Sunday, December 05, 2004

Saw a production of Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw for the first time, and it was so interesting after having seen My Fair Lady so many times. I was blown away by the way Shaw makes argument into an art form. Argument in the philosophical sense, that is, as well as the sense of people disagreeing. The script is dense and overwhelming. More than being character-based, it's idea/argument based. The shape of it is characterized by sudden turns: just as soon as he gets one idea established, he turns direction and recontextualizes and redefines and reconfigures. The battle between the sexes seems equal and vital, Henry and Eliza both being right.

Shaw consistently portrays Henry as crass and unmannered, yet ironically presuming to be the one to teach Eliza refinement. The character of his mother helps balance and weight the women's side. The way she sees Pickering and Henry as boys who are tinkering without foresight, playing like a couple of ignorant or foolish boys--the script hammers home the very British (at the time, at least) idea that class mobility does not come easily at all. In other words, they fail to plan adequately for her new role (and Eliza certainly wouldn't have known better, wouldn't have known what to expect of the
unknown), which leads to potential disaster for her. (Reminded me a bit of The House of Mirth or something.)


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