George Bernard Shaw took the title of his play ‘Pygmalion’ from a character in a Greek myth who fell in love with one of his own sculptures. First performed in 1913 the play follows the quest of Professor Henry Higgins after taking on a bet offered by a fellow linguist to pass off Eliza Doolittle as a Duchess within six months. There’s just a small problem – Eliza is a common Covent Garden flower seller whom Higgins describes a ‘squashed cabbage leaf’, and her manner of speech is somewhat far removed from that of genteel. Teaching Eliza to speak properly is one thing, teaching her how to be a lady is quite another.
More generally known from its adaptation into the musical ‘My Fair Lady’ this classic play is a comedy of manners, and a sharp lampoon of the rigid British class system of the day and a commentary on the growing struggle for women’s independence.