Pygmalion was a Cypriot sculptor who carved a woman out of ivory. His statue was so fair and realistic that he fell in love with it. Aphrodite's festival day came, and Pygmalion made offerings at the altar of Aphrodite. He too scared to admit his desirehe quietly wished for a bride who would be "the living likeness of my ivory girl". When he returned home, he kissed his ivory statue, and found that its lips felt warm. He kissed it again, and found that the ivory had lost its hardness. Pygmalion married the ivory sculpture changed to a woman under Aphrodite's blessing. In Ovid's narrative, they had a son, Paphos, from whom the city's name is derived.
Eliza Doolittle is a Cockney flower girl, who comes to Professor Henry Higgins asking for elocution lessons, after a chance encounter at Covent Garden.
Colonel Pickering Mrs. Higgins mother of Professor Mrs. Pearce, the housekeeper Higgins Alfred Doolittle, Eliza's father Mrs. Eynsford Hill, the guest of Mrs. Higgins Clara, her daughter Freddy Eynsford son of Mrs. Hill, in love with Eliza
Professor of phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can train a bedraggled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador's garden party by teaching her to assume a veneer of gentility, the most important element of which, he believes, is impeccable speech. The play is a sharp lampoon of the rigid British class system of the day and a commentary on women's independence.
Shaw wrote the play in the spring of 1912 and read it to famed actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell in June. She came on board almost immediately, but her mild nervous breakdown contributed to the delay of a London production. Pygmalion premiered at the Hofburg Theatre in Vienna on October 16, 1913, in a German translation by Shaw's Viennese literary agent and acolyte, Siegfried Trebitsch. Its first New York production opened March 24, 1914 at the German- language Irving Place Theatre. It opened in London April 11, 1914, at Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree's His Majesty's Theatre and starred Mrs. Campbell as Eliza and Tree as Higgins, running for 118 performances. Shaw directed the actors through tempestuous rehearsals often punctuated by at least one of the two storming out of the theater in a rage.
Pygmalion remains Shaw's most popular play. The play's widest audiences know it as the inspiration for the highly romanticized 1956 musical and 1964 film My Fair Lady. Pygmalion has transcended cultural and language barriers since its first production.