A Comparison of the First Scenes in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and Alan Jay Lerner’s My Fair Lady
Comparing Pygmalion & My Fair Lady—Act 1, Scene 1
Because the focus of musicals is more concerned with song and dance and less concerned with dialogue than straight plays are, it stands to reason that musicals seek to simplify the plot in order to make enough room for the numbers, where straight plays are free to elaborate and experiment with character choices through dialogue rather than music. The comparison between the two is quite clear in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and its musical adaptation, My Fair Lady, by Alan Jay Lerner—specifically, the first scene of each.
Pygmalion begins with a rainy day in London, just as My Fair Lady does, but its initial dialogue is lengthy and verbose, taking until the end of the second page of the play text to even introduce the female protagonist. “I’m getting chilled to the bone,” the daughter complains to her mother. “What can Freddy be doing all this time? He’s been gone twenty minutes” (Shaw 3). the mother and a bystander each have an extended discussion about the weather and the difficulty of finding a cab for two whole pages before the flower girl even enters. And when she does, she smacks into freddy but despite her fluster, her line takes its time: “Nah then, Freddy: look why’ y’ gowin, deah” (4). The lack of music in the straight play version allows for longer lines such as this.
In My Fair Lady, the pace is quickened dramatically—no pun intended. Rather than an extended discussion about the weather between the mother and daughter, the first one to speak is in fact eliza, and it’s regarding hers and freddy’s collision. “Aaaooowww!” she cries (Lerner 106). This much-simplified version of the dialogue almost seems rushed to a comical degree, but it serves an important purpose in the musical; where in a straight play the plot and conflict would be delivered solely through dialogue, the majority of those things in a musical is delivered through song. Therefore, the less revealed in lines of conversation and more revealed in the musical numbers is actually beneficial and is made with intention.
Metatheatre, a form of self-reflexivity in drama, plays a pivotal role in Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s parodic version, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Self-reflexivity is conveyed through metatheatrical scenes, […]
The contrast between illusion and fact functions as the central focus of countless texts in the canon of English literature. The subject occupies a prominent position in a diverse array […]
Tom Stoppard´s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is a postmodernist adaptation of the lives of two seemingly appurtenant characters from Shakespeare´s Hamlet. In the story, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern search for […]
My group and I decided to do our project on Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw. I chose to be the scene designer. This paper will discuss my process in designing the […]
Years before he became the greatest living writer of comedy, Shaw was an ardent social reformer. “My conscience”, he once wrote, “is the genuine pulpit article; it annoys me to […]
In comparing the Edwardian era – that is, the early 20th century – to the modern age, we can see that some distinct social constructs and class systems are present […]
Summary of Pygmalion On a summer season night in London’s Covent backyard, a gaggle of assorted persons are gathered collectively under the portico of St. Paul’s Church for security from […]
The societal aspects of their writing made Dickens and Shaw two of the most influential figures of revolutionary and socio-political writing. William Blake, however, was also significant, especially through his […]
In Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, Shaw attacks the relations between Victorian era classes by exposing their wretched treatment of the lower class, as seen in the flower girl, by the higher […]
Comparing Pygmalion & My Fair Lady—Act 1, Scene 1 Because the focus of musicals is more concerned with song and dance and less concerned with dialogue than straight plays are, […]