To what extent can dramatic comedy offer serious criticisms of contemporary social conventions? Discuss with reference to ‘Pygmalion’, by George Bernard Shaw.
George Bernard Shaw uses dramatic comedy to criticise the mannerisms and conventions of Victorian society. He uses certain aspects of comedy to make serious criticisms of society and its views. This becomes very apparent in how George Bernard presents certain characters to draw attention to the serious point of how society conducts itself in this context. In the first act of ‘Pygmalion’ Shaw presents the Daughter as being ignorant towards society. She is insulting and unfavourable towards Freddie, she says ‘you selfish pig’ because he cannot find her a cab. Eliza is mistaken for a prostitute by The Mother and is stereotyped as a typical Flower Girl. She often says on several occasions, ‘I’m a good girl I am’ and Shaw uses Eliza to criticise society’s opinions on the working class. There is a contrast between the Daughter and Eliza, as although the Daughter is in a higher class than Eliza in society, the Daughter is very ill mannered towards society where as Eliza is only criticised for her appalling accent. Shaw uses Higgins to criticise the working class, this is conveyed through the humiliation of Eliza when he mocks her accent. His views on Eliza and her dialect is arrogant and portentous, he describes her as having ‘no right to live’ and as ‘crooning like a bilious pigeon’. Shaw uses the character Higgins to reflect the attitudes of the patriarchal society in the context of the play. In the second act Shaw uses the roles of Mrs Pearce and Doolittle to criticise Higgins’ attitude towards the working class. Although Mrs Pearce is a servant she has an important role as she is wise and sensible, she says ‘oh don’t say that…to do anything foolish’, she predicts that something may happen later on. She shows us how Higgins treats women, he tells Mrs Pearce that ‘I walk over everybody!’ and to ‘Put her...
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