and had even reached the glorious perfection they have reached with us,
is absurd. But what men cannot realize they can at least aspire to. They
please themselves by pretending that it was realized in a golden age of
the past. This splendid legend endured because it lived as a desire in
the hearts of the greatest artists. The temple of Mediterranea never was
built in the past, nor did Michael the Archangel exist. But today the
temple is here [_he points to the porch_]; and the man is here [_he
slaps himself on the chest_]. I, Arjillax, am the man. I will place
in your theatre such images of the newly born as must satisfy even
Ecrasia's appetite for beauty; and I will surround them with ancients
more august than any who walk through our woods.
MARTELLUS [_as before_] Ha!
ARJILLAX [_stung_] Why do you laugh, you who have come empty-handed,
and, it seems, empty-headed?
ECRASIA [_rising indignantly_] Oh, shame! You dare disparage Martellus,
twenty times your master.
ACIS. Be quiet, will you [_he seizes her shoulders and thrusts her back
into her seat_].
MARTELLUS. Let him disparage his fill, Ecrasia. [_Sitting up_] My poor
Arjillax, I too had this dream. I too found one day that my images of
loveliness had become vapid, uninteresting, tedious, a waste of time
and material. I too lost my desire to model limbs, and retained only my
interest in heads and faces. I, too, made busts of ancients; but I had
not your courage: I made them in secret, and hid them from you all.
ARJILLAX [_jumping down from the altar behind Martellus in his surprise
and excitement_] You made busts of ancients! Where are they, man? Will
you be talked out of your inspiration by Ecrasia and the fools who
imagine she speaks with authority? Let us have them all set up beside
mine in the theatre. I have opened the way for you; and you see I am
none the worse.
MARTELLUS. Impossible. They are all smashed. [_He rises, laughing_].
ARJILLAX. Who smashed them?
MARTELLUS. I did. That is why I laughed at you just now. You will smash
yours before you have completed a dozen of them. [_He goes to the end of
the altar and sits down beside the Newly Born_].
ARJILLAX. But why?
MARTELLUS. Because you cannot give them life. A live ancient is better
than a dead statue. [_He takes the Newly Born on his knee: she is
flattered and voluptuously responsive_]. Anything alive is better than
anything that is only pretending to be alive. [_To Arjillax_] Your
disillusion with your works of beauty is only the beginning of your
disillusion with images of all sorts. As your hand became more skilful
and your chisel cut deeper, you strove to get nearer and nearer to truth
and reality, discarding the fleeting fleshly lure, and making images of
the mind that fascinates to the end. But how can so noble an inspiration
be satisfied with any image, even an image of the truth? In the end the
intellectual conscience that tore you away from the fleeting in art to
the eternal must tear you away from art altogether, because art is false
and life alone is true.
THE NEWLY BORN [_flings her arms round his neck and kisses him
MARTELLUS [_rises; carries her to the curved bench on his left; deposits
her beside Strephon as if she were his overcoat; and continues without
the least change of tone_] Shape it as you will, marble remains marble,
and the graven image an idol. As I have broken my idols, and cast away
my chisel and modelling tools, so will you too break these busts of
MARTELLUS. Wait, my friend. I do not come empty-handed today, as you
imagined. On the contrary, I bring with me such a work of art as you
have never seen, and an artist who has surpassed both you and me further
than we have surpassed all our competitors.
ECRASIA. Impossible. The greatest things in art can never be surpassed.
ARJILLAX. Who is this paragon whom you declare greater than I?
MARTELLUS. I declare him greater than myself, Arjillax.
ARJILLAX [_frowning_] I understand. Sooner than not drown me, you are
willing to clasp me round the waist and jump overboard with me.
ACIS. Oh, stop squabbling. That is the worst of you artists. You are
always in little squabbling cliques; and the worst cliques are those
which consist of one man. Who is this new fellow you are throwing in one
ARJILLAX. Ask Martellus: do not ask me. I know nothing of him. [_He
leaves Martellus, and sits down beside Ecrasia, on her left_].
MARTELLUS. You know him quite well. Pygmalion.
ECRASIA [_indignantly_] Pygmalion! That soulless creature! A scientist!
A laboratory person!
ARJILLAX. Pygmalion produce a work of art! You have lost your artistic
senses. The man is utterly incapable of modelling a thumb nail, let
alone a human figure.
MARTELLUS. That does not matter: I have done the modelling for him.
ARJILLAX. What on earth do you mean?
MARTELLUS [_calling_] Pygmalion: come forth.
_Pygmalion, a square-fingered youth with his face laid out in horizontal
blocks, and a perpetual smile of eager benevolent interest in
everything, and expectation of equal interest from everybody else, comes
from the temple to the centre of the group, who regard him for the most
part with dismay, as dreading that he will bore them. Ecrasia is openly
MARTELLUS. Friends: it is unfortunate that Pygmalion is constitutionally
incapable of exhibiting anything without first giving a lecture about
it to explain it; but I promise you that if you will be patient he will
shew you the two most wonderful works of art in the world, and that they
will contain some of my own very best workmanship. Let me add that they
will inspire a loathing that will cure you of the lunacy of art for
ever. [_He sits down next the Newly Born, who pouts and turns a very
cold right shoulder to him, a demonstration utterly lost on him_].
_Pygmalion, with the smile of a simpleton, and the eager confidence of a
fanatical scientist, climbs awkwardly on to the altar. They prepare for
PYGMALION. My friends: I will omit the algebra -
ACIS. Thank God!
PYGMALION [_continuing_] - because Martellus has made me promise to do
so. To come to the point, I have succeeded in making artificial human
beings. Real live ones, I mean.
INCREDULOUS VOICES. Oh, come! Tell us another. Really, Pyg! Get out. You
havnt. What a lie!
PYGMALION. I tell you I have. I will shew them to you. It has been done
before. One of the very oldest documents we possess mentions a tradition
of a biologist who extracted certain unspecified minerals from the earth
and, as it quaintly expresses it, 'breathed into their nostrils the
breath of life.' This is the only tradition from the primitive ages
which we can regard as really scientific. There are later documents
which specify the minerals with great precision, even to their atomic
weights; but they are utterly unscientific, because they overlook the
element of life which makes all the difference between a mere mixture of
salts and gases and a living organism. These mixtures were made over
and over again in the crude laboratories of the Silly-Clever Ages; but
nothing came of them until the ingredient which the old chronicler
called the breath of life was added by this very remarkable early
experimenter. In my view he was the founder of biological science.
ARJILLAX. Is that all we know about him? It doesnt amount to very much,
PYGMALION. There are some fragments of pictures and documents which
represent him as walking in a garden and advising people to cultivate
their gardens. His name has come down to us in several forms. One of
them is Jove. Another is Voltaire.
ECRASIA. You are boring us to distraction with your Voltaire. What about
your human beings?
ARJILLAX. Aye: come to them.
PYGMALION. I assure you that these details are intensely interesting.
[_Cries of_ No! They are not! Come to the human beings! Conspuez
Voltaire! Cut it short, Pyg! _interrupt him from all sides_]. You will
see their bearing presently. I promise you I will not detain you long.
We know, we children of science, that the universe is full of forces and
powers and energies of one kind and another. The sap rising in a tree,
the stone holding together in a definite crystalline structure, the
thought of a philosopher holding his brain in form and operation with an
inconceivably powerful grip, the urge of evolution: all these forces can
be used by us. For instance, I use the force of gravitation when I put a
stone on my tunic to prevent it being blown away when I am bathing. By
substituting appropriate machines for the stone we have made not only
gravitation our slave, but also electricity and magnetism, atomic
attraction, repulsion, polarization, and so forth. But hitherto the
vital force has eluded us; so it has had to create machinery for itself.
It has created and developed bony structures of the requisite strength,
and clothed them with cellular tissue of such amazing sensitiveness that
the organs it forms will adapt their action to all the normal variations
in the air they breathe, the food they digest, and the circumstances
about which they have to think. Yet, as these live bodies, as we call
them, are only machines after all, it must be possible to construct them
ARJILLAX. Everything is possible. Have you done it? that is the
PYGMALION. Yes. But that is a mere fact. What is interesting is the
explanation of the fact. Forgive my saying so; but it is such a pity
that you artists have no intellect.
ECRASIA [_sententiously_] I do not admit that. The artist divines by
inspiration all the truths that the so-called scientist grubs up in his
laboratory slowly and stupidly long afterwards.
ARJILLAX [_to Ecrasia, quarrelsomely_] What do you know about it? You
are not an artist.
ACIS. Shut your heads, both of you. Let us have the artificial men. Trot
them out, Pygmalion.
PYGMALION. It is a man and a woman. But I really must explain first.
PYGMALION. Yes: I -
ACIS. We want results, not explanations.
PYGMALION [_hurt_] I see I am boring you. Not one of you takes the least
interest in science. Goodbye. [_He descends from the altar and makes for
SEVERAL YOUTHS AND MAIDENS [_rising and rushing to him_] No, no. Dont
go. Dont be offended. We want to see the artificial pair. We will
listen. We are tremendously interested. Tell us all about it.
PYGMALION [_relenting_] I shall not detain you two minutes.
ALL. Half an hour if you like. Please go on, Pygmalion. [_They rush him
back to the altar, and hoist him on to it_]. Up you go.
_They return to their former places._
PYGMALION. As I told you, lots of attempts were made to produce
protoplasm in the laboratory. Why were these synthetic plasms, as they
called them, no use?
ECRASIA. We are waiting for you to tell us.
THE NEWLY BORN [_modelling herself on Ecrasia, and trying to outdo her
intellectually_] Clearly because they were dead.
PYGMALION. Not bad for a baby, my pet. But dead and alive are very loose
terms. You are not half as much alive as you will be in another month or
so. What was wrong with the synthetic protoplasm was that it could
not fix and conduct the Life Force. It was like a wooden magnet or a
lightning conductor made of silk: it would not take the current.
ACIS. Nobody but a fool would make a wooden magnet, and expect it to
PYGMALION. He might if he were so ignorant as not to be able to
distinguish between wood and soft iron. In those days they were very
ignorant of the differences between things, because their methods of
analysis were crude. They mixed up messes that were so like protoplasm
that they could not tell the difference. But the difference was there,
though their analysis was too superficial and incomplete to detect it.
You must remember that these poor devils were very little better than
our idiots: we should never dream of letting one of them survive the day
of its birth. Why, the Newly Born there already knows by instinct many
things that their greatest physicists could hardly arrive at by forty
years of strenuous study. Her simple direct sense of space-time and
quantity unconsciously solves problems which cost their most famous
mathematicians years of prolonged and laborious calculations requiring
such intense mental application that they frequently forgot to breathe
when engaged in them, and almost suffocated themselves in consequence.
ECRASIA. Leave these obscure prehistoric abortions; and come back to
your synthetic man and woman.
PYGMALION. When I undertook the task of making synthetic men, I did
not waste my time on protoplasm. It was evident to me that if it were
possible to make protoplasm in the laboratory, it must be equally
possible to begin higher up and make fully evolved muscular and nervous
tissues, bone, and so forth. Why make the seed when the making of the
flower would be no greater miracle? I tried thousands of combinations
before I succeeded in producing anything that would fix high-potential
ARJILLAX. High what?
PYGMALION. High-po-tential. The Life Force is not so simple as you
think. A high-potential current of it will turn a bit of dead tissue
into a philosopher's brain. A low-potential current will reduce the same
bit of tissue to a mass of corruption. Will you believe me when I tell
you that, even in man himself, the Life Force used to slip suddenly down
from its human level to that of a fungus, so that men found their flesh
no longer growing as flesh, but proliferating horribly in a lower form
which was called cancer, until the lower form of life killed the higher,
and both perished together miserably?
MARTELLUS. Keep off the primitive tribes, Pygmalion. They interest you;
but they bore these young things.
PYGMALION. I am only trying to make you understand. There was the Life
Force raging all round me: there was I, trying to make organs that would
capture it as a battery captures electricity, and tissues that would
conduct it and operate it. It was easy enough to make eyes more perfect
than our own, and ears with a larger range of sound; but they could
neither see nor hear, because they were not susceptible to the Life
Force. But it was far worse when I discovered how to make them
susceptible; for the first thing that happened was that they ceased to
be eyes and ears and turned into heaps of maggots.
ECRASIA. Disgusting! Please stop.
ACIS. If you don't want to hear, go away. You go ahead, Pyg.
PYGMALION. I went ahead. You see, the lower potentials of the Life Force
could make maggots, but not human eyes or ears. I improved the tissue
until it was susceptible to a higher potential.
ARJILLAX [_intensely interested_] Yes; and then?
PYGMALION. Then the eyes and ears turned into cancers.
ECRASIA. Oh, hideous!
PYGMALION. Not at all. That was a great advance. It encouraged me so
much that I put aside the eyes and ears, and made a brain. It wouldn't
take the Life Force at all until I had altered its constitution a dozen
times; but when it did, it took a much higher potential, and did not
dissolve; and neither did the eyes and ears when I connected them up
with the brain. I was able to make a sort of monster: a thing without
arms or legs; and it really and truly lived for half-an-hour.
THE NEWLY BORN. Half-an-hour! What good was that? Why did it die?
PYGMALION. Its blood went wrong. But I got that right; and then I went
ahead with a complete human body: arms and legs and all. He was my first
ARJILLAX. Who modelled him?
PYGMALION. I did.
MARTELLUS. Do you mean to say you tried your own hand before you sent
PYGMALION. Bless you, yes, several times. My first man was the
ghastliest creature: a more dreadful mixture of horror and absurdity
than you who have not seen him can conceive.
ARJILLAX. If you modelled him, he must indeed have been a spectacle.
PYGMALION. Oh, it was not his shape. You see I did not invent that. I
took actual measurements and moulds from my own body. Sculptors do that
sometimes, you know; though they pretend they don't.
PYGMALION. He was all right to look at, at first, or nearly so. But he
behaved in the most appalling manner; and the subsequent developments
were so disgusting that I really cannot describe them to you. He seized
all sorts of things and swallowed them. He drank every fluid in the
laboratory. I tried to explain to him that he must take nothing that he
could not digest and assimilate completely; but of course he could not
understand me. He assimilated a little of what he swallowed; but the
process left horrible residues which he had no means of getting rid of.
His blood turned to poison; and he perished in torments, howling. I then
perceived that I had produced a prehistoric man; for there are certain
traces in our own bodies of arrangements which enabled the earlier forms
of mankind to renew their bodies by swallowing flesh and grains and
vegetables and all sorts of unnatural and hideous foods, and getting rid
of what they could not digest.
ECRASIA. But what a pity he died! What a glimpse of the past we have
lost! He could have told us stories of the Golden Age.
PYGMALION. Not he. He was a most dangerous beast. He was afraid of me,
and actually tried to kill me by snatching up things and striking at me
with them. I had to give him two or three pretty severe shocks before I
convinced him that he was at my mercy.
THE NEWLY BORN. Why did you not make a woman instead of a man? She would
have known how to behave herself.
MARTELLUS. Why did you not make a man and a woman? Their children would
have been interesting.
PYGMALION. I intended to make a woman; but after my experience with the
man it was out of the question.
ECRASIA. Pray why?
PYGMALION. Well, it is difficult to explain if you have not studied
prehistoric methods of reproduction. You see the only sort of men and
women I could make were men and women just like us as far as their
bodies were concerned. That was how I killed the poor beast of a man. I
hadnt provided for his horrible prehistoric methods of feeding himself.
Suppose the woman had reproduced in some prehistoric way instead of
being oviparous as we are? She couldn't have done it with a modern
female body. Besides, the experiment might have been painful.
ECRASIA. Then you have nothing to shew us at all?
PYGMALION. Oh yes I have. I am not so easily beaten as that. I set to
work again for months to find out how to make a digestive system that
would deal with waste products and a reproductive system capable of
internal nourishment and incubation.
ECRASIA. Why did you not find out how to make them like us?
STREPHON [_crying out in his grief for the first time_] Why did you not
make a woman whom you could love? That was the secret you needed.
THE NEWLY BORN. Oh yes. How true! How great of you, darling Strephon!
[_She kisses him impulsively_].
STREPHON [_passionately_] Let me alone.
MARTELLUS. Control your reflexes, child.
THE NEWLY BORN. My what!
MARTELLUS. Your reflexes. The things you do without thinking. Pygmalion
is going to shew you a pair of human creatures who are all reflexes and
nothing else. Take warning by them.
THE NEWLY BORN. But wont they be alive, like us?
PYGMALION. That is a very difficult question to answer, my dear. I
confess I thought at first I had created living creatures; but Martellus
declares they are only automata. But then Martellus is a mystic: _I_
am a man of science. He draws a line between an automaton and a living
organism. I cannot draw that line to my own satisfaction.
MARTELLUS. Your artificial men have no self-control. They only respond
to stimuli from without.
PYGMALION. But they are conscious. I have taught them to talk and read;
and now they tell lies. That is so very lifelike.
MARTELLUS. Not at all. If they were alive they would tell the truth. You
can provoke them to tell any silly lie; and you can foresee exactly the
sort of lie they will tell. Give them a clip below the knee, and they
will jerk their foot forward. Give them a clip in their appetites or
vanities or any of their lusts and greeds, and they will boast and lie,
and affirm and deny, and hate and love without the slightest regard to
the facts that are staring them in the face, or to their own obvious
limitations. That proves that they are automata.
PYGMALION [_unconvinced_] I know, dear old chap; but there really is
some evidence that we are descended from creatures quite as limited
and absurd as these. After all, the baby there is three-quarters an
automaton. Look at the way she has been going on!
THE NEWLY BORN [_indignantly_] What do you mean? How have I been going
ECRASIA. If they have no regard for truth, they can have no real
PYGMALION. Truth is sometimes so artificial: so relative, as we say in
the scientific world, that it is very hard to feel quite sure that what
is false and even ridiculous to us may not be true to them.
ECRASIA. I ask you again, why did you not make them like us? Would any
true artist be content with less than the best?
PYGMALION. I couldnt. I tried. I failed. I am convinced that what I
am about to shew you is the very highest living organism that can be
produced in the laboratory. The best tissues we can manufacture will not
take as high potentials as the natural product: that is where Nature
beats us. You dont seem to understand, any of you, what an enormous
triumph it was to produce consciousness at all.
ACIS. Cut the cackle; and come to the synthetic couple.
SEVERAL YOUTHS AND MAIDENS. Yes, yes. No more talking. Let us have them.
Dry up, Pyg; and fetch them along. Come on: out with them! The synthetic
PYGMALION [_waving his hands to appease them_] Very well, very well.
Will you please whistle for them? They respond to the stimulus of a
_All who can, whistle like streetboys._
ECRASIA [_makes a wry face and puts her fingers in her ears_]!
PYGMALION. Sh-sh-sh! Thats enough: thats enough: thats enough.
[_Silence_]. Now let us have some music. A dance tune. Not too fast.
_The flutists play a quiet dance._
MARTELLUS. Prepare yourselves for something ghastly.
_Two figures, a man and woman of noble appearance, beautifully modelled
and splendidly attired, emerge hand in hand from the temple. Seeing
that all eyes are fixed on them, they halt on the steps, smiling with
gratified vanity. The woman is on the man's left._
PYGMALION [_rubbing his hands with the purring satisfaction of a
creator_] This way, please.
_The Figures advance condescendingly and pose themselves centrally
between the curved seats._
PYGMALION. Now if you will be so good as to oblige us with a little
something. You dance so beautifully, you know. [_He sits down next
Martellus, and whispers to him_] It is extraordinary how sensitive they
are to the stimulus of flattery.
_The Figures, with a gracious air, dance pompously, but very passably.
At the close they bow to one another._
ON ALL HANDS [_clapping_] Bravo! Thank you. Wonderful! Splendid.
_The Figures acknowledge the applause in an obvious condition of swelled
THE NEWLY BORN. Can they make love?
PYGMALION. Yes: they can respond to every stimulus. They have all the
reflexes. Put your arm round the man's neck, and he will put his arm
round your body. He cannot help it.
THE FEMALE FIGURE [_frowning_] Round mine, you mean.
PYGMALION. Yours, too, of course, if the stimulus comes from you.
ECRASIA. Cannot he do anything original?
PYGMALION. No. But then, you know, I do not admit that any of us can do
anything really original, though Martellus thinks we can.
ACIS. Can he answer a question?
PYGMALION. Oh yes. A question is a stimulus, you know. Ask him one.
ACIS [_to the Male Figure_] What do you think of what you see around
you? Of us, for instance, and our ways and doings?
THE MALE FIGURE. I have not seen the newspaper today.
THE FEMALE FIGURE. How can you expect my husband to know what to think
of you if you give him his breakfast without his paper?
MARTELLUS. You see. He is a mere automaton.
THE NEWLY BORN. I don't think I should like him to put his arm round
my neck. I don't like them. [_The Male Figure looks offended, and the
Female jealous_]. Oh, I thought they couldn't understand. Have they
PYGMALION. Of course they have. I tell you they have all the reflexes.
THE NEWLY BORN. But feelings are not reflexes.
PYGMALION. They are sensations. When the rays of light enter their eyes