Daniel Cremers 1999-10-24

“Pygmalion”         Bernard Shaw (Howard Coster)

Penguin books 1954

The play is about a professor of Phonetics, his companion, a colonel who is also interested in language, and a flower girl.

Higgins
A quite rude professor of phonetics. He can not behave himself in the company of other people and is still single. He does not care much about marriage and falls only in love with woman over forty-five. He is very intelligent and knows how to place a person in a part of London when he hears him speak.

Pickering
He is a Colonel and also a specialist of phonetics. He comes from India to meet Mr. Higgins. He is amazed about what Higgins can do and makes a bet with him that he can not teach a flower girl how to speak properly English in six months. Pickering is a polite and very gentle person who has respect to everybody, even for the flower girl. He is very rich and he can pay for the expensive lessons Higgins is giving to the flower girl.

Liza Doolittle
She is the flower girl who gets lessons of Higgins. She first wanted to pay for them, but she did not know that they would cost more than a shilling. For her luck Pickering and Higgins make a bet that Higgins would not be able to teach her speak like a lady and she gets free lessons.

Higgins occurs to be a rude person and is treating her like if she were his property.

Father Doolittle comes to visit Mr. Higgins and asks him five shilling for his being father of the girl and goes away.

In the meanwhile Liza gets very nasty lessons and is not at all pleased about it.

Higgins takes Liza to his mother to test if she already is on that big level of pronunciation that she can have a civilized talk to other people. But Liza is still uncivilized and talks about the death of her mother, that she was murdered for her hat and that her father is a drunk. She also uses words that are used by the lower classes. She frightens the two ladies: Clara and Mrs. Eynsford Hill, but charms Freddy who falls completely in love with her. Mrs. Higgins likes Liza to and thinks it is a pitty Higgins is not married yet.

(…)And then it is time to go to the ambassador’s garden party where the King is also. Liza behaves like a real duchess. She walks in to the house in company of Higgins and Pickering and talks to some people. Nepomuck is also present at the party and tries to find out if Liza is a fake or not. He says he is paid by everybody at the party to make them look better than they really are. But he can not find Liza’s real identity and says she is a Hungarian princess of royal blood.

When Pickering, Higgins and Liza get back home, Liza and Higgins quarrel with each other and Liza throws Higgins his slippers in his face. She says she will leave him and no longer being treated like air.

Higgins does not seem to care about what Liza says and Liza goes away in the middle of the night. On the street Freddy is awaiting her. He says he spends all his nights on the street in front of Higgins house just to see a glimpse of her. They kiss and Liza tells him that she wanted to commit suicide. Two times the police disturb them and they take a taxi in which Liza tells Freddy everything that happened.

The next day Mrs. Higgins gets visit of her son and Pickering. They say they have lost Liza and that they have sent the police to find her. Mrs. Higgins tells them to calm down and that Liza is upstairs and that she will come down and talk to them if they promise to behave.

Liza comes down and says she has no bad feelings for Pickering, but for Higgins.

Mr. Doolittle comes. He has gone through a metamorphose. He is a rich person. For that he accuses Higgins (he does not like it to be rich!), because he had sent a letter to a rich American, who died and gave him a very lot of money if he would lecture for his Wannafeller Moral Reform World League six times a year. Mr. Doolittle also says that he is going to marry and that he invites everybody to come on his wedding.

Liza talks to Higgins. He can not come to the wedding, because he would misbehave himself. He quarrels with Liza and suggests her to stay with him like a friend. Higgins likes her more now, when he notices that she is a smart female, which can painfully quarrel back. But Liza does not want that. She wants to be with Freddy who loves her. Higgins thinks it is ridiculous to do so, but he is shocked when he hears that Liza wants to start teaching phonetics by her own.

Liza leaves Higgins and with that the play ends.

After the real play Shaw explains what happened afterwards.

Liza married Freddy (he has no money and no occupation) and started a flower shop with the help of the money of Pickering. It was not an immense success. She also took lessons in calligraphy from Higgins, which was a great humiliation, but necessary to keep the shop. The flower-shop flourished and they even started another shop with vegetables. Liza didn’t married Higgins, because she would never be more important than his work. She didn’t married Pickering because he was too old.