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by George Bernard Shaw

Pygmalion Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. Could Pygmalion be set in the modern day, at a time when there are, generally, more options and opportunities for women?
  2. We never see any complete families in Pygmalion. We see Eliza's father, but her stepmother is only mentioned in passing. Mrs. Higgins plays a large role, but her husband is never mentioned. The same goes for the Eynsford Hill family. What's Shaw trying to tell us here?
  3. Does Alfred Doolittle's theory about the "undeserving poor" have any merit? Is he just a good speaker, or is he simply addressing a problem that most people ignore?
  4. Could Pygmalion take place in a different country, a country with a different language? Or is it a play specifically about England and English?
  5. Why does Shaw end the play when he does? Is there any reason why Higgins and his mother are the only two people left on stage?
  6. Mrs. Higgins mentions that her son only falls in love with older women. Henry himself claims that it's just a matter of habit, that he just can't be bothered with young women. Is Higgins simply too involved with himself and his work, or is there some deeper reason for his disinterest?
  7. Early on in the book, Higgins mentions that English is "the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible" (1.125). While he's right with the first two, the Bible definitely wasn't first written in English. What does this say about Higgins?
  8. Higgins never gives us his definition of the "soul," but he sure loves to talk about it. Does he really even know what he's talking about?
  9. Higgins claims that he treats everyone equally, that he does not change his behavior under different circumstances. That said, does Higgins himself change over the course of the play?
  10. Shaw originally wanted to include in the play scenes in which Eliza pretends to be a duchess. Instead, we only get to hear Pickering and Higgins discuss them. Does this change the way we think about the "bet"? Are we more likely to forget about Eliza's amazing feat, as Higgins and Pickering do as a result?

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