George Bernard Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1856 to Lucinda and George Shaw. His father was a corn merchant who suffered from alcoholism, and his mother was a house wife and singer. Lucinda ran away to London with her voice teacher, George Lee. All her children followed her there. After a fall out with Lee, Shaw's mother pursued an unconventional teachingcareer in singing using the techniques Lee taught her.
Shaw began working as a clerk in a land agency at the age of fifteen, but abandoned that career before age twenty and resolved to fashion himself as a modern Shakespeare. He came of age as a writer in the late Victorian era, and much of his work demonstrated a rebellion against the morays of the time. Shaw's first essays into the writingprofession were as a music and art critic, and his success allowed him to expand the range and style of his criticism. He developed into an extremely prolific playwright, novelist, and lecturer. Shaw was an active Fabian socialist and a supporter of feminists and homosexuals. His aggressive and diverse social commentaries kept him in the public eye throughout his long life. Shaw died in 1950, at theage of 94.
Pygmalion is the most famous and perhaps most beloved of Shaw's many plays. Shaw was often criticized for writing plays full of unsubstantial, if witty, banter. With Pygmalion, Shaw challenged his critics by making both the subject and the content of the play speech. He used phonetics and Ovid's story of Pygmalion as a means of defending his artistic creation and addressing feministissues. Several film adaptations have been made of the play, one of which garnered Shaw an Academy Award for best screenplay in 1938.
One rainy evening in London, two gentlewomen, a mother and a daughter, are waiting for Freddy, the son and brother of the pair, to hail a taxi. They're standing under the shelter of a portico crowded of people when Freddy carelessly bumps into aflower girl. The girl attempts to get the mother to buy the flowers her son has damaged, and it is successful. She then tries to sell flowers to another gentleman, when someone in the crowd warns her that a man is taking notes on what she has been saying. She becomes hysterical, believing the man wrongly suspects her of prostitution, but it is discovered that he is merely a phonetician taking down heraccent in phonetic script. He demonstrates that he can tell where any man in England was born just by hearing his accent. The gentleman the flower girl originally propositioned introduces himself to the phonetician as Colonel Pickering, an expert in Indian dialects. The notetaker reveals himself to be Henry Higgins, author of the Universal Grammar and professional language tutor. They parttogether for dinner, after Higgins throws a generous handful of coins to the miserable flower girl.
The next morning, Higgins shows Pickering his laboratory when the flower girl arrives at his house. She announces that she wants to take English lessons to speak well enough to work in a shop. The two phoneticians are shocked but amused by her proposition, and Pickering bets Higgins that he cannottransform the flower girl, Eliza, into a convincing duchess in six months. Higgins decides to take the bet and persuades the ruffled Eliza to agree to it. While Mrs. Pearce, Higgins's house servant, takes Eliza to her room and gives her a bath, Eliza's father, Alfred Doolittle, arrives. Higgins guesses that Doolittle has come to blackmail him in some way, and tells Doolittle to take his daughter back.Doolittle does not want his daughter back; he just wants a little money. Higgins suggests that it is immoral to pay for a person, and Doolittle replies saying middle class morality is only an excuse to never give money to the poor. Higgins is amused and gives him some money. Eliza begins her lessons the next day, and she is tutored in the language and manners of a gentlewoman for the next six...