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Pygmalion

Pygmalion

by George Bernard Shaw

Pygmalion Act 1 Summary

  • It's a dark and stormy night, and a crowd of people are seeking refuge from the rain in front of a church in London's Covent Garden market.
  • Among them are an older woman and her daughter (both dressed up), their son Freddy (who's been sent out into the rain to find a cab), an old, well-dressed military man, a poor young flower girl with a thick Cockney accent, and a strange man standing in the shadows writing down everything the flower girl says.
  • Trouble starts when the older woman starts asking the flower girl questions.
  • The girl flips out and starts telling everyone what a good girl she is.
  • The crowd comes to her defense and everything seems fine until some guy informs her about the strange man taking notes. People think he's some kind of cop, or maybe just a pervert.
  • She flips out again, although its pretty darn hard to understand what she's saying through her thick accent, until the note-taker shows himself, and everybody sees that he's not a cop or a pervert, he's just an rich guy with nice boots and a knack for guessing where people come from, geography-wise.
  • People are amazed/frightened by this ability.
  • He tells the flower girl to, well, shut up. She whines some more. He asks her to kindly shut up again and to please stop butchering the English language (except he doesn't say please).
  • He then tells the old guy that he could pass off the crazy flower girl as royalty by teaching her how to speak.
  • The two men introduce themselves – turns out they're both well-respected linguists. The note-taker is Henry Higgins, teacher of phonetics, the old guy an expert on the dead Indian language Sanskrit.
  • Higgins takes pity on the flower girl and gives her a sovereign (imagine getting tipped a hundred bucks).
  • The girl jumps for joy, starts howling like a banshee – no, really – and jumps in the next cab.
  • The two men head back to Pickering's hotel for dinner, and poor old Freddy gets left in the rain, abandoned by his mom and sis.

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