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Pygmalion and Three Other Plays by George Bernard Shaw Review

Title: Pygmalion and Three Other Plays

Author: George Bernard Shaw

First published February 11, 2004

704 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9781593080785 (ISBN10: 1593080786)

Rating: 4.04


George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and Three Other Plays is a classic collection that brings together some of his most significant works. This edition is part of Barnes & Noble Classics series, offering quality editions at reasonable prices to the general reader.

The beauty of this book lies in its thoughtful design, including illustrations of historical interest, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Shaw, who was hailed as “a Tolstoy with jokes” by one critic, remains one of the best British playwrights of all time.

Pygmalion, which is still his best-loved play, follows the story of Eliza Doolittle, a cockney flower girl, and phonetics professor Henry Higgins, who attempts to transform her into a refined lady. This volume also includes Major Barbara, a play that attacks both capitalism and charitable organizations, Doctor’s Dilemma, which examines medical morals and malpractice, and Heartbreak House, a play that exposes the spiritual bankruptcy of the generation responsible for the bloodshed of World War I.

This collection is a must-read for anyone who admires Shaw’s wit, taut morality, and innate understanding of human relationships.

About the Author

George Bernard Shaw, an Irish writer and co-founder of the London School of Economics, was known for his talent in writing plays, although he also wrote music and literary criticism. He wrote over 60 plays that dealt with social issues, but he infused them with humor to make them more digestible.

He tackled topics such as education, marriage, religion, government, healthcare, and class privilege.

Shaw was a staunch socialist who strongly opposed the exploitation of the working class. He wrote speeches and brochures for the Fabian Society and became a skilled speaker in promoting their causes.

This included advocating for equal rights for men and women, fighting against the mistreatment of workers, abolishing private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles. He also briefly served on the London County Council.

In 1898, Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townshend, who shared his socialist beliefs. They settled in Ayot St. Lawrence and named their home Shaw’s Corner.

Shaw was the only person to receive both a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Oscar. He won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to literature and the Oscar for the film adaptation of his play “Pygmalion.” Despite his desire to refuse the Nobel Prize, he accepted it at his wife’s request, but he rejected the monetary award and asked that it be used to translate Swedish books to English.

Shaw died at the age of 94 due to chronic health issues exacerbated by injuries sustained from a fall.

Editoral Review

Pygmalion and Three Other Plays by George Bernard Shaw is a collection of four full-length plays that are sure to entertain and educate readers. Shaw is one of the most celebrated playwrights of all time, known for his wit, satire, and keen observations of society.

The plays in this collection are no exception, showcasing Shaw’s literary talents and vivid imagination. The genre of this book is drama, which means that the plays are meant to be performed on stage rather than read silently.

However, the genius of Shaw’s writing is such that readers can enjoy the language, characters, and themes in written form as well. The four plays included in this collection are Pygmalion, Major Barbara, The Doctor’s Dilemma, and Heartbreak House.

All of them were written in the early 20th century, and all of them deal with issues that are still relevant today, such as class, gender, morality, and politics. Pygmalion is perhaps the most well-known play of the four, thanks in part to its adaptation into the musical My Fair Lady.

The plot follows the story of Eliza Doolittle, a working-class girl who is taken under the wing of a phonetics professor, Henry Higgins. Higgins bets his friend that he can transform Eliza into a high-society lady, and the rest of the play is a witty and insightful exploration of class, language, and identity.

The other plays in the collection are just as impressive and thought-provoking. Major Barbara is a scathing critique of capitalism and religion, as well as an examination of the role of women in society.

The Doctor’s Dilemma, on the other hand, is a dark comedy about medical ethics, love triangles, and the corrupting influence of power. Heartbreak House is a haunting and surreal play about the decline of Western civilization, told through the lens of a weekend party at a British estate.

Shaw’s writing style is characterized by his use of language, which is both witty and incisive. He has a gift for creating characters that are complex, flawed, and deeply human.

His plays are never simplistic or one-dimensional, but rather explore the nuances of human behavior and relationships. Furthermore, his themes are often ahead of their time, dealing with social issues that were not widely discussed in the early 1900s.

One of the strengths of this collection is the diversity of the plays included. Each one is unique in terms of plot, characters, and themes, but they are all connected by Shaw’s trademark style and vision.

Another strength is the historical and cultural significance of the plays. By reading them, readers can gain insight into the social and political climate of the time, as well as the issues that were being debated.

However, one weakness of the book is that the language and style may be difficult to understand for some readers, particularly those who are not familiar with the conventions of drama. Additionally, some of the themes and issues discussed may be outdated or controversial, which may make the book less appealing or relatable to some readers.

Overall, Pygmalion and Three Other Plays is a must-read for anyone who enjoys drama, literature, or social commentary. The plays are masterfully crafted, thought-provoking, and entertaining.

They offer a glimpse into a bygone era, yet remain relevant and engaging for modern audiences. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a captivating and intellectually stimulating reading experience.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars.