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How Does Shaw Use the Ovid Myth and Cinderella Story to Tell a Modern Story?

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Introduction

Pygmalion Essay How Does Shaw Use the Ovid Myth and Cinderella Story to Tell a Modern Story? Ovid wrote his tale of Pygmalion in AD8. It told the story of how the King of Cyprus sculptor, vowed never to marry a woman because in his eyes, they were all flawed. He carved an ivory statue of his ideal woman and it was so beautiful that he fell in love with it. He doted on it and pleaded to Venus, Goddess of Love, to find him a woman just like the statue. One day he returned home to dote on the statue, having returned from the feast of Aphrodite, and before his eyes it transformed into a living woman. He was overjoyed with the love she showed to him. He called her Galatea and together they bore a son called Paphos, whose name is given to the sacred city in Cyprus. Ovid wrote a collection of poems about love and metamorphosis. Included in these were often stories about tormented lovers and their irrational desires. His Metamorphosis of Galatea shows that he isolates love as the sole agent of change. His poetry is still being read today because people are still interested in the way he expresses fundamental truths about human passions. He demonstrates that love is not subject to the rational laws that govern most of nature and that human behaviour is subjected to extreme irrationality where love is concerned. Shaw is basing his 1900 play on Ovid's Pygmalion and as a result of this we see many similarities between various characters and plots. ...read more.

Middle

Eliza's determination and independent nature requires her to be in control, and in her rebellion she makes this evident to Higgins, "I don't care how you treat me .....but I won't be passed over." This is the main reason that she marries Freddie and rejects Higgins. Freddie does not have a very strong personality and Higgins describes him as a "no hopper." Because of this, Eliza can be the domineering master in the marriage. Had she married Higgins she would have had to be a slave to him rather than a wife. In this way it ends up that Freddie resembles Galatea far more than Eliza because they both end up being the submissive partners in the relationship. With Eliza marrying Freddie, there would be, "a lifetime of Freddie fetching hers", referring to slippers, instead of Eliza being the slipper carrier to Higgins had she married him. Pygmalion is able to dominate Galatea because she has no personality of her own and has been created to meet his ideal. The reason Shaw changes this and portrays Eliza as an independent person is because he downright rejected the notion of the 19th century, that women liked men to dominate them. He felt that it was a romantic clich´┐Ż and that women's desire should not just be assumed and standardised to meet an ideal. He did not agree with the way society had a tendency to treat women as inferiors and believed that all people should be treated equally. In Ovid and Cinderella there are no particular moments that indicate views about class. However Shaw changes this so that many different social classes are represented and there are various incidents that express Shaw's views on class-consciousness. ...read more.

Conclusion

Eliza's new-found femininity is yet another way of Shaw criticising the way society pressured women to conform to a stereotype. The story of Cinderella is a fairy tale. However, the main point of Shaw's play is to preach the criticisms of the English society and to point out to society that however much people coax themselves into thinking that their society is idyllic, life is simple not a fairy-tale. This is one of the reasons that Shaw changes the sugar sweet ending seen in the stories of Cinderella and Ovid's Pygmalion- in order to force the audience to see the reality of their unfair society. Cinderella is swept of her feet by a charming, handsome prince and coincidentally claims to live, "happily ever after." However he believed that this was not reality and he wanted to tell a realistic story, a story not of romance, but of poverty and hardships. If anything Shaw's play is studiously unromantic. He desperately wanted a degree of reality to be employed in his play and this is one of the reasons that we see Eliza struggling with her business and having to be constantly bailed out of financial trouble by Pickering. She does not receive any money from her father and has to go to polytechnic classes in order to improve her book keeping skills. He tries to ensure that the message about the 19th century English society being inequitable is clearly expressed to the audience. With the influence of tales such as Ovid's Pygmalion and Cinderella, Shaw manages to produce a captivating and modernised play. His version of Pygmalion still contains the basic messages and controversies of both tales but also thoroughly illustrates Shaw's strong views regarding the English society. ...read more.

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