Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw




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Further Reading


Bentley, Eric Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, amended edition, New Directions, 1957.


Though Bentley's book (originally published in 1947) is not adulatory, Shaw considered it "the best book written about himself as a dramatist." Bentley states that his double intention in the book is "to disentangle a credible man and artist from the mass of myth that surrounds him, and to discover the complex component parts of his 'simplicity"' Pygmalion is discussed in detail, pages 119-126, and elsewhere in the book.


Crane, Milton, ''Pygmalion: Bernard Shaw's Dramatic Theory and Practice" in Publications of the Modern Language Association, Vol. 66, no 6, December, 1951, pp 879-85. Crane begins with the question of whether Shaw was old-fashioned in his approach to drama or innovative. Wrapped up in this issue is the figure of Ibsen, who Shaw declared was revolutionary for giving his plays indeterminate endings and concluding with "discussion," rather than the clear unraveling of a dramatic situation in the "well-made play"_the popular form of the day. Crane demonstrates that Ibsen did not present a new innovation so much as modify earlier forms and claims that something similar holds true for Shaw as well Although Shaw denied his audience a romantic ending in Pygmalion, Crane does not feel it is true of the playwright what many have said, "that he is primarily a thinker, who chose for rhetorical reasons to cast his ideas in dramatic form " Rather than viewing his characters abstractly, as means to a rhetorical end, Shaw was passionately invested in their lives and destinies, which highlights a basic "conventionality" in his technique


Dukore, Bernard F. "The Director As Interpreter- Shaw's Pygmalion " mShaw, Vol 3, 1983, pp. 129-47.


A three-part article analyzing, first, "Shaw's concept of the question of directorial interpretation"; then his own directorial interpretation of Pygmalion (in the London premiere and several subsequent productions); and finally, the revisions he made to Pygmalion as a result of the experience of directing the play. Dukore shows the careful separation Shaw maintained between "Playwright Shaw" and "Director Shaw": rather than explain to his actors the ideas in his play in a literary manner, Shaw was able to help them in very practical terms to develop their performances Often these actors led him to new insights about his own characters "While he recognized that there are a variety of appropriate ways to interpret any well-written role," however, Shaw also "rejected what he considered inappropriate interpretations."


Evans, T P., editor. Shaw; The Critical Heritage, Routledge & KeganPaul (London), 1976.


An extremely useful collection of 135 contemporary writings on Shaw's plays: reviews, essays, letters, and other sources. Arranged roughly in chronological order and grouped by play, the items "give a continuing picture of the changing and developing reaction to Shaw's dramatic work." Pygmalion is covered on pages 223-29


Harvey, Robert C. "How Shavian is the Pygmalion We Teach?" m English Journal, Vol 59,1970, pp. 1234-38.

This article by a former high school English teacher begins with the observation that while Shaw lived, he absolutely refused to let his plays be published in school textbooks: "My plays were not designed as instruments of torture," he wittily commented. Harvey recognizes that despite the wishes of the playwright, there are definite values to students reading his work in a school setting Too often, however, the work is taught to support grammar lessons, with the message that like Liza, students can succeed if they learn to speak "correctly." Harvey affirms that the real value of the piece for students is in trying to grasp its literary complexity. If anything, the play should show students "the social importance of all varieties of language .. the equality of every dialect" rather than being used "to forge the very chains [Shaw] wrote the play to break."


Henderson, Archibald. George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century, Appleton-Century-Crofts (New York), 1956.


A final, culminating book by Shaw's "official" biographer, incorporating much material from his previous works. Henderson studied Shaw first-hand and wrote on him for over fifty years


Hill,EIdonC George Bernard Shaw, Twayne (Boston), 1978.


A biography and critical study intended not for the Shaw specialist but for the general reader "who seeks an understanding of Shaw's life and work " Pygmalion is discussed in detail, pages 118-21


Huggett, Richard. The Truth about Pygmalion, Heinemann (London), 1969.


Focusing predominantly on Mrs, Patrick Campbell, the actress who created Liza for the London premiere, this study is the result of three years of research into the play and its performances.


Kaufman, R. J., editor. G B. Shaw: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1965


While none of the essays examines Pygmalion exclusively, the topics of these compiled studies overlap extensively with issues in that particular play. Notable contributions include a short, provocative piece by Bertolt Brecht, showing Shaw's influence on his work. Brecht states of Shaw's view towards society, "it should be clear by now that Shaw is a terrorist The Shavian terror is an unusual one, and he employs an unusual weapon_that of humor" In his article "Born to Set It Right. The Roots of Shaw's Style," Richard M. Ohmann investigates the development of Shaw's position as a social outsider, "the critic of things as they are." Eric Bentley's "The Making of a Dramatist" examines the formative years 1892-1903 in Shaw's life.


MacCarthy, Desmond Shaw. The Plays, Newton Abbott, 1951.


Originally published as a series of essays from 1907 to 1950, this book offers a unique chance to trace the development of a particular perspective on Shaw's long and prolific career. Pygmalion is discussed in detail, pages 108-13.


Miller, Jane M "Some Versions of Pygmalion" in Ovid Renewed- Ovidian Influences on Literature and Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century, edited by Charles Martindale, Cambridge University Press, 1988


A study of Ovid's version of the Pygmalion myth (including possible antecedents for it), and its influence on later works Miller stresses the sexual implications of the Pygmalion-Galatea relationship in Ovid's story (which suggest possible consequences for Shaw's version). Miller states that the various versions of Pygmalion tend in general to be of two types: historical, which depict a social transformation and which usually contain "an element of social comment" (she places Shaw's Pygmalion in this category); and mystical, which explore "love as a divine experience " Miller suggests Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale as an early example of the "mystical" interpretation but comments that the form abounded in the nineteenth century in particular. Miller concludes that the "histoncist" versions of Pygmalion, Shaw's included, "are interesting products of their time but lack the vitality of the Ovidian original "


Muggleston, Lynda "Shaw, Subjective Inequality, and the Social Meanings of Language in Pygmalion" in Review of English Studies: A Quarterly Journal of English Literature and the English Language, Vol 44, no 175, August, 1993, pp. 373-85.


A detailed study of the social importance of Pygmalion's exploration of accent and pronunciation as determiners "not only of social status but also of social acceptability," Although difficult only in places for readers not familiar with some linguistic vocabulary, the article's central argument is easily grasped, that Shaw rebelled against the idea that there was something inherently better about people of the upper classes and therefore demonstrated that social judgments of a person's merit depend on superficial, subjective qualities (like proper speech). Pygmalion is a "paradigm of social mobility," illustrating that social transformation is possible, and "a paean to inherent equality," suggesting that a person's merit is distinct and separate from their level of social acceptability.


Quinn, Martin. "The Informing Presence of Charles Dickens in Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion" in the Dickensian, Vol. 80, no. 3, Autumn, 1984, pp 144-50.


This article traces a number of connections between Pygmalion and various works of Dickens, who Quinn states "entered Shaw's life early and completely and was thereafter always at his fingertips when not on the tip of his tongue." Quinn shows that Dickens was specifically on Shaw's mind when writing Pygmalion in 1912, because he was completing at the same time an introduction to Dickens's novel Hard Times. The influence of Dickens was "pervasive" throughout Shaw's career, however. The value of Quinn's article is in documenting the exhaustive reading of "[a]n intellect as comprehensive as Shaw's," and inserting the name of Dickens, a novelist, among the list of dramatic artists considered to be Shaw's major influences: Shakespeare, Mohere, and Ibsen.


Shaw Bulletin, Shaw Review, Shaw The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies, the Shavian.


Publications of the Shaw Society of America (The Shaw Bulletin, 1952-1958; Shaw Review, 1951-1980; and the Shaw annual, 1981-present) and the Shaw Society, London (the Shavian, 1953-present). These journals have published extensively on all topics related to Shaw's work; check their title and subject indexes for further information


Small, Barbara J. "Shaw on Standard Stage Speech" in Shaw Review, Vol. 22,1979, pp. 106-13.


A short but enlightening study of Shaw's interest m diction and stage speech. Not entirely about Pygmalion, but its references to that play suggest the close relationship between Higgins and Shaw's own ideals of spoken speech. "Shaw was preoccupied with the dearth of good standard speech on the English stage," Small wrote "Good diction was, for Shaw, associated with fine acting " Shaw did not blame individuals for their poor pronunciation; in his preface to Pygmalion, for example, he decries the problems stemming from English not being a language with phonetic spellings of words. These larger issues Shaw addressed through a phonetic system of his own devising, and other means, but regarding individual persons what Shaw hated most was pretension. "An honest slum dialect" was preferable to him "than the attempts of phonetically untaught persons to imitate the plutocracy."


Wagenknecht, Edward. A Guide to Bernard Shaw, Russell & Russell (New York), 1929.


A study written while Shaw was alive and at the peak of his career (he had won the Nobel Prize only a few years previously). Wagenknecht wrote that the purpose of his book is expository rather than critical: that is, "to gather together... all the information which, in my judgment, the student or general reader needs to have in mind in order to read Shaw's plays intelligently." As a study, it has largely been superseded by other later works, but it remains an important historical document.


Sources


Berst, Charles A. bcrnard Shaw and the Art of Drama, University of Illinois Press (Urbana), 1973, pp 197-218
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