately takes the journey to the professor’s resident. I would like to suggest that after Eliza returns home, she realizes what a miserable life she leads. All of a sudden she remembers the professor’s words and a new idea is implanted in her brain. Next day she reaches the household of Professor Henry much to his and his friend Colonel Pickering’s amazement.It is only through Professor Higgins’ words that we come to know that the professor is giving Eliza lessons on English pronunciation.

In Act III Henry Higgins tells her mother: “She has a quick ear; and she’s been easier to teach than my middle-class pupils because she’s had to learn a complete new language.” We come to understand from the play Pygmalion that Eliza, the flower girl speaks poor working class (cockney dialect) English. She has been speaking such vulgar language from her early childhood. To learn the new language she has to work for long hours so that the stiff muscles and nerves which have been so long out of practice starts working again. So I believe that there should be a connected scene in the play to show her progress.In the play ‘Pygmalion‘, Henry Higgins’ mother Mrs. Higgins is a refined Upper Class lady.

Higgins looks up to his mother. I think that to fit in to the high society, Eliza not only has to learn proper English but also adapt the mannerism, etiquette and also learn how to dress elegantly in high society. .So in due course it can happen that he hands over this task to his mother who accepts after some hesitation.In the play, Eliza for the first time is introduced to Henry Higgins’ society when he takes her to her mother’s home on her mother Mrs. Higgins’ at-home day. Film is a visual media. In the large screen, a party with large number of people will have more effect on the audience than the setting of Mrs. Higgins home with seven characters. To show the transition from play to a film, I want the event to take place in an large space with quiet a number of people.

I have a suggestion here that it takes place not in Mrs. Higgins’ place but in one of her affluent friend’s home who gives a party. Freddy is infatuated with her. When Clara, his sister is introduced to Eliza by her mother, her reaction is shown by Shaw in Act III: Clara says [impulsively] How do you do? [She sits down on the ottoman beside Eliza, devouring her with her eyes]. Here their reaction is quiet different from what we see in the first scene. Here we find Eliza has learnt to speak proper English but her choice of subject lacks refinement.In the play Bernard Shaw has only mentioned about the Ambassador’s garden party.  In other words, there is no scene of the garden Party. Here a scene can be added which shows the grandeur of the garden party as well as the performance of Eliza.

I want to add here another character as shown in ‘My Fair lady’, Henry Higgins’s former Hungarian student, Zoltan Karpathy. He is charmed by her beauty and falls in love with her.In the play it is shown that after the garden party Higgins and his friend Pickering celebrates their success but he does not show any sign of caring for Eliza‘s future. Eliza is hurt by his reaction and in her anger she throws his slippers at him. Next day he finds her in his mother’s home. In the sequel we find that she is married to Freddy.

In my version of the last scene, I want to suggest that the problem of Eliza’s future gets solved in Professor Henry Higgins’ home itself with the entry of professor’s former student Zoltan Karpathy. He has come to meet the professor and seeing Eliza, claims his undying love for her. The professor approves and the play ends with the girl marrying the student.According to me Eliza cannot improve her social status by marrying Freddy even if she manages a flower shop of her own as Shaw has written in his sequel that according to Henry Higgins, Freddy succeeding at anything is a joke and that business like phonetics has to be learnt. Personally I cannot imagine Eliza marrying either Henry Higgins or Freddy.

In Act II, Shaw writes about the character of Professor Higgins: “He is of the energetic, scientific type, heartily, even violently interested in everything that can be studied as a scientific subject, and careless about himself and other people, including their feelings”. The character of Higgins remains the same till the end.Eliza refers to his insensibility when she in Act V says to Pickering: “I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl, and always will; but I know I can be a lady to you, because you always treat me as a lady, and always will”. I believe that Eliza cannot live with an insensitive person like Professor Higgins who always passes over her. Another factor is the age difference between them.

The professor is a middle-aged man and the girl is in her twenties. According to me this may not be accepted by the audience. Moreover in the play there is no such mention of this kind of love between them. In the act professor Higgins suggest that if she wishes he can adopt her as his daughter. Also he puts forward the proposition of her marriage to Pickering.  And in the Sequel Bernard Shaw has clearly stated that Eliza does not marry Higgins but Freddy.I believe that Freddy is also not the right prospect for Eliza.

To place herself in high society, she should marry someone who holds a respectable position in high society, society of Henry Higgins. The story can have a open end like the ending in the play ‘Pygmalion’ written by Shaw without the Sequel or Zoltan Karpathy can be proper match for Eliza if his character is changed a bit from an snobbish dialectician to a kind and lovable person.

In the film version of his play ’Pygmalion’, Shaw has added new scenes and new characters to help the transition from a play to a film. To make a film of the play ’Pygmalion’, connected scenes, new setting and new  (not only new but relevant) characters are needs to make it complete and for full impact on the audience.

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"Pygmalion" by Bernard Shaw. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-essay-pygmalion/

"Pygmalion" by Bernard Shaw
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