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"The most characteristic quality of Shaw's plays is the ability to make people think by compelling them to laugh." (Martin S. Day) How true do you find this to be of Pygmalion?

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Introduction

"The most characteristic quality of Shaw's plays is the ability to make people think by compelling them to laugh." (Martin S. Day) How true do you find this to be of Pygmalion? Pygmalion can be classified as a comedy. The objects of the comedy centralize around the people, the ideas and the attitudes. The first humorous part of the play is with Mrs Eynsford-Hill and her daughter Clara waiting for Clara's brother Freddy to get them a taxi as it was pouring with rain. They get annoyed so Clara asks, 'do you expect us to go and get one ourselves?'. The audience/reader of this play finds this humorous because the Eynsford-Hills are stereotypical of middle class people who stick rigidly to their position in society. They appear fussy and pathetic due to their frustration at not being able to get a taxi. Therefore seeing how people act in certain situations and their different attitudes creates the humour. The next part of humour in this story line is when Eliza's (the flower girl) ...read more.

Middle

Shaw criticises the way we judge people's appearances by ....... Pygmalion can be described as a satirical play as Shaw makes the characters in the play, and their attitudes, laughable in order that something is done to improve the situation; this can involve exaggerating characteristics or creating an unbelievable situation. Shaw criticises different aspects of society through satire, for example the different social classes, the way that we are judged by the way we talk i.e. our accent and the way that people judge others just on their appearance and change their opinions accordingly. The existence of different social classes is depicted by showing the reader how ridiculous and out of touch the world the upper classes are. This is particularly evident in Act 3 at Mrs Higgins's 'at-home day' in the way that the Eynsford-Hills behave. An example where Shaw criticises different aspects of society through satire by showing that people judge others just on their appearance and change their opinions accordingly, is the difference between the way middle class people see Eliza before, as a common flower girl, and after her 'makeover' during a ball in London. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shaw uses Eliza's father, Alfred Doolittle, to make the reader think about unusual ideas by presenting them as jokes. Pygmalion was first performed to an audience in 1912, in Germany and then in London in 1914. The audience's reaction to the play and the themes in the play would have been different in 1912/4 compared to nowadays, due to the ways in which ways of life have changed. Therefore what modern day audiences would think of as humorous in the play, the 1912/4 audience wouldn't have thought so, and vice versa. For example the audience in 1912/4 wouldn't have found the restricted conversation at Mrs Higgins' 'At Home day' amusing, whilst we, as a modern day audience, do find it amusing as we are not used to this way of life and the different sorts of etiquette. Although the themes such as the social class system are not as defined in modern day society however certain accents are still discriminated against, in today's society, and Received Pronunciation is still seen as the preferred way and the educated way of speaking. I feel that Pygmalion is still effective in presenting Shaw's ideas even though it is over 90 years old. ...read more.

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