Analysis of Pygmalion Act 1

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Pygmalion is perhaps Shaw 's most famous play and, ironically, it is among his most abused and misinterpreted ones. Almost everyone knows the basic outlines of this story of the Cockney flower girl who is almost magically transformed into a duchess by taking speech (phonetic) lessons from her famous professor. The abuse comes partly from the fact that Shaw subtitled his play, "A Romance." In the popular adaptations (the film of 1938 and the musical My Fair Lady), "romance" was written into the script and inserted into the relationship between Higgins and Eliza — in fact, the title of the play, Pygmalion, being based on the legend of a person who fell in love with his creation, could easily give rise to this wrong interpretation. In fact,…show more content…
In contrast to Eliza, Clara Eynsford-Hill would superficially seem to be without a trace of vulgarity. But she represents aspects of the middle class which Shaw and Doolittle reject — that is, Clara is pushy, unfriendly, and disdainful of people whom she considers beneath her, and she is offended unnecessarily by strangers (such as Higgins) who speak to her (notice her hypocrisy later in Act III when she meets Higgins socially and is sycophantly obeisant to him). Ironically, in the next act, Eliza will want to become very much like Clara and will come to Higgins to take lessons for that purpose. It is Higgins who ultimately occupies center stage. At first, he is only the bystander at the edge of the crowd. Then he slowly takes charge because of his talent, his wit, and his domineering character. In a play that will focus a great deal on the varying concepts of manners, Higgins is first noted for his lack of manners. On first sight, he is as rude in his outspokenness as Eliza is crude in her pronunciation. He seems to take pleasure in bullying other people, especially people who are socially beneath him, even though he maintains that he is not a snob. He can spurt out a tirade of venom when he hears the English language so completely and disgustingly vilified, and he directs his venom
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