Galatea's Emancipation: The Transformation of the Pygmalion Myth in Anglo-Saxon Literature since the 20th Century

Textbook 2013 43 Pages

Didactics - English - Literature, Works


Table of Contents

I Introduction

II The Genuine Pygmalion: Ovid’s Version of the Myth in the Metamorphoses

III The Myth and Its Reception Until the End of the 19th Century

1. Reception of Pygmalion Until the 19th Century: From Idolater to Artistic Genius

2. The Victorian Reception of Pygmalion

3. The Representation of Galatea

IV Retelling Pygmalion: New, Feminist Conceptions in the 20th and 21st Centuries

1. Critical View on the Educator Pygmalion

1.1 George Bernard Shaw’s Drama Pygmalion (1912)

1.2 Willy Russell’s Drama Educating Rita (1980)

2. Pygmalion as Pervert: Angela Carter’s Short Story “The Loves of Lady Purple” (1974)

3. Pygmalion Outwitted: Carol Ann Duffy’s Poem “Pygmalion’s Bride” (1999)

4. Role-reversal: Neil LaBute’s Drama The Shape of Things (2001)

V Conclusion


I Introduction

The myth of Pygmalion as told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses contains, according to Geoffrey Miles, “one of the most potent male fantasies” – that is the creation “of a perfectly beautiful woman designed to the lover’s specifications and utterly devoted to her creator”.[1] The fact that Pygmalion’s literally man-made lover comes to life at the end of the story probably was the reason for artists’ fascination with the myth. Ever since antiquity, patriarchal literature produced countless re-narrations of the story about Pygmalion’s love for his statue, and most of them were especially intrigued with the erotic potential of Ovid’s tale. Yet this leads to the question how the awakening of feminist thought since the early 20th century influenced the myth’s reception. More precisely, how did feminist versions of the tale alter its content and the relationship of its protagonists?

This question forms the basis of this study which will examine, by means of several Pygmalion versions of the 20th and 21st centuries, the myth’s development from a patriarchal towards a feminist tale. First, it will be necessary to have a closer look at Ovid’s original myth which was the source for all future Pygmalion versions.[2] Further, the reception of the myth from antiquity until the end of the 19th century should be considered as it explains the development and the shifting interpretation of the protagonists and their roles. The main part of this paper, however, will focus on several examples of Pygmalion stories of the 20th and 21st centuries, from works of George Bernard Shaw to Neil LaBute. Due to the high amount of Pygmalion adaptations it is not possible to do all of them justice. Therefore, some of the best-known and most original feminist versions have been chosen to highlight the myth’s development. Although Neil LaBute’s Pygmalion-inspired drama is not really a feminist piece it is worth to be discussed due to its original dealing with the tale’s gender roles.

II The Genuine Pygmalion: Ovid’s Version of the Myth in the Metamorphoses

In Book X, 243-297 of the Metamorphoses Ovid tells the story of Pygmalion, both a sculptor and the king of Cypris, who falls in love with his own creation, a woman carved from ivory. Due to the intervention of the goddess Venus, this statue comes to life and Pygmalion makes her his wife. While most of the stories in the Metamorphoses derive from Greek mythology, the source of the Pygmalion myth is uncertain. Ovid’s version is commonly seen as its first literary adaptation[3], the myth might even “be essentially his invention”[4]. In this sense, Heinrich Dörrie explains that Ovid tells a story beyond Greek mythology.[5] On the one hand, the origin of the tale can be seen in the sacral background of the mother-goddess of Cypris that later was equalled with the Greek Aphrodite or the Roman Venus.[6] On the other hand, a report by the early Hellenic author Philostephanos about Pygmalion’s love for an ivory statue of Aphrodite probably was a source for Ovid. This text is lost now but was mentioned by early Christian authors like Clement of Alexandria.[7]

In the Metamorphoses, the tale of Pygmalion and his statue is anticipated by the story of the Propoetides. The Propoetides are female inhabitants of the island of Cypris who do not worship Venus and consequently are punished by the goddess: they become the first women “to prostitute their bodies’ charms”.[8] Due to their shameful business, they finally lose their humanity and turn into stone. Ovid explains Pygmalion’s decision to stay a bachelor by the negative example of the Propoetides:

Quas quia Pygmalion aevum per crimen agentis viderat, offensus vitiis, quae plurima menti femineae natura dedit, sine coniuge caelebs vivebat.[9]

– Pygmalion had seen these women spend their days in wickedness, and horrified at all the countless vices nature gives to womankind lived celibate.[10]

As no real woman is entirely flawless, Pygmalion denies himself the company of women. Instead, he starts to carve a statue from ivory “and gave it perfect shape, more beautiful than ever woman born”[11], thus creating the image of an ideal woman to his taste. Obviously, Pygmalion’s misogyny is only directed against vicious women but not against women in general since he madly falls in love with the ivory woman created by himself. Her innocence is implied by Ovid’s description of the statue looking as if she “wished to move – but modesty forbade”[12]. This beautiful, modest image of a woman, or rather girl, formed by his very own hands, represents the only female being the king of Cypris is able to fall in love with.

In the following verses, Pygmalion’s courtship and efforts concerning his beloved statue are described: he touches the work of art as if it were a girl of flesh and blood and even fears to bruise it[13] ; he flatters the ivory girl with compliments and presents, adorns her body with valuable clothes and jewellery. Finally, he carefully beds his lover on soft cushions and calls her his bedfellow.[14]

After this episode, the attention turns towards a festival held for Venus during which Pygmalion prays to the gods for a wife being “‘[t]he living likeness of my ivory girl’”[15]. In fact, he desires that his statue herself would become his wife but does not dare to utter this wish. Venus, however, grants him his ardent wish and turns the statue into a living girl. When Pygmalion returns to his ivory lover and kisses her, she has already become warm and finally also grows soft.

“[T]emptatum mollescit ebur positoque rigore subsidit digitis ceditque, ut Hymettia sole cera remollescit tractataque pollice multas flectitur in faceies ipsoquue fit utilis usu.”[16]

– “beneath his touch the flesh grew soft, its ivory hardness vanishing, and yielded to his hands, as in the sun wax of Hymettus softens and is shaped by practised fingers into many forms, and usefulness acquires by being used.”[17]

Ovid’s comparison of the softness of the ivory girl’s body to formable bees wax speaks for itself. This part of the myth might be regarded as key to later interpretations of the tale, both patriarchal ones in which man forms woman to his taste and feminist variants which strongly disapprove of the forming of the female body and mind like wax.

Finally, Pygmalion’s kiss awakens the statue and the first things she sees when opening “her bashful eyes”[18] are the sky – and her lover. As Dörrie points out, Pygmalion represents the girl’s fate.[19] He must seem like a god to her: becoming alive she does not only see the sky, realm of the gods, but also her creator, who therefore takes on the role of a god. In this regard, Pygmalion unites the role of the creator, father and husband in himself. For Susanne Frane this means that first, woman is excluded from the act of creation which is established as male, and second, woman is mortified as a passive and devoted substance to male dominion.[20]

Further, the statue’s characterisation is of interest: until the end of the tale, she remains nameless and speechless. Apparently, she is to be seen as nothing else than Pygmalion’s creature and a peripheral figure of the story. Her feelings or her opinion concerning the situation are of no interest.[21] She is characterized as an innocent, bashful being, which is emphasised by the fact that she “blushed”[22] when feeling Pygmalion’s kisses. Regarding her attitude as well as her metamorphosis, the statue is clearly presented as a counter-model to the Propoetides. While the latter are defined by their petrification, Pygmalion’s innocent creation leaves its lifeless, so to speak petrified, existence behind by becoming animated.[23] Read in the patriarchal context of antiquity, this virtuous statue-woman, created by a man and turned into flesh by a goddess who both reject the behaviour of the Propoetides, appears to be not only the ideal wife for the king of Cypris but for all men alike.

III The Myth and Its Reception Until the End of the 19th Century

Ovid’s tale of the artist falling in love with his own creation has influenced occidental art and literature ever since. According to Kai Merten, it has become a myth at the core of western, male representation.[24] But also the relation between nature and art or especially art and artist were of interest for authors throughout the centuries. The reception of the myth from antiquity until the early 19th century is rather diverse and the focus of the adaptations changed with every epoch. The English Pygmalion reception differs from the French and German ones, which developed similarly. While the heyday of the Pygmalion story was during the 18th century regarding German and French literature, English literature produced a likewise significant amount of adaptations of the tale especially during the 19th century.[25] The recipients’ main interests about Pygmalion were his role as an artist but also his efforts to shape and educate a woman. In the following, I will describe the development of the myth’s interpretation and significance since antiquity. My special attention will be towards English literature, but some non-English works of influence will be considered.

1. Reception of Pygmalion Until the 19th Century: From Idolater to Artistic Genius

The early reception of the myth happened within a Christian context. Therefore it is unsurprising that Pygmalion’s worship of a statue is considered negatively. Early Christian writers like Clement of Alexandria (2nd century AD) or Arnobius of Sicca (4th century AD) used the tale to warn the heathens of worshipping statues and images of gods. According to them, Pygmalion’s behaviour, that is loving a lifeless work of art, is both irrational and sinful.[26]

After a thousand years of silence about Pygmalion, the tale was revived in the late Middle Ages as a result of the renaissance of Ovid’s work in the 13th century.[27] In his Confessio Amantis (1390/93), John Gower uses Pygmalion as a positive example of a lover who does not give up and dares to speak of his love. As a consequence of his speaking up, Pygmalion eventually “hadde al that he wolde abbede”[28] – his wish is granted and the statue comes to life. The moral of this version of the myth is a rejection of the sin of sloth (“For Slowthe bringth in alle wo”[29] ). Gower demands that lovers take initiative. Thus his Pygmalion story is a “moral fable for lovers about the need of perseverance”[30].

Another noteworthy interpretation of the myth was offered by William Caxton, the first English printer and publisher. In 1490, Caxton wrote a prose paraphrase of Ovid’s Metamorphoses which he commentated for his readers. In his commentary on Pygmalion, he compares Ovid’s sculptor to a nobleman who “might have a maid or servant in his house” whom he “clothed, nourished and taught”.[31] After the transformation of the servant girl into a lady, “he loved her so much that it pleased him to espouse her and take her to his wife”. This new reading of the myth “as a fable about social class” was a decisive step towards the Pygmalion versions of the 19th and especially 20th century where Pygmalion appeared again as an educator.[32]

After Gower and Caxton’s positive views on the myth, “there is a striking change of tone” in Renaissance adaptations.[33] In English Renaissance literature, the story of Pygmalion and his statue is a popular subject[34] but, in the tradition of the early Christian writers, Pygmalion is again regarded as an idolater, the “keywords [being] ‘dotage’ and ‘idolatry’”. The tale is moralised once more and is used as an expression of misogyny and satire.[35] In “Pygmalion’s Friend and his Image” (1576) by George Pettie Pygmalion is a knight who devotedly serves the wife of a friend, Penthea, but is disappointed by the change of the lady’s affection. The betrayal of Penthea here substitutes Ovid’s motif of the Propoetides. It leads to Pygmalion’s becoming a misogynist; his embittered lamentations about women’s infidelity form the central part of the text.[36] The rest of the story follows the model set by Ovid: Pygmalion creates a female statue, falls in love with it and is – after Venus’s divine intervention – finally able to make her his wife.[37]

Two decades later, in 1598, John Marston tells the tale of “The Metamorphosis of Pygmalion’s Image” with a much more ironic tone and full of erotic hints. Pygmalion’s passionate love for the statue, his restless “viewing, touching, kissing”[38] result in its coming alive. The poem mockingly states: “Tut, women will relent / When as they finde such moving blandishment.”[39] Here, Marston obviously mocks and rejects the Petrarchan poetry of his contemporaries, which portrays cool and chaste women who do not relent to any “moving blandishment”.[40]

While Shakespeare merely used the motif of the animated statue for The Winter’s Tale but put it into the context of his own distinct story[41], most authors of his time and later epochs, rewrote Ovid’s version by sticking closely to the given story line. In the foreground of these adaptations stands the lover Pygmalion, and many poets compared their own efforts about their mistresses to his efforts about the statue.[42] The popularity of the myth resulted in its reception in art forms other than literature and painting. The increasing tendency of Renaissance and Baroque literature to eroticise the myth and emphasize its aesthetic potential led to its introduction as theatrical and musical material.[43] Since 1640, a countless number of Pygmalion plays, operas or ballets were performed on European stages.[44]

Following this fashion and at the same time countering it, Jean-Jacques Rousseau created his melodramatic scene Pygmalion (1762). Although this piece was accompanied by music, it was not designed as mere entertainment like other Pygmalion stage works of the time; the musical interludes were meant to express the depth of Pygmalion’s sentiment.[45] Thus, Rousseau’s scéne lyrique marks a new development in the myth’s interpretation. Now, in the sensitive eighteenth century, Pygmalion’s characterisation as a lover changes towards his perception as a sensitive artist. He is presented as an artist in doubt about his creativity and genius who utters his qualms in a long monologue. By looking at his female statue, called Galathée or Galatea, he tries to find inspiration. Yet instead he realizes that this perfected work of art triggers his vanity and admiration for himself, the creator of this beautiful piece.[46] With the statue’s animation, however, his desperation comes to an end; she even starts to talk after having stepped down from her pedestal. Venus’s intervention is not needed here, only the artist’s sentiment for his work caused the transformation from marble to flesh.

Heinrich Dörrie and Claudia Weiser interpret this metamorphosis and the artist’s role slightly differently. For Dörrie, the statue comes alive because of Pygmalion’s love for his creation; the power of his sentiment substitutes divine intervention.[47] Weiser is less focussed on Pygmalion’s love for his work than on his role as an artist. In her regard, the crucial change in comparison to Ovid’s sculptor is the new relationship between artist and work of art: Rousseau allows the artist to express himself in his work. He receives admiration and even immortality in exchange, as he lives on in his creation.[48]

Undoubtedly, Rousseau’s Pygmalion marked a turning point in the myth’s reception. From now until the early 19th century, authors focussed on the relation artist – work of art. Rousseau’s Pygmalion became the prototype of the ‘new’ Pygmalion of the age of sensibility and the Romantic movement. The former sinful idolater was transformed into a creative, sometimes even godlike genius.[49]

2. The Victorian Reception of Pygmalion

In the Pygmalion adaptations until the early 19th century, the focus had always been on the lover and creator Pygmalion. The statue that is transformed into a living woman had only played a minor role. Yet under the influence of trivial versions of the story on the one hand and in contrast to the cult factor of the artist figure Pygmalion on the other hand, the recipients of the myth became more and more interested in the statue-girl herself.[50] [51]

In William Hazlitt’s Liber Amoris; or, The New Pygmalion (1823), the character H. is in love with Sarah, the daughter of his landlady. The girl, however, is less innocent than Pygmalion’s statue as she is also conversing with other male guests of her mother and is already in love. Consequently, H.’s pygmalionic love for her cannot find fulfilment – Sarah already leads a life independent from his influence. As H. is not able to shape her, it is impossible for her to become his wife.[52]

Hazlitt’s story implies that a happy ending of a Pygmalion story lies within the fact that the object of Pygmalion’s love – that is, the statue or rather the young girl – exists in a state of innocence and ignorance. Miles suggests that “Hazlitt may have had the Caxton reading in mind”[53], that is the representation of Pygmalion as a socially superior man who tries to transform an ignorant girl. Under the instruction of her ‘creator’, she develops to his ideal future wife. The term ‘creator’ does not necessarily mean ‘artist’ in this context since in many 19th century versions of the myth, Pygmalion is not an artist any more. He has rather become a creator in a moral or educational sense.[54] In fact, “Galatea is in need of education in all of the Victorian plays” as Joshua points out[55] ; one could add: not only in the plays but also in the Pygmalion poems and novels of the Victorian Age. Pygmalion is the one to fill the innocent girl with knowledge and thus with ‘life’.

William Morris’s poem “Pygmalion and the Image” (1868/70) appears in this light. Morris retells Ovid’s story but with an important alteration: the animated statue begins to talk to her creator. She states that she is “yet […] not wise”[56] and tells Pygmalion of her animation by Venus. The goddess has taught her the words necessary for her first conversation with Pygmalion (“Say all these words that I will teach to thee”) and has told her that she “still wilt wiser grow”.[57] This implies that the awakened statue needs instruction and a guiding hand – Venus has given her into Pygmalion’s care “as his love and wife”[58] and now he takes on the role of the educator. As an illustration for Morris’s poem, his friend Edward Burne-Jones created “a series of four sumptuous paintings”[59], called “Pygmalion and the Image” (around 1878). These Pre-Raphaelite pictures, too, emphasise woman’s status as an object of art, a muse for the male artist. Even after her animation, the statue’s face shows a vacant expression and her white body is in contrast with the room and Pygmalion. She seems like a superior but lifeless being, a beautiful body inspiring her creator.[60]

According to Frane, male artists of the Victorian Era tried to defend their domain against female artists by fixing women as muses or even as creations of their masters.[61] At the example of Thomas Hardy’s novel The Well-Beloved (1897) she analyses the quest of Victorian men for an ideal woman. Hardy’s protagonist Jocelyn Pierston is a sculptor who represents a modern Pygmalion.[62] For him, no real woman is “ideal”, only in art can he form a woman according to his aesthetic and erotic imaginations. He even tries to reshape one of his muses, Ann, the daughter of his first love, according to the model of her mother. Only after his aesthetic and pedagogical interventions Ann might achieve the status of an ideal wife. For Pierston, the ideal woman or wife must be controllable and shapeable. This principle embodies the wishes of the (male) Victorian society for women who willingly accept male dominance and do not leave the private sphere.

This Victorian idea of woman also prevails in the drama Pygmalion and Galatea (1871) by William S. Gilbert, which Errol Durbach calls “a curious blend of sentimental idealism”. Durbach quotes Galatea’s confession of her love for Pygmalion: after her metamorphosis she kneels down before Pygmalion and tells him that he is her “sovereign” and she only “may live for [him]”. For Durbach, this is a typical example of the “Victorian domestic paragon”. Gilbert’s portrayal of Galatea is, according to him, “the chauvinist definition of ideal womanhood, [the woman being] a piece of property without a sense of self, on her knees before a sovereign master”.[63] As typical for 19th century adaptations of the myth, Gilbert presents Galatea as the devoted and grateful creature of her master Pygmalion. He wrote a play that met with the taste of his contemporaries and therefore was highly successful on stage.[64]

3. The Representation of Galatea

When the interest in Pygmalion’s statue grew during the 19th century, she eventually developed personality (at least in a limited form). Rousseau’s melodramatic version of Ovid’s myth had not only changed the perception of the sculptor Pygmalion, but it had also added to the new perception of the statue. In his piece, the statue had finally received a name, Galathée or Galatea respectively, which she has usually kept ever since.[65] Now, the animated statue was at least identified by a name. This might be seen as her first step towards individuality. Further, Rousseau gave Galatea voice: after having been animated she begins to talk. She becomes conscious of her existence. By touching her body she realizes that she is not a statue but a person now. Like an infant she begins to acquire self-awareness, to recognise herself as an individual and starts to use the word “myself” to talk about herself.[66]

William Morris, too, has the statue speak to Pygmalion. She explains to him the miracle of her animation by repeating the words the goddess Venus taught her. Venus, despite her sex, embodies patriarchal ideals: she animated the statue in favour of the man Pygmalion; she wants to please him and reward his piety with a good wife. Instead of teaching the newborn woman individuality and giving her a free will, she immediately confronts her with the only purpose of her existence: being Pygmalion’s lover and wife. Her innocence and her total lack of knowledge of worldly affairs – she is like a new-born child – make her helpless. She depends on Pygmalion as her creator and educator. In two ways, she owes her very existence to Venus and Pygmalion: on the one hand, only through them – the artist, who actually made her with the help of his creativity and craftsmanship, and the goddess, who turned marble to human flesh – could she come into material existence in the first place. On the other hand, she depends on their knowledge and on their willingness to teach her. Otherwise she could not survive in the world that she has just entered like a new-born child and which is totally unfamiliar to her. Thus, she appears as the ideal Victorian woman: she is the creation of her husband, depending on him both materially and ideally.

All in all, after Rousseau, Galatea is not a silent object any more. Of course, she still is an object of man’s fantasy and will, who depends on her creator and is portrayed as his devoted, innocent lover. She lacks a proper mind and will; therefore she appears somewhat spiritless in both literary and artistic portraits. Yet she begins to emancipate herself from her voiceless status as an artwork without character towards a more individual, conscious self. This process anticipates Galatea’s emancipation in the literature of the 20th century.

IV Retelling Pygmalion: New, Feminist Conceptions in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Essaka Joshua writes in her study about the reception of Ovid’s Pygmalion myth in English literature that in “the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the story is developed from being man-centred to woman-centred”. She continues that “the focus moves to the empowerment of the woman Galatea becomes and the overturning of the patriarchal power of Pygmalion”.[67] Indeed, Pygmalion’s creation, who is not necessarily a statue any more, transforms into a major character in most 20th century versions of the tale. The statue had represented a “tabula rasa”[68] for the male act of creation from antiquity to the Victorian age: it could be filled with man’s wishes and fantasies. Since the beginning of the 20th century, however, a new line of interpretation has become apparent. Ovid’s tale underwent a “feminist revisioning” which paid attention to Galatea’s perspective and sometimes even identified the Pygmalion figure as a pathological case who uses art to satisfy his male fantasies.[69] George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion from 1912 was the first of these feminist retellings of the myth, therefore it will be discussed in this chapter along with Willy Russell’s Educating Rita, a modernised version of Shaw’s play. Most male twentieth-century writers retelling the Pygmalion story were occupied with Pygmalion’s artistic crisis.[70] My concern, however, is the feminist revisioning of the myth. Therefore, I shall neglect the artist-concerned texts and instead analyse the gender concerned re-workings by Angela Carter, Carol Ann Duffy and Neil LaBute. All of them bring a change of perspective on the Ovidian myth.

1. Critical View on the Educator Pygmalion

1.1 George Bernard Shaw’s Drama Pygmalion (1912)

George Bernard Shaw counteracted all former receptions of the myth, especially those of the Victorian Age, in his play Pygmalion. A Romance. Here, Galatea is personified by the flowergirl Eliza and is neither silent nor devoted like the former models of Pygmalion’s creation. Self-confidently, she confronts her Pygmalion, the phonetician Professor Higgins, with his tyranny and selfishness in the end of the play instead of marrying him. As Joshua points out, Shaw’s play owes more to W. S. Gilbert’s Pygmalion and Galatea than to the Ovidian myth. It “does not contain […] any of the key episodes of Ovid’s tale”[71], but is “a genuine variant” of the Pygmalion interpretations of Gilbert and his Victorian contemporaries. The latter especially focussed “on the expanding role of Pygmalion as educator” of his Galatea.[72]

The first English work interpreting Pygmalion as educator is William Caxton’s text of 1480 in which Pygmalion educates a servant girl.[73] It anticipated Shaw’s retelling of the myth as did Tobias Smollett’s novel The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle of 1751. Within his novel, Smollett tells a comical episode of a young nobleman, Peregrine, educating a beggar girl and introducing her to the London society as a lady.[74] Geoffrey Miles mentions that Shaw knew Smollett’s story and “admitted that [it] might have unconsciously stuck in his mind from reading it as a boy”.[75]

Shaw may not have been the first to convert Pygmalion into an educator, he still was the first to approach the Pygmalion-as-educator version critically and even from a feminist perspective. In Shaw’s play, the positive view of Caxton or Rousseau on the humanistic educator Pygmalion turns into a rather negative one. Professor Higgins is not interested in forming a refined human being but in forming an aristocrat; only if the flowergirl is able to take on the speech of the higher classes she will become a worthy human being.[76] For him, “a woman who utters such […] disgusting sounds [as Eliza does in Act I] has no right to live”; to “[croon] like a bilious pigeon” contradicts her status as “a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech”.[77] Further, his sole interest is the result of his experiment. Eliza is nothing more than a human guinea pig to him, her feelings or future life are irrelevant. When she confronts him with the question what should become of her, he just replies “What does it matter what becomes of you?”[78]. Higgins does not care about his creature. Other than former Pygmalions he is not a caring creator but an entirely selfish one.[79] The result of his experiment, to win his bet with Colonel Pickering, is all that matters to him.

Moreover, he does not think of marrying his Galatea. Instead, he intends to remain a bachelor. He even wants to convince Eliza of the advantages of bachelorhood: in Higgins imagination, she, he himself “and Pickering will be three old bachelors together instead of only two men and a silly girl”.[80] Yet Shaw’s Galatea has her own mind and does not fulfil her Pygmalion’s wish but marries another man, Freddy Eynsford Hill, instead. Compared to Ovid’s Pygmalion, Higgins only resembles his mythical role-model in his convinced bachelorhood and misogyny. While the Ovidian sculptor soon falls in love with his creation, Higgins is not at all in love with Eliza. He stays a misogynist and instead of declaring his love to his Galatea, he expresses his contempt by calling her “draggletailed guttersnipe”[81], “baggage”[82] etc.

Similarly, the flowergirl Eliza differs a lot from the Ovidian statue. She is not the silent object of her master any more but makes use of her voice. It is her speech that Higgins becomes interested in, that is from a phonetic perspective. During the whole play, he never really cares about the content of her words. He begins to shape Eliza’s speech and manners until she passes as a duchess. This is the first part of her metamorphosis: her speech and outer appearance is changed. Due to new dresses and manners, the flowergirl is transformed into a lady. The second part of Eliza’s metamorphosis, however, is more crucial – her inner change. In Act IV, when Higgins has won his bet, she begins to rage against him and his cruel selfishness. The act of throwing his slippers at him is a symbol of her liberation.[83]

Suddenly, Galatea has not only attained speech, but she makes use of it in order to rebel against Pygmalion. She has become a self-confident woman with her own mind who is “quite distinct form the shapes into which her Pygmalion has moulded her”.[84] Pygmalion-Higgins’s creation is not perfected because of his talent, but because of Eliza’s very own effort, thus leading to the positive ending of the play.[85] Durbach points out that Eliza has the “divine prerogative”[86] that belonged to Venus in Ovid’s tale. Now, divine intervention is not needed any more, only the divine spark within Galatea brings her to life. In Shavian terms it is Eliza’s inner “life force” that transforms her into an individual that is independent from her creator Higgins.[87] This is the most crucial change of Shaw’s version of the myth in Durbach’s view:

The essential Galatea, the living soul who asserts her independence of sculptural form, is that most creative and innovative contribution to the myth in modern dress – a reinterpretation of Ovid, and a rejection of W.S. Gilbert’s Victorian tableau of the dependent creature whose integrity is subservient to her creator’s.[88]

Shaw’s play departs from the Victorian Pygmalion. Indeed, it could be seen as the first feminist version of the myth. Shaw attacks the views of his contemporaries on the role of woman in society. Before Eliza is educated by Higgins, she is able to lead an independent life by selling flowers. Afterwards she is “not fit to sell anything else”[89] than herself: like most women of her time she needs to find a husband to support her. Eliza’s change from independence to dependency is depicted as problematic. For Shaw, the traditional gender roles and ideas of marriage were highly questionable. As a member of the socialist Fabian Society he struggled not only against social inequality but also against inequality between the sexes. Shaw was responsible that “the equal political rights of women were firmly established as a Fabian principle from the outset”.[90] Yet not the Fabian or socialist striving for equality had had the deepest impact on Shaw’s feminism but probably the example of his closest relatives. Sally Peters finds parallels between Eliza Doolittle and Shaw’s mother and sister, who both led very unconventional lives, rebelling “against their gender defined roles”.[91] According to Peters, in Pygmalion “Shaw explores the intersection of male artistic creation and female self-creation”.[92] Eliza creates herself by making her own decisions just as Shaw’s mother did, who left her husband and moved to London in order to lead a self-determined life.

Shaw deliberately prevents the marriage between Eliza and Higgins which would restrict the flowergirl’s emancipation. Instead, he has Eliza express the possibility of marrying Freddy. Patriarchal Higgins, of course, stays unconvinced; he doubts the success of such a marriage:

Higgins: Can he make anything of you? That’s the point.

Liza: Perhaps I could make something of him. But I never thought of us making anything of one another; and you never think of anything else. I only want to be natural.[93]

Higgins is again presented as the ignorant Pygmalion who defines relationships between men and women by man’s ability to shape woman, to “make something” of her. Eliza’s reply implies two alternatives to Higgins’s view on marriage. On the one hand, it does not necessarily have to be Freddy who makes something of her, but Eliza herself could be the shaping part in their relationship. On the other hand, she admits that she is not really interested in such a role-reversal although it does not seem impossible to her. For her, however, a relationship might also work if the partners stay “natural”, that is stay who they are without changing one another. Here, she utters a quite modern view on male-female relationships and rejects the patriarchal ideals of Victorianism.

Higgins and Eliza’s different approaches to marriage make it impossible for them to become husband and wife like the old Pygmalion and his Galatea. Higgins is a Pygmalion who is more proud than ever of having created the ‘perfect woman’ and Eliza has developed too much self-confidence and independency to submit to the superiority he wants to impose on her. In his epilogue, Shaw makes clear that “Galatea never does quite like Pygmalion: his relation to her is too godlike to be altogether agreeable”.[94] Mutual love between the two seems impossible as their relationship would always be coined by Galatea’s dependence on her “godlike” creator Pygmalion. Therefore, Shaw lets Eliza marry Freddy, who neither wants to change her nor would be able to. Higgins, instead, who does not love her but would always see her as his “masterpiece”[95], remains a bachelor.[96]

1.2 Willy Russell’s Drama Educating Rita (1980)

Almost seventy years later, the educating Pygmalion was revived by Willy Russell’s play Educating Rita. It is a modernised version of Shaw’s play[97] in which the flowergirl has turned into a hairdresser and the phonetician into a professor of literature. Unlike Higgins or Ovid’s Pygmalion, the latter, Frank, is not a bachelor, yet has “split up”[98] with his wife and now lives with his former student Julia whom he likes “enormously”[99] but does not seem to love. Other than his predecessors, he is not a misogynist; he likes women – but he admits: “it’s myself I’m not too fond of”[100]. In Russell’s version, Pygmalion’s troubles seem to stem from his doubts about his writing career. He once “sold a few books, all out of print now”, he is not “a famous poet” as Rita guesses.[101] In fact, his art is not only unsuccessful (at least in the terms of the publishing market) but also cost him his marriage. His wife left him after fifteen years in which his “output as a poet had dealt exclusively with the period in which [they] – discovered each other”.[102] His desperate efforts to describe this period artistically seem to have ruined his marriage. Being unable to grow out of the beginning phase of their relationship, both artistically and emotionally, Frank probably did not develop in the same way as his wife did during these fifteen years. Russell here substitutes Ovid’s motif of the petrified Propoetides by a petrified, that is an underdeveloped and even ended, relationship that led to Frank’s difficulties both with women and with himself. His efforts to ban the ‘discovery’ of his wife on paper mirror Ovid’s Pygmalion discovering the body of his ivory statue. While the old Pygmalion’s wishes are satisfied with the animation of the statue, Frank finally splits up with his wife. In his student Rita, however, he finds a woman whom he really can ‘discover’ as her metamorphosis happens before his eyes and is, partly, a result of his efforts with her.

Rita’s real name, Susan White, might be a telling name. On the one hand, “White” may refer to the white colour of Pygmalion’s ivory statue. On the other hand, when Rita, that is “Mrs S. White”[103], first enters Frank’s office, she resembles a white page in a book that can be filled with words and meaning. Frank, the unsuccessful poet, is the one who tries to fill this white page and succeeds, but only to a certain degree. Rita learns from him about literature, she gets an education from him. Yet his lack of success as a poet suggests that he will be unsuccessful in animating her eventually. Frank is not a ‘god-like’ artist-Pygmalion in Rousseau’s sense who takes over the role of Venus; he only is the trigger for the transformation process. The ‘statue’ Rita comes alive through her very own efforts, quite as Shaw’s Eliza does.

From the beginning, Rita is taking her transformation into her own hands: she decides to leave the working-class tristesse behind and acquire an education, therefore she enrolls in the Open University programme. As a first, decisive step she has changed her name from Susan to Rita – after the author Rita Mae Brown, whom she admires. She states that she is “not a Susan anymore”[104] and this already hints at her transformation. With her old name also her old identity vanishes.[105] Further steps towards a new life are the separation from her husband, her moving into a shared flat with another young woman, finding friends among university students and attending summer university in London. Thus, Rita becomes more and more independent; she finds out who she is and emancipates.

Of course, her emancipation from her former life comes with some side effects. She feels like “a halfcaste”[106] when she discovers that she neither fits into the working class environment any longer nor seems to belong to Frank’s world. Like in Eliza Doolittle’s case, Rita cannot reverse her education; it has changed her and her way of life. In the play, education is presented “both as liberating and confining” and as a process in which “something is irretrievably lost”.[107] In order to fit into the more educated middle class, Rita acquires a new language. She gives up her working class slang as “there is not a lot of point in discussing beautiful literature with an ugly voice”.[108] Further, Rita returns “in new, second-hand clothes”[109] to Frank’s office after summer school. Like in Shaw’s play, the working class girl’s metamorphosis is expressed by the change of her clothes and speech.

Frank, however, is not happy about Rita’s transformation. He does not like her new way of talking, he tells her to “stop it” and “just be [her]self.”[110] Other than Higgins, he is not interested in ‘making something’ out of the working class girl. He prefers the natural, original Rita. From the beginning, he expresses his doubts about the good of education and only starts to teach her reluctantly.[111] He likes Rita’s naivety and ignorance which provide her with a kind of innocence. Unlike the Victorian Pygmalions, he does not want to spoil this innocence by educating and shaping Rita but would rather “take [her] by the hand and run out of this room [i.e. his office] forever”.[112] When Rita finally has changed into a more self-confident, emancipated woman, Frank reacts reluctantly. Now, Rita is not as dependent on him as in the beginning, but she has turned into an equal who can talk about literature in the same way as he does[113] and has found new friends her age. Frank obviously fears to lose her and is jealous[114]. Here, he resembles the old Pygmalion: although he does not want to mould Rita, he still wants her to depend on him. Her emancipation seems threatening to him as this means that she has acquired her own will and makes her own decisions. Therefore, Frank is a modern version of Higgins. Of course, he is neither as misogynistic nor as uncaring as Shaw’s Pygmalion. He, however, fears the emancipation of his ‘creation’; he wants to control her and not lose her to another man.[115] Apparently, in the 20th century, Pygmalion still is the possessive creator, but Galatea now has become much stronger and more independent than ever before.

2. Pygmalion as Pervert: Angela Carter’s Short Story “The Loves of Lady

3. Purple” (1974)

In a rather dark and disturbing sense, Galatea’s emancipation is also featured in Angela Carter’s short story “The Loves of Lady Purple”, although nothing in this narration reminds of Ovid’s myth at the first look. Names, setting, plot seemingly are all Carter’s invention. Still, there are various parallels to be found. Both the Ovidian Pygmalion story and “The Loves of Lady Purple” could be summed up as the tales of a male fantasy becoming a real woman.

In Carter’s story, Pygmalion is disguised as the Asiatic Professor, a puppet master, and his Galatea is a marionette called Lady Purple. By literally pulling her strings, the Professor brings Lady Purple to life. Every night, she enacts his fantasies in the puppet play “The Notorious Amours of Lady Purple, the Shameless Oriental Venus[116], in which she represents an “image of irresistible evil”[117], an “outrageous nymphomaniac”[118] prostitute murdering her lovers. Because of her shameless, destructive lifestyle she eventually becomes “nothing but wood and hair. She [becomes] a marionette herself, […] the dead yet moving image of the shameless Oriental Venus”.[119]

This story within the story clearly reminds of Ovid’s Propoetides. Like them, the first prostitutes, Lady Purple is hardened by her shameful business – only instead of turning to stone, she turns into a wooden marionette. After each performance, her master, the Asiatic Professor, passes her off as “the petrification of a universal whore”[120], suggesting to the audience that the original Lady Purple has been “transformed into the very marionette who nightly re-enacts the story which is, in fact, her own”.[121]

Unlike Pygmalion, the Asiatic Professor does not feel threatened or appalled by Lady Purple’s allegedly “unappeasable”[122] sexual appetite and promiscuity. On the contrary, her actions are products of his and of his (male) audience’s imagination. He lives out his desires by presenting a beautiful female puppet, the “Queen of the Night”, “a monstrous goddess”.[123] The visitors of the puppet play are both fascinated and appalled by Lady Purple’s actions, which stimulate lust and horror simultaneously. Onto her body “her male manipulators [i.e. the puppet master and the audience] write their hidden fears and fantasies”[124], while she could neither move nor talk without her master.

Lady Purple is both a liveless and a voiceless piece of carved wood that only comes to life through her master. While the Asiatic Professor is not her creator – the story mentions that she “must have been the masterpiece of a long-dead, anonymous artisan”[125] – only his hands awaken her life and spirit. The Professor differs from Pygmalion as he has not ‘created’ the female puppet in the literal sense. Nevertheless, he is the one who makes her appear as the Oriental Venus who is more seductive than any “woman born”[126], thus resembling Pygmalion as the originator of the statue’s/ puppet’s beauty.

The marionette herself shows qualities similar to Pygmalion’s statue: she is a product of male desire. She is beautiful, passive and “fit utilis usu”[127], that is shapeable at male will. Her successful animation totally depends on her master. The only way to express herself is through her sexuality. Similarly to the Ovidian statue, she is a desirable body without spirit or intelligence. The relationship of the Asiatic Professor to his puppet also reminds of Pygmalion’s relationship to his statue. The Professor is in love with Lady Purple. He allows “no one else to touch her”, looks “after her costumes and jewellery” and puts her into his bed since “he could not sleep unless she lay beside him”.[128] Ovid’s scene of Pygmalion dressing and adorning his ivory statue is revived at the end of Carter’s story when the puppet master is “seized with the childish desire to see her again in all her finery” and puts “her clothes on her”. The Professor seems to have forgotten about his dark fantasies: now, Lady Purple is not the evil, seductive whore any more but he regards her “tenderly”, admiring her like a beautiful toy. He is compared to a child and like a child “he always used to kiss his doll goodnight”.[129]

This goodnight kiss, however, will be his death. In the darkness of his booth, the marionette seems harmless to him while the reader might already suspect that her apparent “air of arrogance” and “long fingernails” are forebodings of evil.[130] The Professor’s kiss is “humble” and “desperate”[131] like Pygmalion’s caresses. Like the latter he does not believe that his beloved artificial woman could come to life. Yet the marionette suddenly awakes as a living woman. Her metamorphosis has been triggered by her master’s desire and she awakens through his kiss, like in Ovid’s tale. The transforming power, however, is not ascribed to the goddess Venus here, but to “a mysterious loophole in [the world’s] metaphysics”.[132] The awakened marionette gains life by sucking her master’s “breath from his lungs” and sinking “her teeth into his throat”, thus draining him like a vampire.[133] Finally, the monster-woman sets fire to her dead master’s booth and escapes from the fairground “towards the town, making her way like a homeing pigeon, out of logical necessity, to the single brothel it contained”.[134]

In the end, Lady Purple has emancipated herself from the dominion of her master. Yet other than the Galatea figures of Shaw or Russell, her emancipation is interwoven with destruction and death. Only by killing her Pygmalion, she can free herself from his influence. She needs his ‘life-force’ in the Shavian sense[135] in order to come alive. The puppet master is not able to maintain his control over Lady Purple but is killed by his own desires, by his own perverted fantasies. The transformed marionette, however, now strives to vivify “the stories she was constructed to enact”.[136] This in mind, Gina Wisker points out the use of “paradox and irony” within Carter’s narration: “Lady Purple represents male fears of the vampiric femme fatale and patriarchy’s necrophilic desire to make women into inanimate dolls”.[137] The Professor put his fears and fantasies of a “vampiric femme fatale” into a lifeless marionette, therefore he was able to articulate his desires without danger. It is the irony of the tale that he did not reckon with a metaphysical “loophole” that would transform the harmless doll into a harmful woman. In this Pygmalion version, the granting of the wish is not a reward but a punishment.

In this sense, Angela Carter herself writes about Lady Purple:

She is a puppet, and a man made her, and made up her entire biography as a femme fatale, and willed her into being because he wanted so much for her to exist, and if she destroys him the very minute she comes to life, then it is his own silly fault for thinking such dreadful things in the first place.[138]

Thus, she describes Lady Purple as a product of the puppet master’s own perverted mind. His horrifying death is his “own silly fault” and the marionette cannot be found guilty because “she isn’t real”[139]. Further, Carter implies that the marionette, having been mistreated as the object of male fantasies for so long, takes revenge. This, of course, is a novelty in the Pygmalion reception – no former Galatea has thought of taking revenge. They either became the devoted wives of their Pygmalions, or the story provided an open, yet ‘happy’ ending[140]. Carter’s Galatea, however, differs blatantly from her sisters: she is not innocent but profligate and she is not devoted but destructive.

The most decisive difference between the texts discussed so far, and the story of Lady Purple is the fact that the latter was written by a woman. Angela Carter declares in her introduction to the story collection Wayward Girls and Wicked Women that “women writers are kind to women”.[141] She claims that fictional women like Lady Purple “would seem much, much worse if men had invented them”. Of course, Lady Purple is not presented as a “perfectly normal” character.[142] There is nothing about her that would cause the reader’s sympathy but this is essentially because she is only a puppet. The Asiatic Professor, instead, is presented as the spiritual originator of her evil deeds. Thus, Carter criticises Pygmalion in a much harsher way than, for example, Shaw did. She does not present her Pygmalion figure as a self-absorbed intellectual or artist who is unable to bond with other people and neglects the (emotional) needs of his Galatea. (After all, Higgins is a likeable character despite his many flaws.) Carter presents Pygmalion as a pervert: he nourishes “dreadful”[143] fantasies by presenting his marionette as a murderous whore. The “use of horror”, the transformation of the doll into a vampire-like monster, is Carter’s tool of “social and sexual critique”.[144] Her story portrays “male fantasy, power and lust” and patriarchal wishes for “woman as a controllable automaton”.[145] Probably, “The Loves of Lady Purple” would not have been written by a male author – at least not in the same way. It is the story of a woman, of an author known to be feminist.

Still, in Angela Carter’s case the label ‘feminist’ is a controversial one. Although much of her work is concerned about feminist topics, her “relationship with [feminism] was an extremely ambivalent one”.[146] For example, her refusal “to read [the Marquis de] Sade’s work as purely misogynistic” seemed highly provocative to feminists condemning pornography as an act of violence against women.[147] Carter’s particular feminism mirrored the division in the feminist movement of the 1980s about the issue of pornography.[148] Her eroticist, sometimes pornographical writing even led to her being labelled as “high priestess of post-graduate porn”.[149] Nevertheless, in her work Carter “constantly [tested] the boundaries of any received belief system”.[150] She “was critical of conventional femininity, which she saw as a blend of masquerade and of ‘male impersonation’”.[151] Consequently, she explored the relations between the sexes and “how women have a conflicted relationship with their production as ‘feminine’ subjects”.[152] Lady Purple is such a ‘feminine subject’, yet her special femininity arises out of a man’s mind; it is a male conception.

3. Pygmalion Outwitted: Carol Ann Duffy’s Poem “Pygmalion’s Bride” (1999)

In Carol Ann Duffy’s ironic version of the Pygmalion myth, Galatea is not just a creation of male fantasy like Lady Purple but appears as a confident individual. With the poem “Pygmalion’s Bride”, which is part of the collection The World’s Wife, Duffy rewrites Ovid’s tale from a feminine perspective. That is, Galatea tells the story from her point of view, in her own voice. In Duffy’s reworkings of the Metamorphoses (like “Circe”, “from Mrs Tiresias” or “Pygmalion’s Bride”) the female voices “are usually knowing and their men-folk naively or obtusely ignorant”[153]. Other than in earlier Pygmalion versions written by male authors, Galatea is presented as “knowing” in Duffy’s poem: she does not have to be filled with knowledge by Pygmalion but is even more clever than him. She sees through him and his actions, and finally tricks him by giving in to his wishes.

The first three lines of the poem introduce the relationship of Pygmalion and his “bride”: “Cold, I was, like snow, like ivory. /I thought, He will not touch me, / but he did”.[154] The lyrical I of the poem, Galatea, is “cold” – that is the first the reader gets to know about her. She is cold “like ivory”, like the material she was made of, but she is also cold regarding her relationship to Pygmalion. Her reluctance towards her creator is emphasised by her hoping that he “will not touch” her. Yet like in Ovid’s tale, the sculptor cannot let it be – he touches her. Galatea sets out to describe his efforts about her: how he kisses her, talks to her relentlessly, brings her presents etc. Pygmalion is not the persevering Ovidian lover any more, but almost resembles an obsessed stalker. He does not leave Galatea alone but stays with her, talking to her constantly and trying to awaken her. Galatea is tired of his talking, she “[drowns] him out” but only to “[hear] him shout”. Obviously, Pygmalion gets on her nerves but he ignores her reluctance; he does not grasp the fact that she is not interested in him. The reader, instead, finds many hints at her aloofness. The coldness and petrification of her feelings are reflected by her “stone-cool lips”, “marbled eyes”, “stone-deaf” ears, her heart is like “ice” or “glass”. She does not “shrink, [plays] statue, schtum”, does “not bruise” and does show “no scratch, no scrape, no scar” from his touches. While Ovid’s statue seems not to move because of her modesty[155], Duffy’s Galatea does not move because of her reluctance. She stays a lifeless statue – but obsessed Pygmalion does not give up.

Pygmalion’s obsession seems almost pathological. His courtship is combined with his objectification of Galatea. According to Avril Horner, it is his “desire to possess his bride as an object” which is “made manifest in his infantilisation of her”.[156] He treats her like a little girl by giving her presents calling them “girly things”. With these presents he tries to win her; he believes that she can be seduced with toys – “polished pebbles,/ little bells” – like a child. Moreover, his obsession has an even cruel touch. Duffy portrays him not only as a desperate lover who admires or caresses his beloved, but outfits him with sadistic strains. Her Pygmalion speaks to Galatea “blunt endearments, what he’d do and how./ His words were terrible”. Whatever he wants to “do” with Galatea, it is distressing her. Further, his touch is painful: “He let his fingers sink into my flesh,/ he squeezed, he pressed./ […] His nails were claws”. Squeezing or pressing the statue’s flesh is not what Ovid’s enamoured sculptor would have done; instead, he was worried about bruising his statue.[157] Yet Duffy’s obsessed Pygmalion wants to bruise his Galatea and looks “for marks, […] smudgy clues” in order to find out if she might give in to his courtship.

Although Galatea obviously does not want to give in, she finally rethinks her cool reluctance. To stop Pygmalion’s molestation she “changed tack”. Suddenly she grows “warm, like candle wax”, becomes “soft” and “pliable”. She gives in to his caresses and “at the climax/ scream[s] [her] head off” – and finally states that it was, of course, “all an act”. At the end of the poem she states contentedly: “And haven’t seen him since./ Simple as that.” Her cleverness has been rewarded: after her “act”, Pygmalion leaves her alone. For Jeffrey Wainwright and Avril Horner, Pygmalion’s withdrawal is a sign of his unease. Galatea’s unexpected “expression of an adult, sexual passion”[158] disturbs him. Suddenly, his Galatea is not any longer the child-woman he wanted to see in her. Furthermore, she has turned from an object into a subject of passion; the victim of his bruising touches has turned into a lover who (seemingly) enjoys them. Pygmalion “cannot cope with the fleshy, sexual reality”[159], therefore he turns his back on her.

In “Pygmalion’s Bride”, the character of the statue’s metamorphosis is an entirely different one compared to Ovid’s tale. Here, it is not a mere transition from lifelessness to life. Further, it is not caused by Pygmalion’s faith or Venus’s intervention. In Duffy’s poem, Galatea is presented as a self-confident woman with her own mind; she alone decides to come to life. It is not even entirely clear if Pygmalion’s “bride” really is a statue – she only mentions that she “played statue” and probably she is not even made of ivory but is just cold “like ivory”[160]. Therefore, Duffy’s Galatea might be an actual woman who is molested by an annoying suitor. In this regard, her metamorphosis would not be a divine miracle like in Ovid’s story but a rather mundane occurrence: Galatea transforms from a cold, petrified, reluctant woman into a warm, soft, passionate lover. John Marston’s statement in his Pygmalion poem that “women will relent / When as they finde such moving blandishment” is satirized in Duffy’s version. Although her Galatea ‘relents’ finally because of Pygmalion’s ‘blandishment’, she really only feigns it. Her transformation is not a reward for Pygmalion, but a means to get rid of him.

Like Angela Carter’s Lady Purple, Duffy’s Galatea emancipates herself from Pygmalion and thus from male (sexual) domination. For the first time, Galatea’s voice is not just heard in response to her master but as a means to express her very own, feminine view of the story.

4. Role-reversal: Neil LaBute’s Drama The Shape of Things (2001)

In the 21st century, the pygmalionic artist-object relationship reaches a further level in Neil LaBute’s 2001 drama The Shape of Things. LaBute’s play starts with the literal crossing of a line. The main characters with the symbolical names Adam and Evelyn meet in a museum in front of a statue with its genitals covered by a leaf cluster due to “complaints from local townspeople”.[161] Evelyn, an art student, wants to spray “a big dick on it”[162] and therefore has stepped over the velvet rope that functions as a barrier. Adam, who works as a part-time museum guard, approaches to ask her to step back:

Adam: … you stepped over the line. miss? / umm, you stepped over …

Evelyn: i know. / it’s ‘ms.’

Adam: okay, sorry, ms., but, ahh …

Evelyn: i meant to. /step over …

Adam: […] you’re not supposed to do that.

Evelyn: i know. / that’s why i tried it …

Adam: why?

Evelyn: … to see what would happen.[163]

This dialogue anticipates the further development of the play. It shows Evelyn’s curiosity about the effects of stepping over the line and her unscrupulousness. For what she considers to be art – spraying a penis on a male statue that had been censored by conservative “local townspeople” – she deliberately crosses a border, that is the velvet rope. Later in the play, she will cross a moral border by transforming Adam as her “human sculpture”[164].

Obviously, the female figure in LaBute’s play is not an object of art any more. She has become the artist and creator herself, shaping a man at will. The male character, Adam, becomes her “base material” and turns into her “creation”.[165] This role-reversal is LaBute’s most crucial change of the Pygmalion myth. Central elements of Ovid’s tale, however, have been preserved in The Shape of Things. Evelyn-Pygmalion is an artist – or rather an art student working on her thesis project. She creates a sculpture according to common laws of beauty – only that her sculpture is male and already human. Like Ovid’s Pygmalion she is an agent of beauty: she makes Adam (more) attractive by shaping him. Further, Evelyn falls in love with her creation – at least it seems so until the ninth scene when both the audience and Adam get to know that she only pretended affection in order to shape her “base material”.

While the creator now is female, the male character, Adam, takes on the role of the statue, the object of transformation. After their first encounter in the museum, he falls in love with Evelyn and obviously is anxious to please her. He is most willing to change, Evelyn does not have to force him to. Following her suggestions, he starts to exercise, to cut his hair, to wear contact lenses etc. He even undergoes cosmetic surgery, the most obvious reference to Ovid: his nose is ‘carved’ like the ivory of the statue.[166] Adam is not aware at all of this creation process. In this regard, he resembles Pygmalion’s lifeless statue that does not possess any self-awareness during the process of her creation.

While for Evelyn-Pygmalion Adam’s transformation is just an interesting art project of which she is “very proud”[167], for Adam himself it is a life-changing experience. Although he becomes more confident and “a more desirable person”[168] through his metamorphosis, he is devastated after having found out about Evelyn’s deception. In the end, his transformation does not seem like an act of liberation to him any more. He has to realize that Evelyn never loved him but regarded him as art “material” and her only interest was to shape “the human flesh and the human will”.[169] Now at the latest it becomes obvious that the distribution of power in their relationship was totally unbalanced: by deceiving Adam, Evelyn held all the power in her hands.

Adam, the defenceless object, is shaped by Evelyn or, more drastically speaking, violated by her. In this sense, Dorothee Gall points out the latent potential for violence that is already contained in the Ovidian myth but becomes more obvious if the reader holds LaBute’s version in mind. Ovid’s Pygmalion myth is not only an erotic tale but also implies the subjection of the art work to its creator. Pygmalion is able to take advantage of the statue-girl who cannot defend herself. Ovid, of course, does not provide the reader with the transformed statue’s point of view. Pygmalion’s perspective is essential, the silent ivory-girl is only portrayed as the prize for his piety. LaBute instead shows – like most authors since the 20th century – special interest in the perspective of the object of the transformation. Thus, his story receives a much more bitter tone than Ovid’s original. At least from Adam’s point of view, Evelyn’s shaping of a human sculpture is not a harmless but a rather violent act of creation.[170]

Apart from violence, sexuality is another means of power that Evelyn employs during the creation process. Evelyn’s creative powers are closely connected with her sexual powers, that is her ability to seduce Adam. If she had not been sexually attractive to Adam, her plan would not have worked. During the presentation of her thesis project in the ninth scene, she admits that “with the right coaxing of [her] material – yes, ‘coaxing’ often of a sexual nature […] – [she] could hone the inside of [her] sculpture as well as the outside”.[171] Indeed, she did not only reform his appearance but also his tastes and habits; for example, she “coaxed him into eating his first vegetarian meal”[172]. With her sexuality Evelyn got power over Adam; by seducing him she became able to influence him and create his new self. The biblical symbolism of the first scene has already evoked the motifs of seduction and creation.[173] Here, LaBute has Adam meet his Eve in front of a statue that is “supposed to be ‘god’ […] ‘the creator’”.[174] Adam knows that Eve(lyn)’s transgression of the velvet rope is wrong, but like his biblical namesake he is ‘seduced’ and gives in to her persuasion; only thus she is able to pursue her plan of painting a penis on the censored statue. Adam’s failure as the guardian of the statue emphasises his general powerlessness. Yet also ‘god’ has lost his (creative) power here. He has become an object himself, a work of art that is defenceless against all kinds of changes. First, conservative “local townspeople”[175] had the statue’s genitals covered with a leaf cluster and later, Evelyn sprays “a big dick on it”[176]. The ‘creator’ has become passive and vulnerable.[177]

The fact that the traditionally male creator of the world is presented as deprived of his power makes clear that The Shape of Things plays with the traditional gender roles. Man, who was the active, creative part in former Pygmalion versions, is reduced to a passive, defenseless object of creation. Consequently, Adam, a self-conscious, insecure young man, is not able to defend the male statue against Evelyn’s attack. Woman, instead, now plays the active part. The biblical myth of the male creator is challenged by an emancipated, empowered woman, Evelyn. A first taste of her creative power is given in the museum scene. Here, she reverses the traditional male voyeurism: while usually Galatea’s naked body was objectified under Pygmalion’s gaze, Evelyn now transforms the male genitals and the male body into an object of art by painting a penis on the statue. Yet here not only ‘god’ is shaped by woman, but also man: Evelyn (re-)creates a human being.[178]

The unease about Evelyn’s creation of a so to speak artificial human being is expressed by various literary allusions throughout the play. Both Adam and his friend Philip compare his transformation to other infamous stories of transformation. Quite early, already in the second scene, Adam reacts to Evelyn’s appraisal of his changes with a playful “thank you… (cockney) ‘enry ‘iggins”.[179] Indeed, speaking with Shaw’s Henry Higgins, Evelyn ‘makes something’ of Adam; in the end at least she herself believes that she made him “in a word, better”.[180] Yet like Higgins, she is totally ignorant of her creature’s feelings and the impact of her shaping on his future life. Philip, however, is aware of the negative impact of Adam’s transformation. He confronts him with “the ‘metamorphosis’ thing”, claiming he was “like Frankenstein”.[181] Of course, Adam has to explain to him that he actually means “Frankenstein’s monster. Frankenstein was the doctor”[182] but nevertheless this comparison is very apt: like Frankenstein, Evelyn forms a human being but abandons him after the creation process is finished. In the end, Adam really feels like a monster, his allusion to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, the “little Gregor Samsa thing”[183], makes this very obvious.

All in all, LaBute’s Pygmalion tale puts the metamorphosis of the created object in a rather negative light. Other than Ovid, LaBute clearly moralises the story. On the one hand, he criticises Evelyn’s manipulative actions and her objectification of Adam, on the other hand he unmasks the cult about beauty and perfection in both the play and modern society. All the characters in The Shape of Things are governed by concepts of perfection. After he has changed his looks and lost weight, Adam begins to feel more confident; he even has had his nose corrected in order to adapt to common beauty standards. Jenny admires Evelyn’s efforts about Adam and thinks of “those tests” in women magazines like Cosmopolitan “asking what you’d like to change about your guy”; then she admits: “Almost everybody I’ve gone out with, if you could just alter one thing […] then they’d be perfect.”[184] She seems almost envious of Evelyn’s talent to change Adam and thus making an ‘ideal’ man of him. LaBute reveals society’s dependence on certain concepts of beauty as they are, for instance, offered by the media. Uniqueness is not desirable according to these standards. The shape of all things, also the shape of the (male) body, has to adapt to common aesthetics.[185] In the end, Evelyn tells the audience that according to “any fashion magazine, […] any television programme [Adam has] only gotten more interesting, more desirable, more normal”. She continues that her human work of art is “a living, breathing example of our obsession with the surface of things, the shape of them”.[186] Here, Evelyn shows the inner mechanisms of Adam’s metamorphosis. If society did not have certain ideals concerning perfection, he would never have had a reason to feel uncomfortable and thus to change. In this sense, regarding “our obsession with the surface of things”, Evelyn suddenly does not seem totally ‘evil’. In a way, she is only a means to confront both her audience within the play and LaBute’s real audience with the trouble resulting from the dependence on certain codes of beauty and perfection.

With regard to the Pygmalion tale, the question remains if The Shape of Things is an emancipated or rather a misogynistic version of the myth. Often, LaBute has been accused of misogyny.[187] His Evelyn has been interpreted as demonic[188], “heartless” or as a “destructive femme fatale”[189]. According to Gall, LaBute’s play emphasises common prejudices about women’s roles in relationships, that is the effort to ‘educate’ and change their partners. Therefore, in her opinion, the play cannot be an emancipated version of the Pygmalion myth. However, Gall overlooks that, despite Evelyn’s negative role, the emphasis of the play lies on the criticism of social and medial functionings. Not female behaviour in particular is attacked but the general human wish to change people for the better, whatever better might be. Not the emancipated woman Evelyn is criticised but her actions in the name of art and aestheticism. LaBute’s play gets a feminist gloss by the shift of the gender roles which offers a new perspective on the Pygmalion myth. Man and woman have changed their roles regarding the (pygmalionic) creation process: now woman is involved in creation, man instead has been excluded.[190]

Of course, Evelyn’s actions are morally highly questionable. Yet if Evelyn’s objectification of Adam is to be condemned, then Galatea’s objectification by Pygmalion should be condemned, too. Looking at the Ovidian tale after having read LaBute’s play makes apparent that the original, male Pygmalion has acted in a similar selfish, totalitarian way like Evelyn. He, too, does not care about the feelings of his sculpture, but is eager for her metamorphosis. While for Evelyn the success of the transformation means a good grade for her university thesis project, for Pygmalion it means that he is able to possess the ivory-girl and submit her to his (sexual) wishes. All in all, LaBute’s The Shape of Things provides a fresh view on an often reworked myth.

V Conclusion

According to Heinrich Dörrie the Pygmalion myth cannot be reduced to just one way of reading. He points out that there is a rich variation of the story throughout literary history which underlines that Pygmalion was interpreted differently by different authors of different epochs.[191] Therefore, it is not surprising that since the early 20th century until today – parallel to the progress of feminism – the Pygmalion myth has often been interpreted from a feminist perspective. Until the early 20th century, the various Pygmalion adaptations had presented a clearly patriarchal viewpoint. Even when the interest in the Galatea figure eventually began to grow, her male creator remained in the focus of all versions. And while the animated statue often appeared as a frivolous being[192], Pygmalion was left unscathed. From a gender-oriented perspective, the turning point in the reception of the Pygmalion myth was George Bernard Shaw’s play . His original reinterpretation of the tale laid the foundation for more diverse and especially woman-centred versions.

In the adaptations of the 20th and 21st century, the roles of Pygmalion and Galatea are transformed: Pygmalion, the former hero or creative genius, has lost his ‘godlike’ status. Instead, he has turned into a selfish, ruthless or perverted figure that is even exposed to ridicule. Simultaneously with Pygmalion’s downfall the Galatea figure has emancipated herself from her voiceless, objectified status. Despite her emancipation, however, Galatea still is a victim of Pygmalion’s intentions. She has not necessarily gained real independence or equality (at least not yet). Nevertheless she revolts against Pygmalion’s totalitarianism. In Shaw’s and Russell’s dramas, the Galatea figure makes her own decisions about her future, in Duffy’s poem she cunningly tricks her suitor and in Carter’s story she even takes revenge and kills her master. In comparison, LaBute’s drama seems to be the odd one out. First, its Galatea figure is male – therefore not female repression is in the focus of the play but repression and dependence in more general, that is social terms. Secondly, Adam is clearly inferior to the female Pygmalion, and is far from revolting against Evelyn.

What all Pygmalion re-narrations have in common is their thematic diversity. Shaw, and Russell likewise, wrote not only a feminist but especially a class-concerned version. Carter and Duffy’s texts intended to liberate Galatea from Pygmalion’s domination. LaBute’s play departs from the former interpretations of the myth by laying bare its quintessence: the problematic nature of (gendered) objectification and its results.

Because of this diversity, the Pygmalion versions of the 20th and 21st centuries cannot easily be grouped under one umbrella term. This, however, is typical of the reception of the Pygmalion tale: again and again, the message of Ovid’s story has been altered. It was transformed in every epoch according to the particular motivations of the authors. Essaka Joshua writes that “the Pygmalion story is not static; it is an evolving tale with a rich history.”[193] Indeed, not only Pygmalion’s statue is transformed, but the very tale itself is an object of continuing and original metamorphosis.


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[1] Geoffrey Miles, ed. Classical Mythology in English Literature. A critical anthology. London: Routledge, 1999, 332.

[2] Still, one should not forget that “Pygmalion stories are often contexts for each other” as Essaka Joshua points out. The re-narrations were not only influenced by the Ovidian source but also by other Pygmalion versions. See Essaka Joshua. Pygmalion and Galatea. The history of a narrative in English literature. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001, xix.

[3] See Susanne Frane. Frauen aus Männerhand. Ein Paradigma in der englischen und amerikanischen Literatur des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts. Studies in English literary and cultural history 34. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2008, 13: “Die Forschung ist sich darin einig, dass es sich bei Ovids Version […] um […] die erste literarische Variante handelt.“

[4] Miles, 332.

[5] See Heinrich Dörrie. Pygmalion. Ein Impuls Ovids und seine Wirkungen bis in die Gegenwart. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1974, 11: „Pygmalion steht in keiner Verbindung zu anderen Gestalten des Mythos, die [...] durch eine gleichfalls mythische Genealogie miteinander verbunden sind; [Pygmalions] Name [ist] den mythographischen Handbüchern der Antike durchaus fremd.“

[6] Dörrie, 12.

[7] See Dörrie, 24 and Miles, 348-9.

[8] Ovid. Metamorphoses. Book X. c. AD 10. Miles, 346.

[9] Ovid. Metamorphosen. Epos in 15. Büchern. Ed. and trans. Hermann Breitenbach. Zürich: Artemis, ²1964, 685.

[10] Ovid, Miles, 346, lines 293-96.

[11] Ovid, Miles, 346, ll. 300-1. See also Ovid, Breitenbach, 684, ll. 248-9: “formamque dedit, qua femina nasci nulla potest”.

[12] Ovid, Miles, 346, l. 304. See Ovid, Breitenbach, 684, l. 251: „si non obstet reverentia, velle moveri”.

[13] Ovid, Miles, 346, ll. 310-12: “He […] caresses it, believes the firm new flesh beneath his fingers yields, and fears the limbs may darken with a bruise”.

[14] See Ovid. “Bk X: 243-297 Orpheus sings: Pygmalion and the statue” Ovid. Metamorphoses. A complete English translation and Mythological index. Trans. A. S. Kline. Poetry in Translation. 1 Novembre 2000. <http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/Metamorph10.htm#_Toc64105572>: “He arranges the statue on a bed […] and calls it his bedfellow”.

[15] Ovid, Miles, 347, l. 334.

[16] Ovid, Breitenbach, 688.

[17] Ovid, Miles, 347, ll. 342-47.

[18] Ovid, trans. A.S. Kline.

[19] Dörrie, 24.

[20] Frane, 19.

[21] See Frane, 19.

[22] Ovid, Miles, 348.

[23] See Gerhard Neumann. “Pygmalion. Metamorphosen des Mythos”. Pygmalion: Die Geschichte des Mythos in der abendländischen Kultur. Eds. Mayer, Mathias and Gerhard Neumann. Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach, 1997, 15: “Dieser Geschichte der Propoetiden […] antwortet nun Ovids Pygmalion-Erzählung mit dem [] Gegenmodell der Animation des Unbelebten”.

[24] See Kai Merten, Antike Mythen – Mythos Antike. Posthumanistische Antikerezeption in der englischsprachigen Lyrik der Gegenwart. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2004, 271.

[25] See Annegret Dinter. Der Pygmalion-Stoff in der europäischen Literatur. Rezeptionsgeschichte einer Ovid-Fabel. Heidelberg: Winter, 1979; Miles, 337.

[26] See Miles, 348-50. However, as Dörrie emphasises, Clement does not point out Pygmalion’s guilt; instead he presents art as a means to deceive innocent humans (Dörrie, 31).

[27] See Dörrie, 32 and Dieter Martin. “Pygmalion”. Antike Mythen und ihre Rezeption. Ein Lexikon. Ed. Lutz Walther. Leipzig: Reclam, ²2004, 224.

[28] John Gower. “Confessio amantis”. c. 1390. Achim Aurnhammer and Dieter Martin, eds. Mythos Pygmalion. Texte von Ovid bis John Updike. Leipzig: Reclam, 2003, 24.

[29] Gower, Aurnhammer and Martin, 26.

[30] Miles, 334.

[31] William Caxton. “Six Books of Metamorphoseos”. c. 1480. Miles, 353.

[32] Caxton, Miles, 352-53.

[33] Miles, 334.

[34] See Dinter, 53.

[35] Miles, 334-35. See also Martin 2004, 225.

[36] See Dinter, 55.

[37] See George Pettie. “Pygmalion’s Friend and his Image”. 1576. Miles, 353-58.

[38] John Marston. “The Metamorphosis of Pygmalion’s Image”. 1598. Aurnhammer and Martin, 34.

[39] Marston, Aurnhammer and Martin, 37.

[40] See Dinter, 57-58.

[41] In Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale (first published 1623) the jealous King Leontes accuses his wife Hermione of infidelity. The grief about her unjustified depiction as an adulterous woman seems to cause her death. Yet at the end of the play, Hermione reappears: like a statue she stands on a pedestal, but then "comes alive" and steps down in order to be reunited with her husband. According to Klaus Reichert, Shakespeare uses the myth of the animated statue to show the dangers of making up an image and taking it for real. See Klaus Reichert, “Die Wirklichkeit des Eingebildeten oder Kunst und Trick. Zu Shakespeare’s Arbeit am Pygmalion-Mythos”. Mayer and Neumann, 498.

[42] See Miles, 336.

[43] See Aurnhammer and Martin, 254; Martin 2004, 225.

[44] Bettina Brandl-Risi presents an impressive listing of Pygmalion adaptations in music-theatre from the late 17th century until 1992. See Bettina Brandl-Risi. “Der Pygmalion-Mythos im Musiktheater. Verzeichnis der Werke”. Pygmalion: Die Geschichte des Mythos in der abendländischen Kultur. Ed. Mayer, Mathias and Gerhard Neumann. Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach, 1997, 672-719.

[45] See Dörrie, 55: “Vor allem an dieser Behandlung des Musikalischen zeigt sich, in wie hohem Maße mit dem bisher Üblichen gebrochen werden sollte. [...] Die neue Form des Melodramas erlaubt es, die Tiefe der Empfindung auszudrücken.”

[46] See Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Pygmalion. Lyrische Szene”. Aurnhammer and Martin, 94: “Ich werde nicht müde, mein Werk zu bewundern; […] mich selbst bete ich an in dem, was ich geschaffen”.

[47] Dörrie, 56.

[48] See Claudia Weiser. Pygmalion. Vom Künstler und Erzieher zum pathologischen Fall. Eine stoffgeschichtliche Untersuchung. Frankfurt a. M.: Europäischer Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1998, 43-44.

[49] See Miles, 338-39.

[50] See Miles, 341.

[51] However, she still could only exist and be portrayed in regard of her relation to Pygmalion, her creator and lover, not as an independent, autonomous woman.

[52] See William Hazlitt. “Liber Amoris, or The New Pygmalion”. Aurnhammer and Martin, 154-160.

[53] Miles, 343.

[54] In English literature, the motif of the educator, who turns a simple girl into a lady, can be found in chapter 87 of Tobias Smollett’s The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle (1751), that bears strong resemblance to G.B. Shaw’s play Pygmalion; see Miles, 343 and 374-78.

[55] Joshua, 116.

[56] Morris, William. “Pygmalion and the Image”. 1868/70. Aurnhammer and Martin 190.

[57] Morris, Aurnhammer and Martin, 192.

[58] Morris, Aurnhammer and Martin, 192.

[59] Errol Durbach, “Pygmalion: Myth and Anti-Myth in Ibsen and Shaw”. George Bernard Shaw’s Plays: Mrs Warren’s Profession, Pygmalion, Man and Superman, Major Barbara: Contexts and Criticism. Ed. Sandie Byrne. New York: Norton, ²2002, 528.

[60] See Edward Burne-Jones. “Pygmalion and the Image”. 1878. Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. Aurnhammer and Martin, 184-85 and 188-89.

[61] See Frane, 240: “Der bisher unangefochtene männliche Künstlergott […] reagiert mit der nun exzessiv betriebenen Festschreibung der Frau als säkularisierte Muse oder als Geschöpf ihres Meisters”.

[62] Frane shows various parallels of Pierston with Ovid’s Pygmalion. See Frane, 240-41.

[63] Durbach, 528-29.

[64] See Dörrie, 58; also see Dinter, 129.

[65] See Miles 332.

[66] See Rousseau, Miles, 389: Galatea touches herself and says: “Myself! […] It is myself”.

[67] Joshua, 155.

[68] Frane 14.

[69] Frane, 17.

[70] See Joshua, 154.

[71] Joshua, 97.

[72] Joshua, 133.

[73] For Weiser and Dörrie, Shaw’s play stands in a line with the interpretations of Pygmalion as educator, starting with Karl Immermann’s narration Der neue Pygmalion (1830).[73] Immermann followed Rousseau’s paedagogic enthusiasm; his “new” Pygmalion is not merly interested in the physical beauty of his Galatea but wants to form a human being that is worthy to become his wife in the end. See Weiser, and Dörrie, 59-60.

[74] See III, footnote 54.

[75] Miles, 343.

[76] See Dörrie, 60.

[77] George Bernard Shaw. Pygmalion. George Bernard Shaw’s Plays: Mrs Warren’s Profession, Pygmalion, Man and Superman, Major Barbara: Contexts and Criticism. Ed. Sandie Byrne. New York: Norton, ²2002, 296.

[78] Shaw, 332.

[79] See Weiser, 190.

[80] Shaw, 350.

[81] Shaw, 303.

[82] Shaw, 300.

[83] See Weiser, 192.

[84] Durbach, 536.

[85] See Weiser, 191-92; Frane, 290.

[86] Durbach, 537.

[87] See Ernst H. Andrecht, Bernard Shaw. Pygmalion. Interpretationshilfe Englisch. Freising: Stark, 2004, 32.

[88] Durbach, 536.

[89] Shaw, 333.

[90] Sally Peters, .“Shaw’s Life. A Feminist in Spite of Himself”. The Cambridge Companion to George Bernard Shaw. Ed. Christopher D. Innes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, 8.

[91] Peters, 6.

[92] Peters, 7.

[93] Shaw, 348.

[94] Shaw, 360.

[95] Shaw, 349.

[96] See Weiser, 193-94.

[97] Martin, 229.

[98] Willy Russell. Educating Rita. Harlow: Longman, 2000, 35.

[99] Russell, 36.

[100] Russell, 36.

[101] Russell, 36.

[102] Russell, 35.

[103] Russell, 21.

[104] Russell, 21.

[105] The name Susan might refer to the poem “Susan” (1893) by A. J. Munby about a domestic servant who is married by her master but nevertheless “is devoid of ambition to rise up the social ranks” (Joshua, 118). By changing the name Susan to Rita, Russell’s heroine decides to leave her working class life but also the expectations of her class behind.

[106] Russell, 67.

[107] Gilbert Debusscher. “Educating Rita or, An Open University Pygmalion”. Communiquer et traduire. Hommages à Jean Dierickx. Eds. Gilbert Debusscher and J.P. van Noppen. Brussels: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1985, 303.

[108] Russell, 83.

[109] Russell, 73.

[110] Russell, 73.

[111] See Russell, 37.

[112] Russell, 37.

[113] See Russell, Act 2, Scene 1.

[114] See Russell, 85.

[115] See Russell, 85: “Frank: […] stop burbling on about Mr Tyson”.

[116] Angela Carter. “The Loves of Lady Purple”. Fireworks. London: Virago, 2001, 27.

[117] Carter, 2001, 32.

[118] Carter, 2001, 32.

[119] Carter, 2001, 33.

[120] Carter, 2001, 28.

[121] Sarah Gamble. Angela Carter. Writing from the Front Line. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997, 105.

[122] Carter, 2001, 28.

[123] Carter, 2001, 26.

[124] GinaWisker. “Revenge of the living doll: Angela Carter’s horror writing”. The Infernal Desires of Angela Carter. Fiction, Femininity, Feminism. Eds. Joseph Bristow and Trev Lynn Broughton. London: Longman, 1997, 129.

[125] Carter, 2001, 26.

[126] Carter, 2001, 27. Here, Carter reminds of Ovid’s description of the statue as having a “perfect shape, more beautiful than ever woman born” (see II; footnote 8).

[127] See II, footnote 16.

[128] Carter, 2001, 27.

[129] Carter, 2001, 35.

[130] Carter, 2001, 35.

[131] Carter, 2001, 36.

[132] Carter, 2001, 36.

[133] Carter, 2001, 36.

[134] Carter, 2001, 38.

[135] See Durbach, 537.

[136] Wisker, 130.

[137] Wisker, 130.

[138] Angela Carter, “Introduction”. Wayward Girls and Wicked Women. An Anthology of Stories. Ed. Angela Carter. London: Virago, 1986, x.

[139] Carter 1986, x.

[140] See Shaw’s and Russell’s dramas.

[141] Carter 1986, ix.

[142] Carter 1986, ix.

[143] Carter, 1986, ix.

[144] Wisker, 129.

[145] Wisker, 129.

[146] Gamble, 4.

[147] Joseph Bristow and Trev Lynn Broughton, eds. “Introduction”. The Infernal Desires of Angela Carter. Fiction, Femininity, Feminism. London: Longman, 1997, 4; see also 12.

[148] See Bristow and Broughton, 4.

[149] Amanda Sebestyen quoted by Bristow and Broughton, 1.

[150] Gamble, 4.

[151] Michèle Roberts, “Angela Carter: Glam rock feminist”. The Independent. 25 June 2006. 2010. <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/angela-carter-glam-rock-feminist-405447.html>.

[152] Bristow and Broughton, 10.

[153] Jeffrey Wainwright, “Female metamorphoses: Carol Ann Duffy’s Ovid”. The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy. ‘Choosing tough words”. Eds. Angelica Michelis and Antony Rowland. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003, 47-8.

[154] This and all the following quotations of the poem are taken from: Carol Ann Duffy, “Pygmalions Bride”. New Selected Poems 1984-2004. London: Picador Poetry, 2004, 184-85.

[155] See II, footnote 12.

[156] Avril Horner, “‘Small Female Skull’: patriarchy and philosophy in the poetry of Carol Ann Duffy”. The Poetry of Carol Ann Duffy. ‘Choosing tough words”. Eds. Angelica Michelis and Antony Rowland. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003, 113.

[157] See II, footnote 13.

[158] Horner, 113.

[159] Wainwright, 51.

[160] My own emphasis.

[161] Neil LaBute. The Shape of Things. London: Faber and Faber, 2001, 9.

[162] LaBute, 7.

[163] LaBute, 1.

[164] La Bute, 118.

[165] LaBute, 119.

[166] See Gall, Dorothee. “Pygmalion bei Neil LaBute und Ovid”. Antike als Inszenierung. Eds. Gerhard Lohse and Martin Schierbaum. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2009, 293-310, 302.

[167] LaBute, 118.

[168] LaBute, 128.

[169] LaBute, 119.

[170] See Gall, 310.

[171] LaBute, 121.

[172] LaBute, 121.

[173] See Gall, 296.

[174] LaBute, 9.

[175] LaBute, 9.

[176] LaBute, 7.

[177] See Eckart Voigts-Virchow. “Neil LaButes gesellschaftskritische Pygmalion-Inversion: The Shape of Things (2001)”. Das neuere amerikanische Drama. Autoren – Entwicklungen – Interpretationen. Eds. Herbert Grabes and Klaus Schwank. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2009, 262.

[178] See Voigts-Virchow, 264-65.

[179] LaBute, 20.

[180] LaBute, 121.

[181] LaBute, 81.

[182] LaBute, 81.

[183] LaBute, 124.

[184] LaBute, 93.

[185] See Voigts-Virchow, 263.

[186] LaBute, 121.

[187] See Becker, 111-2.

[188] See Voigts-Virchow, 265.

[189] Voigts-Virchow, 262.

[190] Frane 19.

[191] See Dörrie, 66.

[192] See Joshua, 135: “The Pygmalion story prior to the 1880s predominantly represents Galatea in two ways: she is either accepting […] her lot as a wife[…] or she is a disapointment to Pygmalion, who views her with disgust.” Examples therefore are the animated statues in Franz von Suppé’s operetta The Beautiful Galatea (1865) or in W.S. Gilbert’s Pygmalion and Galatea who both disturb the harmonious order of Pygmalion’s marital or artistic life. Only when they turn back into stone, harmony is restored.

[193] Joshua, ix.


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Galatea Pygmalion Feministische Adaptionen Mythos



Title: Galatea's Emancipation: The Transformation of the Pygmalion Myth in Anglo-Saxon Literature  since the 20th Century