Culture is a controversial phenomenon that is used to refer to different things by different groups. The “integrated pattern” of human knowledge, belief, and behavior is called culture. Languages, ideas, beliefs and customs are all part of culture. Culture is a collection of beliefs, shared values, knowledge, skills, and practices that are used to guide behaviours of members of a group at a given time. It includes creative expression, traditional knowledge, and resources. These include craft and design, oral history and literature, music and drama, visual arts and celebrations. It is widely accepted that culture refers to the way people interact with each other and their reactions to changes in their environment.
Pygmalion, a George Bernard Shaw play, is named after the mythological Greek figure. It was presented on the Hofburg Theatre’s Vienna stage on 16 October 1913. Its English-language debut took place at Her Majesty’s Theatre, West End, April 1914. It starred Herbert Beerbohm Tree playing the role of phonetics professor Henry Higgins. Mrs Patrick Campbell played Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl.
Pygmalion, an ancient Greek mythology character, fell in love with one his sculptures and it then came to life. The idea of this myth was popular among Victorian-era British playwrights. W. S. Gilbert was one of Shaw’s influencers and wrote a play called Pygmalion & Galatea, which was first presented in 1871. Shaw would have also been familiar with Adonis’ burlesque version, Galatea or Pygmalion reversed. Shaw’s play has been adapt many times, including the 1938 film Pygmalion and the 1956 musical “My Fair Lady”, as well as its 1964 film version.
Identity, Culture, Language in Pygmalion
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw uses cultural criticism to reveal one of their strong accents, Eliza, as well as most of the characters. Their speaking is a major part of the play. Each character has a unique accent and a different way of speaking throughout the play. Because their language is influenced by their cultural background, their language can be quite different. The story’s language changes according to class throughout. Eliza is an example how their language changes by class. Higgins takes Eliza and makes a huge change in Eliza’s appearance. He teaches Eliza a new language. The play is not just about Eliza, but also many other characters who change their slang.
Eliza’s accent is the strongest at the start of the play. Act 3 teaches us how to use small talk in social situations. These plays also demonstrate the power of language. Pickering calls Eliza ‘Miss Doolittle’ and insults her language, changing Eliza’s life. This hurt Eliza’s feelings and shows the violence of language. The plays are most interested in the relationships between people’s speech, hers, and their identities. Higgins immediately notices and guesses the origins of people by their accents and slang. Even though they speak the same language, Higgins can tell a lot about their identities.
Eliza’s speech changes throughout the play. Eliza’s identity changes when she learns how to speak differently. People from different social backgrounds speak opposite dialects at the beginning of the scene. Ms. Eysnford lost when Eliza called her son Freddy without realizing it was a lower-class form of slang. Eliza can pretend to be one of the higher classes by using different speech habits. The upper classes claim to speak correct English. Higgins, for example, is critical of Eliza’s poor pronunciation. Ms. Eysnford even believes that Eliza’s use of slang language in a lower level is fashionable talk.
There is no one right or wrong way to speak Eliza’s language. All accents and slang have been learned by different people. They are used later to talk to one another or to communicate their unique ways. Higher social classes believe their way of speaking is the best and most effective, while trying to disadvantage lower social classes by the way they speak. Pickering and Higgins all use these slangs to trick anyone they wish to. Eliza is a woman of high society.
How Pygmalion links Culture to Language, Identity and Culture
- Individual and collective identity
Pygmalion’s language choices reflect the collective identity of each social class. Higgins, for example, quickly forms stereotypes about others based on their accent.
Language can shape an individual’s identity. Eliza changes her accent from cockneyish to more sophisticated “queen’s English”. She goes from being seen as filthy, stupid, and unworthy to being recognized as a duchess.
The play makes us question whether Eliza’s true identity has been shaped by language or just others’ perceptions. The play asks: Does one’s language use really reflect their internal identity? Or does it remain constant regardless of external factors?
- Hypotheses concerning individuals and cultural groups
Characters in Pygmalion form stereotypes about each other’s internal identities based on their appearance and language. Higgins’ housekeeper said that Higgins can’t be a nice girl in the inside if she’s a dirty slut out.
Pygmalion dismantles this stereotype by the power of Eliza’s voice. She suggests that identity is intrinsic and not based on one’s accent or class. Higgins believes she is the one who made her a duchess. She disagrees with her, saying, “But you know, I did it. That’s what makes the distinction after all.”
Her personal agency in her transformation is highlighted by her use of the pronoun in the first person. She discredits Higgins’ view that identity can be created superficially by speech training and instead displays her unique and powerful identity.
What can be gained by studying the Drama “Pygmalion?”
Many opportunities exist to improve literacy and drama skills through film and theatre. Drama is especially beneficial because it promotes learning about drama skills, identity and social dynamics, as well as class.
- Drama Skills and Knowledge Base
According to the national curriculum, all students must acquire skills, knowledge, and understanding in the art of drama. They should be able participate in drama, and also be able to play roles and respond appropriately to others. They should also have the opportunity to write, improvise, and create drama.
- Language, Identity and Social Dynamics
Individuals and groups can identify themselves by this way of living. It becomes a way or culture. These alleged behaviors and characteristics are used to classify individuals into a particular social group. In the first instance, social identity is a label that group people based on their shared characteristics. It goes beyond the labeling of people. It can also reflect cognitive beliefs, emotional associations, or behavioral consequences.
Individuals’ self-esteem and relationships with others are affected by the feeling of being included in a particular cultural group. Cultural identity can be expressed in certain ways, such as how you dress, earn, participate in rituals, and share certain types of information. Society is gradually producing and consuming pieces of literature and art. Artists and political groups are both part of a future reality that must communicated to society. One side is that a dominant class, which has taken or wants to assume power, educates itself with books, photos, trips to the cultural homeland, videos, and knowledge passed down from their elders.
The dram is a tool that helps students improve their abilities in speaking, listening, comprehension, and other areas.
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