With careful reference to Pygmalion (Shaw) and

With careful mention toPygmalion( Shaw ) andMedea( Euripides ) show how attributes traditionally associated with maleness and muliebrity are contrasted.

In kernel, both Shaw’sPygmalion( 2003 ) and Euripides’Medea( 1963 ) are dramas concerned with gender and gender difference [ 1 ] . Each features a cardinal relationship that non merely explores but, as we shall see, deconstructs and challenges the traditional properties of maleness and muliebrity. This paper looks at the ways that traditional impressions of gender are contrasted in both dramas and how each dramatist uses this as a footing for discoursing gender functions and knocking their several societies. In order to look at this country in deepness, this paper will concentrate on three chief property double stars, each of which have canonically been associated with maleness and muliebrity. The double stars are: reason/emotion, strength/weakness and power/helplessness. As we shall find, both dramas invariably draw upon these double stars for their word picture and frequently specifically contrast one with the other, nevertheless, both dramas besides, finally, happen them restricting.

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In her bookThe Man of Reason( 1984 ) Genevieve Lloyd traces the links between the double stars man/woman and reason/emotion in canonical and traditional Western idea:

The masculinity of the Man of Reason…is no superficial lingual prejudice. It lies deep in our philosophical tradition…The obstructions to female cultivation of Reason spring to a big extent from the fact that our ideals of Reason have historically incorporated an exclusion of the feminine… [ 2 ]

It is exactly this “exclusion of the feminine” from Reason that we see inPygmalionandMedea. In Act One of the former, for case, we are presented with the image of Henry Higgins as the archetypical Victorian empiricist, whose note pickings, scientific phonemics and removed reason is contrasted with Liza’s child-like emotional effusions that render her, at times, literally dumb able merely to express absurd sounds ; something that Higgins notes vitriolically:

The Note Taker: A adult females who utters such cheerless and gross outing sounds has no right to be anyplace – no right to populate. Remember that you are a human being with a psyche and a godly gift of articulate address. [ 3 ]

As Crompton ( 1969 ) suggests, Shaw uses phonetics here as a symbol of scientific ground particularly when it is used to define and sort human existences. In the above infusion we see how Higgins’ ( masculine ) ground, symbolically encapsulated in linguistic communication, is contrasted with Liza’s ( feminine ) emotion and irrationality as she continually utters merely “Ah-ah-oh-ow-ow-ow-oo! ” ( Shaw, 2003: 34 ) .

We can see this besides in Euripides who frequently contrasts Jason’s reasoned statements with Medea’s emotional furies, in an early scene between the two for case, he states:

I have frequently noticed – this is non the first juncture –

What fatal consequences follow from unbridled fury.

You could hold stayed in Corinth, still lived in this house,

If you had softly accepted the determinations

Of those in power. Alternatively, you talked like a sap. [ 4 ]

Talking like a sap here is evidently meant to arouse the same sense as Liza’s bunk words ; both scenes contrast feminine emotion with masculine ground through the symbolic usage of linguistic communication. We witness the return of this figure of speech at the terminal of both dramas as each female character gives manner to their emotional convulsion and strikes out at their masculine spouses – Liza with the slippers and Medea in an wholly more violent manner directed at her kids. As Blondell ( 1999 ) asserts, Medea, as a practician of “magic arts” ( Blondell, 1999: 151 ) exemplifies the construct of irrationality, a impression that has been typically associated with the feminine and in some senses is besides linked to Liza’s powers of metamorphous ego transmutation inPygmalion.

In the chapter ‘The Data of Biology’ of herThe Second Sexual activity, Simone de Beauvoir ( 1997 ) outlines the traditional position of the comparative physical properties of work forces and adult females. Typically, she states, the adult female is weaker, smaller and more easy harmed than her masculine opposite number. This is surely seen inPygmalionandMedea, in Shaw’s drama for case, the relationship between Higgins and Liza is invariably underpinned by the menace of force from the adult male to the adult female, something that was, unsurprisingly, expunged when it was translated into the musicalMy Fair Lady( Alexander, 1988 ) . Higgins’ address to Pickering at the terminal of Act Two is an example of how Shaw invariably underlines the contrast between masculine strength and feminine failing:

Higgins: By Jupiter, she’s done it at the first shooting. Pickering we shall do a duchess of her. [ To Eliza ] Now do you believe you could perchance state tea? Te-yee, head: if you of all time say be-yee ce-yee de-yee once more you shall be dragged round the room three times by the hair of your caput. [ 5 ]

As Pedersen ( 1988: 78 ) inside informations, although Higgins’ does non fall back to existent physical maltreatment of Liza, his changeless twits and menaces are based, to a really big extent, on traditional impressions of the biological properties of both genders. In Euripides, Medea vows to free herself of the traditional feminine failing that she feels binds her to her hubby and to earn some of the strength that is traditionally associated with the male:

If some strong tower of aid appears, I’ll carry out

This slaying cutely and softly. But if Fate

Banishes me without resource, I will myself

Take blade in manus, harden my bosom to the utmost,

And kill them both, even if I am to decease for it. [ 6 ]

This same sentiment is certainly reflected in that other great work of gender difference,Macbethwhere Lady Macbeth entreats the liquors to do thick her blood and to “Stop up the entree and transition to remorse. “ ( Shakespeare, 1990: 165 ) Euripides contrasts the double star of weakness/strength in relation to adult male and adult female farther when he has The Chorus evoke the image of Aphrodite in lines 628 to 677. Aphrodite, who descends “in gentleness/No other goddess conveying [ ing ] such delight” ( Euripides, 1963: 36 ) is frequently described as the ideal of feminine virtuousness ( Kekenyi, 1931 ) whose little frame is frequently contrasted with Adonis’ maleness [ 7 ] .

Last, throughout both plays the writers continually contrast power with weakness. In a stating soliloquy by Medea, Euripides outlines the societal insufficiency of Grecian adult females and their demand to tie in themselves with a adult male. Women, she says, must give up their lives and their organic structures to their work forces doing them the most deplorable “of all animals that have life and will” ( Euripides, 1963: 24 ) . Unlike work forces, adult females were non able to disassociate and therefore were virtually powerless in both a familial and fiscal sense ( Fisher, 1992 ) a state of affairs that, in itself, can be seen as a sort of societal correlate to the physical weakness we examined before. As she herself says:

If a adult male grows tired

Of the company at place, he can travel out, and happen

A remedy for tedium. We married womans are forced to look

To one adult male merely. [ 8 ]

InPygmalionbesides, we see that it is Higgins who has the societal and fiscal power, it is his gift of money to Liza that allows her to seek him out for linguistic communication aid and his and Pickering’s money and power that instigate her transmutation. Liza, besides invariably aligns herself with work forces throughout the drama – foremost to Higgins, so to Freddy and, eventually to Pickering ; foregrounding the extent that, traditionally, the feminine has been seen simply as the symptom of maleness.

As we have seen, both Shaw and Euripides contrasts properties and attribute double stars that are traditionally seen as reflecting gender difference ; the masculine being equated with ground, strength and power, the feminine with emotion, failing and docility. This, as Lloyd ( 1984 ) suggests, is a commensurate with a great trade of Western and, to some extent, planetary impressions of ontology and it is possibly unsurprising to see them in dramas so far apart temporally. However it is besides easy to see how both plays deconstruct such double stars, both Medea and Liza, for case, seize power from their several male spouses, both display strength and aggression at assorted times throughout the dramas and both work forces ( Higgins and Jason ) show attributes that are traditionally feminine – Jason’s affectional lament for his lost kids, for illustration, or Higgins’ docility at the decision ofPygmalionas he and Liza leave the phase.

Both dramas were written at times of great societal turbulence,Medeain 431 B.C. merely as Athens “began her diminution and fall” ( Denys, 1952: seven ) andPygmalionin 1914 on the eave of a World War and 4 old ages before the 1918Representation of the People Act, the piece of statute law that would get down the motion for cosmopolitan right to vote. Both plants, so, trade to some extent with passage and alteration and with the challenge to order and tradition that is mirrored in the experience of their characters. Both play explore the nature of traditional gender properties whilst besides proposing that they are delicate and protean constructs.


Alexander, N ( 1999 ) , ‘The Play of Ideas’ , published in Harold Bloom,Shaw’s Pygmalion, London: Chelsea House.

Blondell, R ( 1999 ) ,Womans on the Edge, London: Routledge.

Crompton, L ( 1969 ) ,Shaw the Dramatist, Lincoln: University of Nebraska.

De Beauvoir, S ( 1997 ) ,The Second Sexual activity, London: Vintage.

Denys, L ( 1952 ) ,Euripides’ Medea, London: Clarendon Press.

Euripides ( 1963 ) ,Medea and Other Plaies, Philip Vellacott ( trans. ) , London: Penguin.

Fisher, H ( 1992 ) ,Anatomy of Love: The Natural History of Monogamy, Adultery and Divorce, London: Norton.

Fisher, J and Silber, E ( 2003 ) ,Womans in Literature, London: Greenwood Press.

Kekenyi, C ( 1931 ) ,The Gods of the Greeks, London: Thames and Hudson.

Kinsley, D ( 1992 ) ,The Goddesses’ Mirror: Visions of the Divine from East and West, New York: State of New York University Press.

Lloyd, G ( 1984 ) ,The Man of Reason, London: Methuen.

Pedersen, L ( 1988 ) , ‘Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew vs. Shaw’s Pygmalion: Male Chauvanism vs. Women’s Lib? ’ published in Harold Bloom,Shaw’s Pygmalion, London: Chelsea House.

Shakespeare, W ( 1990 ) ,Macbeth, London: Aurora.

Shaw, B ( 2003 ) ,Pygmalion, London: Penguin.


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