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Characters


Characters


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with the girl’s affections, When she enters, Eliza thanks Pickering for
always treating her like a lady, but threatens Higgins that she will go
work with his rival phonetician, Nepommuck. The outraged Higgins
cannot help but start to admire her. As Eliza leaves for her father’s
wedding, Higgins shouts out a few errands for her to run, assuming
that she will return to him at Wimpole Street. Eliza, who has a
lovelorn sweetheart in Freddy, and the wherewithal to pass as a
duchess, never makes it clear whether she will or not.
Characters
Professor Henry Higgins
       Henry Higgins is a professor of phonetics who plays Pygmalion to     
Eliza Doolittle’s Galatea. He is the author of Higgins’ Universal
Alphabet, believes in concepts like visible speech, and uses all manner
of recording and photographic material to document his phonetic
subjects, reducing people and their dialects into what he sees as readily
understandable units. He is an unconventional man, who goes in the
opposite direction from the rest of society in most matters. Indeed he is
impatient with high society, forgetful in his public graces and poorly
considerate of normal social niceties-the only reason the world has not
turned against him is because he is at heart a good and harmless man
His biggest fault is that he can be a bully
Eliza Doolittle
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“She is not at all a romantic figure. “So is she introduced in Act 1.
Everything about Eliza Doolittle seems to defy’ any conventional
notions we might have about the romantic heroine. When she is
transformed from a sassy, smart-mouthed kerbstone flower girl
with deplorable English, to a (still sassy) regal figure fit to consort
with nobility, it has less to do with her innate qualities as a heroine
that with the fairy tale aspect of the transformation myth itself. In
other words, the character of Eliza Doolittle comes across as being
much more instrumental than fundamental. The real (re-)marking of
Eliza Doolittle happens after the ambassador’s party, when she
decides to make a statement for her own dignity against Higgins’
insensitive treatment. This is when she becomes, not a duchess, but
an independent woman and this explains why Higgins begins to
see Eliza not as a mill around his neck but as a creature worthy of
his admiration
Colonel Pickering
Colonel Pickering, the author of Spoken Sanskrit, is a match for
Higgins (although somewhat less obsessive) in his passion for
phonetics. But where Higgins is a boorish, careless bully, Pickering
is always considerate and a genuinely gentleman. He says little of
note in the play, and appears most of all to be a civilized foil to
Higgins’ barefoot, absentminded crazy professor. He helps in the
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Eliza Doolittle experiment by making a wager of it, saying he will
cover the costs of the experiment if Higgins does indeed make a
convincing duchess of her. However, while Higgins only manages to
teach Eliza pronunciations, it is Pickering’s thoughtful treatment
towards Eliza that teaches her to respect herself.
Alfred Doolittle
Alfred Doolittle is Eliza’s father, an elderly but vigorous dustman who
has had at least six wives and who “seems equally free from fear and
conscience.” When he learns that his daughter has entered the home  of
Henry Higgins, he immediately pursues to see if he can get some
money out of the circumstance. His unique brand of rhetoric, an
unembarrassed, unhypocritical advocation of drink and pleasure (at
other people’s expense), is amusing to Higgins. Through Higgins’
joking recommendation, Doolittle becomes a richly endowed lecturer
to a moral reform society, transforming him from lowly dustman to a
picture of middle class morality—he becomes miserable. Throughout,
Alfred is a scoundrel who is willing to sell his daughter to make a few
pounds, but he is one of the few unaffected characters in the play,
unmasked by appearance or language. Though scandalous, his speeches
are honest. At points, it even seems that he might be Shaw’s voice piece
of social criticism (Alfred’s proletariat status, given Shaw’s socialist
leanings, makes the prospect all the more likely).
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Mrs. Higgins
Professor Higgins’ mother, Mrs. Higgins is a stately lady in her
sixties who sees the Eliza Doolittle experiment as idiocy, and
Higgins and Pickering as senseless children. She is the first and
only character to have any qualms about the whole affair. When her
worries prove true, it is to her that all the characters turn. Because
no women can match up to his mother, Higgins claims, he has no
interest in dallying with them. To observe the mother of Pygmalion
(Higgins), who completely understands all of his failings and
inadequacies, is a good contrast to the mythic proportion to which
Higgins builds himself in his self-estimations as a scientist of
phonetics and a creator of duchesses.
Freddy Eynsford Hill
Higgins’ surmise that Freddy is a fool is probably accurate. In the
opening scene he is a spineless and resourceless lackey to his
mother and sister. Later, he is comically bowled over by Eliza the
half-baked duchess who still speaks cockney. He becomes lovesick
for Eliza, and courts her with letters. At the play’s close, Freddy
serves as a young, viable marriage option for Eliza, making the
possible path she will follow unclear to the reader.


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Questions
1-  In his preface to the play, Shaw writes that the figure of Henry
Higgins is partly based on Alexander Melville Bell, the inventor of
Visible Speech. How does Shaw utilize this idea of “visible
Speech”? Is it an adequate concept to use to approach people?
Answer
Through the concept of “Visible Speech,” Shaw hits on the two
aspects of theater that can make the greatest impression on an
audience: sight and sound. Therefore, the transformation of Eliza
Doolittle is most marked and obvious on these two scales. In regard
to both these sense, Pygmalion stays faithful to the most clichéd
changes drastically in the most external ways. However, while Eliza
certainly changes in these blatant external ways, these changes serve
as a mask for a more fundamental development of self-respect that
it makes him liable to forget that there are other aspects to human
in the final scene, and in is inability to recognize that loss as a
possibility at all, the play makes certain that its audience sees the
tension between internal and external change, and that sight and
sound do not become measures of virtue, personality, or internal
worth.


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2- It has been said that Pygmalion is not a play about turning a
flower girl into a duchess, but one about turning a woman into a
human being. Do you agree?
Answer
When Eliza Doolittle threatens Higgins that she will take his
phonetic findings to his rival in order to support herself, art imitates life, and Shaw’s literature echoes a significant episode
from his own youth. As a boy, Shaw’s mother was an
accomplished singer who dedicated herself to the perfection of
“The Method,” her teacher George Vandeleur Lee’s yoga-like
approach to voice training, She went so far as to leave her
husband to follow her teacher to London. However, upon
realizing that Lee was concerned only about his appearances and
the status of his street address, she left him and brought up her
daughters by setting up shop herself, teaching “The Method” as if
it were her own. Shaw could not have helped but be impressed
and influenced by this courageous move on the part of his mother
to strike out on her own and to create an independent life for
herself. Thus, though Pygmalion shows a lot of sympathy for



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the flower girl who wants a higher station in life, it is even more
concerned with the unloved, neglected women who decides to make
herself heard once and for all. The plays determination to have Eliza
grow into a full human being with her own mind and will also
explains why the play makes seemingly inexplicable structural
moves like leaving out the climax, and carrying on for a further two
acts after the climax. In other words, the superficial climax is not the
real climax at all, and Shaw’s project is deeper than that of a fairy
godmother.
3- What is the Pygmalion myth? In what significant ways, and with
what effects, has Shaw transformed that myth in his play?
Answer
The Pygmalion myth comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Pygmalion is a sculptor who creates a sculpture of a woman so perfectly formed that he falls in love with her. Aphrodite is moved
by his love and touches the statue to life so that she becomes
Galatea, and the sculptor can experience live bliss with his own
creation. While Shaw maintains the skeletal structure of the fantasy
in which a gifted male fashions a woman out of lifeless raw material
into a worthy partner for himself, Shaw does not allow the male to
fall in love with his creation. Right to the last act, Higgins is still

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quarrelsome and derisive in his interaction with Eliza, and does
not even think of her as an object of romantic interest. Shaw goes
on to undo the myth by injecting the play with other Pygmalion
figures like Mrs. Pearce and Pickering, and to suggest that the
primary Pygmalion himself is incomplete, and not ideal himself
In transforming the Pygmalion myth in such a way, Shaw calls
into question the ideal status afforded to the artist, and further
exposes the inadequacies of myths and romances that overlook
the mundane, human aspects of life.
4- “I care for life, for humanity; and you are a part of it that has
come my way and been built into my house. What more can you
or anyone ask?” Henry Higgins has this to say to Eliza when she
complains that he does not care for anybody and threatens to
leaves him. How does the professor of phonetics treat the people
in his life? Can one ask for more?
5- Describe the primary ways in which Eliza Doolittle changes in
the course of the play. Which is the most important
transformation, and what clues does Shaw gives us to indicate
this?



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6- While Eliza Doolittle is being remade, Victorian society itself can
be said to be unmade. How does Shaw reveal the pruderies
hypocrisies and inconsistencies of this higher society to which the
kerbstone flower girl aspires? Do his sympathies lie with the lower
or upper classes?
7- “The great secret, Eliza is not having bad manners or good
manners or any other sort of manners, but having the same manner
for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in heaven,
where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as
another.” It is no small coincidence that the author of Higgins’
Universal Alphabet is the same man to blur social distinctions,
thereby suggesting that social standing is a matter of nurture, not
nature, Examine carefully Higgins’ attitude towards his fellow men.
Can this be taken as an admirable brand of socialism? Or does he fail
as a compassionate being in his absolutism?
8- Is “A Romance in Five Acts” an accurate description of the play
Pygmalion? How does the play conform (or not) to the traditional
form of a romance (for example: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy
meets girl’s father/evil twin/ex-fiance, boy learns to love girl despite
everything, boy and girl live happily ever after…)? what do you


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think Shaw is trying to achieve in highlighting the concept of the
romance in the title? (Hint: You might want to look closely at the
written sequel to the play, in which Shaw gives some very strong
opinions about romances.)
9- If you were to create a sixth act to Pygmalion, who would
Eliza marry? Or does she marry at all? Use the lines and
behavior of the characters throughout the first five acts to support
the outcome of your finale.
10- If possible, try to watch the film version of Pygmalion (1938,
screenplay by Shaw), and even the Audrey Hepburn film of the
musical My Fair Lady (1956), Consider what has been changed,
removed, or enhanced in the move from the stage to the screen,
and from a talking play to a musical. What does each subsequent
adaptation reveal about popular expectations of a romance,
versus the original intentions of the playwright? In your opinion,
which of these works is the best? Why?





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