ABSTRACT

Shaw’s Pygmalion is commonly thought of as an adaptation of the myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who fell in love with his own sculpture. However, the name of “Pygmalion” in ancient mythology is shared by Dido’s brother, Pygmalion of Tyre. This article suggests Pygmalion as playing with these two mythological Pygmalions by moving through the play from the myth of Pygmalion the Cypriot sculptor to the myth of Dido, who escapes from her tyrannous brother, Pygmalion of Tyre. It is particularly relevant that Dido’s alternative name is “Elissa,” which in Dryden’s translation of Virgil’s The Aeneid is spelled “Eliza.” Dido, therefore, shares the first name of Eliza Doolittle, the heroine of Shaw’s Pygmalion who escapes from the arguably tyrannous Henry Higgins at the end of the play. Reimagining Eliza and Higgins as Dido and her brother leads to a reading in line with Shaw’s anti-romantic vision of Pygmalion.

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