Many people believe that all stories are the same in at least one way, if not more. This can be proven by comparing George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. In these two plays you can see the similarities and differences in: the two main female characters, the two main male characters, and the purposes of both plays.
The two leading women characters- Liza and Kate- are noticeably alike and unalike. “Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot, and place your hands below your husband’s foot: In token of which duty, if he pleases, my hand is ready to do him ease,” Kate says in Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare 5.2.186-9). In contrast, at the end of Pygmalion Liza says “I don’t care how you treat me. I don’t mind your swearing at me. I shouldn’t mind a black eye: I’ve had one before this. But [standing up and facing him] I will not be passed over” (Shaw Act 5). The contrast between the two ladies is that Kate changes her personality in the end, and Liza stands up for herself and stays who she really is. The parallelism between the two women are that they want to be respected. “They call me Katherine, that do talk of me,” Kate says to Petruchio, wanting him to respect her. Liza also asks Higgins for respect and is turned down when she says,
“And I would like Professor Higgins to call me Miss Doolittle” (Shaw Act 5). These are the things that make the two leading female roles the same and different. Also, the screenplays’ two main male characters have prominent parallelisms. “You lie, in faith you are called plain Kate” Petruchio says when Kate asks him to respect her with her formal name (Shaw Act 2). Higgins also refuses Liza’s request when he says “Miss Doolittle: I’ll see you damned first!”Both men refuse to show any equality to the women in the play, showing they both think that they are above women in society. “ Wring away, what do I care? I knew you would strike me someday. [Higgins lets her go, stamping with rage]” (Shaw Act 5). Higgins refuses to hit Liza, unlike Petruchio who strikes Kate easily in Taming of the Shrew. This shows how the characters, and writers of the plays’, are different. So, Higgins and Petruchio are the same in some ways, but also very different.
In the Lise Pedersen essay, Pedersen describes Shaw’s purpose for Pygmalion. “Moreover, a repudiation of physical abuse as a means of dominating a woman’s spirit is implied by the fact that in Pygmalion, physical abuse plays no part in taming Liza” (Pedersen, Paragraph 11). This quote, going back to the physical abuse, shows us how Shaw meant to strictly contrast Shakespeare’s feelings on “taming” women. Pygmalion also shows Shaw’s views on womens’ right and how they should be treated and how they are very different from Shakespeare’s. Also Pedersen says “Thus Shaw clearly used his play not only to repudiate the male chauvinism of his day and Shakespeare’s and to support women’s liberation, but also to dramatize a criticism which was fundamental to all Shaw’s complaints” (Pedersen, last paragraph). Pedersen closes off her essay with this quote, which really helps the readers understand Shaw’s purpose. Adams 3
Shakespeare wrote Taming of the Shrew to show his feelings about women and Shaw wrote Pygmalion to show how much he disapproved and disagreed with Shakespeare’s feelings. So, Shaw wrote his play with a purpose to contrast Shakespeare’s.
In conclusion, the similarities and differences between Pygmalion and Taming of the Shrew can be seen through looking at the leading male roles, the leading female roles, and the purposes of both plays. Shaw’s purpose is clearly stated in the way he presented Pygmalion. Really it is up to the reader to decide who’s feelings about women were right and who’s were wrong.
Shaw, George Bernard. “Pygmalion”.
New York, NY. Simon and Schuster, 2001
Pedersen, Lise. “The Taming of the Shrew vs. Shaw’s Pygmalion: Male Chauvinism vs. Women’s Lib.” The Shaw Review. 17.1(1974)
Shakespeare, William. “The Taming of the Shrew.” The Texts for English 366D. University of Victoria, 28 November 1997. Web. 7 May 2012.