George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Biography Born in Dublin, a protestant Little formal education London – literary career Literary critic, music critic Socialist (The Fabian society of moderate socialists) Known for his Irish gaiety, wit, humor A satirist, controversialist, showman, journalist ‘Shavian’= an adjective referring to all of GBS’ brilliant qualities - and to his phonetic alphabet Novels, more than 50 plays Major plays: Major Barbara, St. Joan, Pygmalion Builds on romantic tradition / didactic intentions 1891: The Quintessence of Ibsenism 1925: The Nobel Prize for literature Some G B Shaw quotes: A pessimist is a man who thinks everybody is as nasty as himself. What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child. Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it. Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will. England and America are two countries divided by a common language. Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it. He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches. Study questions to Pygmalion 1. Discuss the play’s different characters: Henry Higgins Colonel Pickering Mrs Pearce Eliza Doolittle Alfred Doolittle Mrs Higgins Mrs Eynsford Hill Clara and Freddy Eynsford Hill What social class do they belong to? What does Shaw seem to say about the different social classes through these characters? 2. A ‘stock character’ is one that is rather one-dimensional and that does not develop in the course of a work. Does Pygmalion have stock characters? 3. A comedy usually has these characteristics: - it is funny - it has a happy ending - it deals with everyday life - it does not provide very profound insight - the audience is usually not deeply involved in the fate of the characters - there are often stock characters who appear in stock situations - there is often a romantic dimension To which degree does Pygmalion meet these requirements? What is not funny in the play? 4. Shaw had considerable respect for Ibsen and admired the way Ibsen attacked middle class standards and hypocrisy. Can you see any influence from Ibsen in Pygmalion? 5. Shaw himself wanted his plays to be ‘didactic’, and he wanted to ‘shake the audience out of its certainty’. What, do you think, is it that he wants to say (‘teach’) in Pygmalion? 6. What do you make of the title of the play?