Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
"Nah then, Freddy: look wh' y' gowin, deah."
Miss. Eliza Doolittle's first line in this play did bring about a few bursts of chuckles from me and it did not dissipate as the story progressed. Eliza Doolittle is an impoverished women that sells flowers for a living; her low status in society is mainly brought upon her incapacity to speak the English language clearly, or in a matter that is becoming for a woman of her status. In the late hours, as the rain continues to pour upon the streets of London, her curious dialect is acutely being observed by a man in his mid-forties, a lone figure that puts her into an immediate state of alarm (and hysterics). It is later revealed that after a brief consequential discovery that this said gentleman is Professor Henry Higgins, and he has an acute interest in this young lady and her manner of speech. A day later they encounter each other once more, and after much badgering by the lady and another gentleman, Professor Higgins accepts a daring offer to transfer her speech in six months time to pass her off as a duchess or some other great lady in high society.
This plot-line will undoubtedly sound familiar to many. Most readers will find a striking resemblance to the film "My Fair Lady" starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. As for myself, I found it was more closely related to the black and white film "Pygmalion" (1938) with one of my favourite actors of that time period, Leslie Howard. While reading this play I was quite familiar with this plot-line, enjoying the striking resemblance to the films that I grew up with as a child. The play was simple, short and to the point. It did not lavish on anything, and I found I was able to read it within an hours time with a few breaks in between to simply let my mind wander. Eliza with all of her funny phrases and Professor Higgins' cursing made me laugh quite frequently. The warm-hearted Colonel Pickering amiable behaviour towards Eliza, where he was nothing short of a gentleman was a nice contrast to the boorish behaviour of Henry Higgins. In short, it was an enjoyable read on a cold winter's day. None the less, I found that the story lacked a certain quality that I cannot pin-point as of now. I expected the play to be longer, characters more flushed out, and to really feel the inward longings and thoughts of Eliza Doolittle. There was also this expectation of the two characters, Eliza and Professor Higgins to fall in love, so I was sorrowfully disappointed when I came to the epilogue of this dramatic play. I understand Shaw's reasoning for ending the play in such an ambiguous way and then explaining his reasoning for the epilogue, but surely Eliza can do better than marrying Freddy! I would have preferred the ambiguous ending alluding to Eliza staying and inevitably marrying her "Pygmalion" but I suppose that not every story can have their happy ending. Oh well. An enjoyable play all the same, although I will most likely not pick up this play for a second re-read in the foreseeable future.
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