Walter Mencken 2:37 p.m., March 1
Where did the title Pygmalion come from?
For an answer to that, we must return to the source. Ancient mythology.
Pygmalion was a mythological story from the island of Cyprus and the most popular version of it was handed down to us by the Roman poet Ovid.
The story goes that Pygmalion was a sculpture who lost interest in women after having witnessed the Propoetides prostituting themselves. They were shameless and had been striped of all modesty.
The Propoetides were forced into this situation after Venus took vengeance on them for denying that she was divine and not worshiping her properly.
Pygmalion, with no interest in living women, turned to a piece of ivory and carved it into the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
Pygmalion fell in love with his creation and on the festival day of Venus, he made offerings and wished his statue to be made real.
Venus granted his wish and sent Cupid to kiss the hand of the statue thus bringing it to life. Cupid placed a ring on the finger of the woman as a symbol of love achieved.
Pygmalion and his creation were married and lived happily ever after. That’s not a very satisfying ending.
We can now see why Shaw chose to title his play Pygmalion. The Victorians were familiar with the myth and in fact it was a popular story at the time.
Shaw does change the happily-ever-after ending.
Eliza is the creation of Henry Higgins but after being brought to life, she chooses not to be the object of a man but to be her own woman--relative to the time.
There is a sense of Shaw criticizing men who tried to make women into pieces of art. In the opinion of some men, women were only fit to be admired for there form and not their content.
That attitude hasn’t completely gone away.
More like this:
- Shaw's back in town — finally! The Old Globe stages Pygmalion — Jan. 23, 2013
- Educating Rita at North Coast Rep — Jan. 13, 2013
- Consider the source: Pygmalion — Jan. 6, 2013
- Pygmalion — March 10, 2011
- He Grabs the Gold — Aug. 20, 2008