Study Guides Thursday, Mar 19 2009 

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My Fair Lady Thursday, Mar 19 2009 

There have, over the years, been many film adaptations of the play Pygmalion. Of these, the most readily available, successful, and widespread, would be the musical My Fair Lady starring; Audrey Hepburn (Charades, How to Steal a Million, Sabrina etc.) , Rex Harrison (Dr. Doolittle and Cleopatra) and Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes). The movie is a very cute musical, and very similar to the play, with only a few differences, such as the characters breaking out into song every few minutes. The only true difference in the movie, other than the music, is the party scene, and even then it is only the setting that changes, instead of the garden party taking place at Mrs. HIggins house, it takes place at the Ascot races. Other than that, the play and movie are very similar.

If you would like to see some clips from My Fair Lady please follow these links to Please note that I do not own these songs, nor am I the account owner. (Phew, necessary disclaimer over and out.”     (The Rain in Spain)       (I Could Have Danced All Night, perhaps the most famous song from the movie.)


Summary Thursday, Mar 19 2009 

Okay, time for the summary.

Pygmalion is a story about a girl who wishes to become a lady. She approaches Henry Higgins, a reknowned phonetics professor, with the request to teach her how to speak in a way that could get her a higher class job.  Higgins agrees after a colleague of his, the affable Colonel Pickering, makes a bet with him, over whether or not Higgins can truly teach this girl to speak. They reach a deal, if Higgins can teach the girl how to speak well enough within six months that he can pass her off as a Duchess at a ball, then Pickering will pay for all of her expenses and the lessons. Higgins begins work, and finds that Eliza has a quick tongue and a good ear, making it easy for him to teach her how to speak. However, through all of this, they all discover that there is more to being a lady or gentleman then simply how one speaks, as well as discovering more about themselves in the process.

Literary Analysis Thursday, Mar 19 2009 

Literary Devices Used:

1. Foreshadowing: When Eliza runs into Freddy at the beginning of the play, and he knocks her over, it foreshadows the fact that Freddy will become a main character.

2. Metaphor: Mr Higgins’ role in turning Eliza into a real woman, is a metaphor for him being a sculptor, like Pygmalion.

3. Protagonist: The true protagonist is Eliza, she is the one that we are (meant) to root for, the person whom we wish success.

4. Antagonist: There are plenty of antagonists, anyone who stands in Eliza’s way. Such as the Prof’s old student, the Prof. (most of the time), and anybody else who might identify ELiza as a fake.

5. Irony: The most ironic element of Pygmalion would be Eliza’s proficiency. after only a few months of training, this “heartless uneducated guttersnipe” is better at phonetics than the well-educated gentleman Prof. Henry Higgins.

6. Poetic justice: In Pygmalion, Prof. Higgins is very harsh on Eliza, and generally thought of as being mean and cruel. Therefore, it is poetic justic in the end when, just as he realizes how special she is, she leaves him.

The Setting Thursday, Mar 19 2009 

Pygmalion is set in England around the mid to late 1800s. It is pretty obvious why Shaw chose this setting, it is when and where he lived, but it is important to the story in many ways. First of all, this was a time when people were just starting to be able to move up in society, if you were a gutter rat at birth, you could raise yourself to a higher level by working hard, like Eliza. Second, women were finally starting to be considered more than just the homebuilders, they were starting to be viewed as the machine that drives the family, which Eliza becomes when she marries Freddy and claims that she wants to be able to support him. England is also important to the setting, because it had a more rigid social structure at the time of the story than America did, so it was easier to spot the differences that kept Eliza stapled to the gutter of society. Overall, setting is important.


The Use of Curses Tuesday, Mar 10 2009 

Now, Pygmalion is set in a time when cursing was looked upon as being one of the worst things you could do. It was positive blasphemy, and while men were allowed to curse, they were not supposed to curse in the presence of a lady. Prof. Higgins curses a lot, and at first Eliza does to, but as she becomes more of a lady, she stops using them. However, the cursing is used to show the difference between when Eliza learns how to speak, and when she truly becomes a lady. Because, while she can imitate a lady, and speak like a lady, she can not act like a lady, which is her downfall when she curses at Mrs.Higgins’ party. So, curses do mean something, at least symbolically.

Colonel Pickering Monday, Mar 2 2009 

One of the kindest characters in Pygmalion is the affable and slightly dotty Colonel Pickering. Though we are not quite sure how he got his title, it is clear that he, like Higgins, studies languages, except he studies Indian dialects. He is constantly fascinated by Higgins and Eliza and is the one person Eliza can always turn to when Higgins’s bullying gets to be tot much for her. Let’s give three cheers for the awesome Colonel Pickering!


Why Pygmalion? Wednesday, Feb 25 2009 

Why Pygmalion? Why not My Fair Lady*, or Educating Rita*? Well, the original story of Pygmalion, was an old Greek myth called Pygmalion and Galatea. Pygmalion was a sculpture who did not believe that he could ever find love because his sculptures were so perfect that he could stand for nothing less than a perfect woman. (Judging from some of the old Grecian sculptures he may have been right.)




Anyway, he gets really depressed and decides that he is going to sculpt the perfect woman, a sculpture he names Galatea. He falls so in love with his creation’s beauty that he prays to Venus to allow his statue to come to life so that they may be together. Venus grants his wish and Galatea is born.

Now, how does this tie into the play? Simple, Higgins creates Eliza, he takes a block of marble (impoverished, unladylike Liza) and turns her into a real lady, Eliza. He does fall in love with her, in a way, but she refuses to be with him, instead marrying Freddy, because she, like Galatea, sees Higgins as too much of a godlike character for her to be on equal footing with.

*These were both names of movies based off of Pygmalion, although Educating Rita was far loosely based off of it, while My Fair Lady had very few differences.

Middle Class Morality Tuesday, Feb 17 2009 

In the book Pygmalion, Eliza’s father is a common dustman, a lazy slouch who never does anything unless it can lead to him buying a drink, until Prof. Higgins sends a letter to an American millionaire proclaiming that A.P. Doolittle is the most original moralist in all of London. After the millionaire’s death, Doolittle is left 4000 pounds a year (a handsome sum at the time), and is delivered into the troubles and problems of the middle class. Before Doolittle claimed that he, “could not afford to have morals.” Now, he has to deal with relatives clamoring for his money, people who want to sell him things, taxes, and morals. While most would willingly take all of these problems in exchange for a house and meal, Doolittle is very angry at Higgins for causing this. And his number one dislike of being middle class? Morality.

Eliza and Henry Tuesday, Feb 10 2009 

Two of the main characters in Pygmalion, Eliza and Henry. Although you are meant to think of Henry as being a likeable person, and Eliza as well, neither of them is in anywaylike able. Eliza calls Henry a heartless bully, and Henry defends himself and calls her an ungrateful guttersnipe in return. They are both right. Henry is unnecessarily rude and mean to every character, and Eliza, though she is getting these lessons for free, as well as an allowance and meals and clothes, can only complain about how Henry treats her, when he is doing this tremendous thing for her. So, over all neither character is particularly like able.


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