LIZA: "I shouldn't mind if it had only happened to me: anything might happen to anybody and nobody to blame but Providence (...) But this is something that YOU done to me: yes you, Henry Higgins."
Shaw's dramatization of a Cockney flower girl's metamorphosis into a lady has proved a sensasional success in spite of its own author (that dismissed it). Its combination of ideas and social comment and its comic charcterization have much to say about social class, money and women's indipendence.
Eliza goes out on the balcony to avoid being alone with Higgins. He rises and joins her there. She immediately comes back into the room and makes for the door; but he goes along the balcony quickly and gets his back to the door before she reaches it.
HIGGINS. Well, Eliza, you’ve had a bit of your own back, as you call it. Have you had enough? and are you going to be reasonable? Or do you want any more?
LIZA. You want me back only to pick up your slippers and put up with your tempers and fetch and carry for you.
HIGGINS. I haven’t said I wanted you back at all.
LIZA. Oh, indeed. Then what are we talking about?
HIGGINS. About you, not about me. If you come back I shall treat you just as I have always treated you. I can't change my nature; and I don't intend to change my manners. My manners are exactly the same as Colonel Pickering's.
LIZA. That’s not true. He treats a flower girl as if she was a duchess.
HIGGINS. And I treat a duchess as if she was a flower girl.
LIZA. I see. [She turns away composedly, and sits on the ottoman, facing the window]. The same to everybody.
HIGGINS. Just so.
LIZA. Like father.
HIGGINS. [grinning, a little taken down] Without accepting the comparison at all points, Eliza, it's quite true that your father is not a snob, and that he will be quite at home in any station of life to which his eccentric destiny may call him. [Seriously] The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another.
LIZA. Amen. You are a born preacher.
HIGGINS. [irritated] The question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether you ever heard me treat anyone else better.
LIZA. [with sudden sincerity] I don’t care how you treat me. I don't mind your swearing at me. I don’t mind a black eye: I’ve had one before this. But [standing up and facing him] I won't be passed over.
HIGGINS. Then get out of my way; for I wont stop for you. You talk about me as if I were a motor bus.
LIZA. So you are a motor bus: all bounce and go, and no consideration for anyone. But I can do without you: don’t think I cant.
HIGGINS. I know you can. I told you you could.
LIZA. [wounded, getting away from him to the other side of the ottoman with her face to the hearth] I know you did, you brute. You wanted to get rid of me.
LIZA. Thank you. [She sits down with dignity].
HIGGINS. You never asked yourself, I suppose, whether I could do without
LIZA. [earnestly] Don’t you try to get round me. You’ll have to do without me.
HIGGINS. [arrogant] I can do without anybody. I have my own soul: my own spark of divine fire. But [with sudden humility] I shall miss you, Eliza. [He sits down near her on the ottoman]. I have learnt something from your idiotic notions: I confess that humbly and gratefully. And I have grown accustomed to your voice and appearance. I like them, rather.
LIZA. Well, you have both of them on your gramophone and in your book of photographs. When you feel lonely without me, you can turn the machine on. It's got no feelings to hurt.
HIGGINS. I cant turn your soul on. Leave me those feelings; and you can take away the voice and the face. They are not you.
LIZA. Oh, you a real devil. You can twist the heart in a girl as easy as some could twist her arms to hurt her. Mrs. Pearce warned me. Time and again she has wanted to leave you; and you always got round her at the last minute. And you don’t care a bit for her. And you don’t care a bit for me.
HIGGINS. I care for life, for humanity; and you are a part of it that has come my way and been built into my house. What more can you or anyone ask?
LIZA. I wont care for anybody that doesn’t care for me.
HIGGINS. Commercial principles, Eliza. Like [reproducing her Covent Garden pronunciation with professional exactness] s'yollin voylets [selling violets], isn't it?
LIZA. Don’t sneer at me. It's mean to sneer at me.
HIGGINS. I have never sneered in my life. Sneering doesn't become either the human face or the human soul. I am expressing my righteous contempt for Commercialism. I don’t and wont trade in affection. You call me a brute because you couldn’t buy a claim on me by fetching my slippers and finding my spectacles. You were a fool: I think a woman fetching a man's slippers is a disgusting sight: did I ever fetch y o u r slippers? I think a good deal more of you for throwing them in my face. No use slaving for me and then saying you want to be cared for: who cares for a slave? If you come back, come back for the sake of good fellowship; for you’ll get nothing else. You’ve had a thousand times as much out of me as I have out of you; and if you dare to set up your little dog's tricks of fetching and carrying slippers against my creation of a Duchess Eliza, I'll slam the door in your silly face.
LIZA. What did you do it for if you didn't care for me?
HIGGINS. [heartily] Why, because it was my job.
LIZA. You never thought of the trouble it would make for me.
HIGGINS. Would the world ever have been made if its maker had been afraid of making trouble? Making life means making trouble. There's only one way of escaping trouble; and that’s killing things. Cowards, you notice, are always shrieking to have troublesome people killed.
LIZA. I'm no preacher: I don't notice things like that. I notice that you don't notice me.
HIGGINS. [jumping up and walking about intolerantly] Eliza: you’re an idiot. I waste the treasures of my Miltonic mind by spreading them before you. Once for all, understand that I go my way and do my work without caring two pence what happens to either of us. I am not intimidated, like your father and your stepmother. So you can come back or go to the devil: which you please.
LIZA. What am I to come back for?
HIGGINS [bouncing up on his knees on the ottoman and leaning over it to her] For the fun of it. That’s why I took you on.
LIZA [with averted face] And you may throw me out tomorrow if I don't do everything you want me to?
HIGGINS. Yes; and you may walk out tomorrow if I don’t do everything y o u want me to.
LIZA. And live with my stepmother?
HIGGINS. Yes, or sell flowers.
LIZA. Oh! if I only could go back to my flower basket! I should be independent of both you and father and all the world! Why did you take my independence from me? Why did I give it up? I'm a slave now, for all my fine clothes.
HIGGINS. Not a bit. I'll adopt you as my daughter and settle money on you if you like. Or would you rather marry Pickering?
LIZA. [looking fiercely round at him] I wouldn’t marry y o u if you asked me; and you're nearer my age than what he is.
HIGGINS. [gently] Than he is: not "than what he is."
LIZA. [losing her temper and rising] I'll talk as I like. You're not my teacher now.
HIGGINS. [reflectively] I don’t suppose Pickering would, though. He’s as confirmed an old bachelor as I am.
LIZA. That’s not what I want; and don’t you think it. I’ve always had chaps enough wanting me that way. Freddy Hill writes to me twice and three times a day, sheets and sheets.
HIGGINS [disagreeably surprised] Damn his impudence! [He recoils and finds himself sitting on his heels].
LIZA. He has a right to if he likes, poor lad. And he does love me.
HIGGINS. [getting off the ottoman] You have no right to encourage him.
LIZA. Every girl has a right to be loved.
HIGGINS. What! By fools like that?
LIZA. Freddy's not a fool. And if he’s weak and poor and wants me, may be hed make me happier than my betters that bully me and don’t want me.
HIGGINS. Can he m a k e anything of you? That’s the point.
LIZA. Perhaps I could make something of him. But I never thought of us making anything of one another; and you never think of anything else. I only want to be natural.
HIGGINS. In short, you want me to be as infatuated about you as Freddy? Is that it?
LIZA. No I don’t. That’s not the sort of feeling I want from you. And don’t you be too sure of yourself or of me. I could have been a bad girl if I'd liked. I’ve seen more of some things than you, for all your learning. Girls like me can drag gentlemen down to make love to them easy enough. And they wish each other dead the next minute.
HIGGINS. Of course they do. Then what in thunder are we quarrelling about?
LIZA. [much troubled] I want a little kindness. I know I'm a common ignorant girl, and you a book-learned gentleman; but I'm not dirt under your feet. What I done [correcting herself] what I did was not for the dresses and the taxis: I did it because we were pleasant together and I come—came—to care for you; not to want you to make love to me, and not forgetting the difference between us, but more friendly like.
HIGGINS. Well, of course. That’s just how I feel. And how Pickering feels. Eliza: youre a fool.
LIZA. That’s not a proper answer to give me [she sinks on the chair at the writing-table in tears].
HIGGINS. It's all you’ll get until you stop being a common idiot. If you’re going to be a lady, you’ll have to give up feeling neglected if the men you know don't spend half their time sniveling over you and the other half giving you black eyes. If you cant stand the coldness of my sort of life, and the strain of it, go back to the gutter. Work till you are more a brute than a human being; and then cuddle and squabble and drink till you fall asleep. Oh, it's a fine life, the life of the gutter. It's real: it's warm: it's violent: you can feel it through the thickest skin: you can taste it and smell it without any training or any work. Not like Science and Literature and Classical Music and Philosophy and Art. You find me cold, unfeeling, selfish, don’t you? Very well: be off with you to the sort of people you like. Marry some sentimental hog or other with lots of money, and a thick pair of lips to kiss you with and a thick pair of boots to kick you with. If you cant appreciate what you’ve got, you’d better get what you can appreciate.
LIZA. [desperate] Oh, you are a cruel tyrant. I cant talk to you: you turn everything against me: I'm always in the wrong. But you know very well all the time that you’re nothing but a bully. You know I cant go back to the gutter, as you call it, and that I have no real friends in the world but you and the Colonel. You know well I couldn’t bear to live with a low common man after you two; and it's wicked and cruel of you to insult me by pretending I could. You think I must go back to Wimpole Street because I have nowhere else to go but father's. But don’t you be too sure that you have me under your feet to be trampled on and talked down. I'll marry Freddy, I will, as soon as he’s able to support me.
HIGGINS. [sitting down beside her] Rubbish! you shall marry an ambassador. You shall marry the Governor-General of India or the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, or somebody who wants a deputy-queen. I'm not going to have my masterpiece thrown away on Freddy.
LIZA. You think I like you to say that. But I haven’t forgot what you said a minute ago; and I won't be coaxed round as if I was a baby or a puppy. If I can't have kindness, I'll have independence.
HIGGINS. Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.
LIZA. [rising determinedly] I'll let you see whether I'm dependent on you. If you can preach, I can teach. I'll go and be a teacher.
HIGGINS. What'll you teach, in heaven's name?
LIZA. What you taught me. I'll teach phonetics.
HIGGINS. Ha! Ha! Ha!
LIZA. I'll offer myself as an assistant to Professor Nepean.
HIGGINS. [rising in a fury] What! That impostor! that humbug! that toadying ignoramus! Teach him my methods! my discoveries! You take one step in his direction and I'll wring your neck. [He lays hands on her]. Do you hear?
LIZA [defiantly non-resistant] Wring away. What do I care? I knew you’d strike me some day. [He lets her go, stamping with rage at having forgotten himself, and recoils so hastily that he stumbles back into his seat on the ottoman]. Aha! Now I know how to deal with you. What a fool I was not to think of it before! You cant take away the knowledge you gave me. You said I had a finer ear than you. And I can be civil and kind to people, which is more than you can. Aha! That’s done you, Henry Higgins, it has. Now I don’t care that [snapping her fingers] for your bullying and your big talk. I'll advertise it in the papers that your duchess is only a flower girl that you taught, and that she'll teach anybody to be a duchess just the same in six months for a thousand guineas. Oh, when I think of myself crawling under your feet and being trampled on and called names, when all the time I had only to lift up my finger to be as good as you, I could just kick myself.
HIGGINS. [wondering at her] You damned impudent slut, you! But it's better than sniveling; better than fetching slippers and finding spectacles, isn't it? [Rising] By George, Eliza, I said I'd make a woman of you; and I have. I like you like this.
LIZA. Yes: you turn round and make up to me now that I'm not afraid of you, and can do without you.
HIGGINS. Of course I do, you little fool. Five minutes ago you were like a millstone round my neck. Now you’re a tower of strength: a consort battleship. You and I and Pickering will be three old bachelors together instead of only two men and a silly girl.
Mrs. Higgins returns, dressed for the wedding. Eliza instantly becomes cool and elegant.
MRS. HIGGINS. The carriage is waiting, Eliza. Are you ready?
LIZA. Quite. Is the Professor coming?
MRS. HIGGINS. Certainly not. He can't behave himself in church. He makes remarks out loud all the time on the clergyman's pronunciation.
LIZA. Then I shall not see you again, Professor. Good bye. [She goes to the door].
MRS. HIGGINS [coming to Higgins] Good-bye, dear.
HIGGINS. Good-bye, mother. [He is about to kiss her, when he recollects something]. Oh, by the way, Eliza, order a ham and a Stilton cheese, will you? And buy me a pair of reindeer gloves, number eights, and a tie to match that new suit of mine, at Eale & Binman's. You can choose the color. [His cheerful, careless, vigorous voice shows that he is incorrigible].
LIZA. [disdainfully] Buy them yourself. [She sweeps out].
MRS. HIGGINS. I'm afraid you’ve spoiled that girl, Henry. But never mind, dear: I'll buy you the tie and gloves.
HIGGINS. [sunnily] Oh, don’t bother. She'll buy’em all right enough. Good-bye.
They kiss. Mrs. Higgins runs out. Higgins, left alone, rattles his cash in his pocket; chuckles; and disports himself in a highly self-satisfied manner....Continua
"It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth, without making some other Englishman despise him." Mr. Shaw said in the preface.
I read this play some years ago and I thought Mr. Shaw incredibly funny. Yesterday I was going over the Naxos audiobook collection at Cosmos Books at TST and found this. This play with its play of speech and accents, society and class calls to be heard, so I bought it.
I think it's good--there's not much choice anyway, you won't see it staged here.
(Pygmalion is the sculptor who falled in love with a stature he created and Aphrodite pitied him and gave life to the stature. Hence the title, for the professor who fell in love with the flower girl whom he transformed into a lady.)...Continua