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- Common Themes in Literature
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My Fair Lady, a musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion
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My Fair Lady, a musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion
First, the myth of Pygmalion....
Pygmalion was a gifted sculptor from Cyprus who had no interest in the local women as he found them immoral and frivolous. Instead Pygmalion concentrated on his art until one day he ran across a large, flawless piece of ivory and decided to carve a beautiful woman from it.
When he had finished the statue, Pygmalion found it so lovely and the image of his ideal woman that he clothed the figure and adorned her in jewels even though she was an counterfeit creation. He gave the statue a name: Galatea, sleeping love. He found himself obsessed with his ideal woman so he went to the temple of the goddess Aphrodite to ask forgiveness for all the years he had shunned her and beg for a wife who would be as perfect as his statue.
Aphrodite was curious so she visited the studio of the sculptor while he was away and was charmed by his creation. Galatea was the image of Aphrodite, herself. Being flattered, Aphrodite brought the statue to life. When Pygmalion returned to his home, he found Galatea alive, and he humbled himself at her feet. Pygmalion and Galatea were wed, and Pygmalion never forget to thank Aphrodite for the gift she had given him. He and Galatea brought gifts to her temple throughout their life, and Aphrodite blessed them with happiness and love in return.
GENERAL INTRODUCTION OF THE PLAY AND CHARACTERS
1. What event are the people leaving at the story begins?
2. What purpose does the rain shower serve?
3. Why does the flower girl protest, “I am a good girl, I am !”
4. The note taker is assumed to be of what profession? What actually is his profession?
5. What does the note taker say about a "woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds"?
6. The note taker brags about what he could do for the flower girl within six months. What does he claim?
7. What do Higgins and Pickering have in common?
8. In a well-written musical play, the lyrics in the songs take the place of dialogue and serve to move along the plot, develop the themes and/or better develop the characters. Why does Higgins sing, “ Why can’t the ___________________ teach their ________________ how to ___________________ ?”
9. Eliza sings a song when she is back near Covent Gardens that night. She sings, “All I want is a ___________________ somewhere/ Far away from the ___________________ night air with one ______________________ chair, now wouldn’t it be ____________________________ ? What does this indicate about her?
10.. When Higgins recognizes the flower girl at his house the next day, what is his reaction?
11. What does Eliza Doolittle want?
THE BET AND THE FULFILLMENT
12. Even after he agrees to teach her, what is Higgins' attitude towards Eliza?
13. Describe Mrs. Pearce's role.
14. Eliza determines to leave rather than to be further insulted. How does Higgins persuade her to stay?
15. What is the point of the bath scene?
16. Mrs. Pearce makes some suggestions to Higgins. What are they?
17. Why is Alfred Doolittle looking for his daughter? Does he see her often? How do you know?
18. Alfred Doolittle sings a song that reveals his character. He sings, “with a __________________ bit of luck, you’ll ______________ amok.” What does this line and the entire song
19. Why does Alfred Doolittle come to see Professor Higgins?
20. Doolittle says, "I'm undeserving, and I mean to go on being undeserving." Why does he not want to better himself?
21. Why does Doolittle want only five pounds instead of the ten he is offered?
A few months later.................
22. How does the “rain on the plain” scene mark a turning point in the play?
23. When Henry playfully dances with Eliza in the study, how does the balance of the play change?
24. Why does Eliza later tell Mrs. Pearce that she could have “danced all night” ?
25. Eliza’s manner of speaking is changing, but what about her self-identity and values is also changing?
26. Where does Henry Higgins decide to take Eliza to test her skills?
27. What do you notice about the clothes of all the race watchers? What might this communicate about their individuality?
28. Does Eliza “look the part” that day? How?
29. Influenza, aunts, people being “done in” and yelling about Dover ---how does Eliza’s behavior and conversation cause an uproar? How is the use of slang a violation of social conventions?
30. Henry’s mother, though kind, needs to explain something to Henry about Eliza at this stage. What does she say?
31. Who is Freddy Eynsford Hill? Do you recognize him?
Several more months pass.......
32. Higgins, Pickering, and Eliza dress in evening clothes for a big event. What is the event?
33. How is this evening another test? For whom?
34. Who is Nepommuck? Does Henry Higgins like him?
35. Is Eliza successful at the ambassador’s reception? What rumors circulate about her?
36. What is society’s definition of a “lady” - from the perspective of the people at the reception.
37. After arriving home from an exciting evening of dancing, Eliza does NOT say she could have “danced all night.”
How has the evening been a difficult one for her?
38. Why does Eliza throw Higgins' slippers at him?
39. What is Higgins' advice to Eliza when he realizes she is upset (although he cannot understand why she is upset)? The major conflict in the play is now out in the open. Explain.
40. Why does Eliza wish Higgins had left her where he had found her?
41. Who is waiting for Eliza when she leaves the
residence in the middle of the night? Why is this
42. Why does Eliza tell Freddy, "Don't you call me Miss Doolittle . . . Eliza is good enough for me."
43. Later, she vehemently sings to Freddy, “ If you’re in love - show me !” Is she really singing to Freddy or someone else? Why is she upset?
44. Eliza has a taxi take her somewhere. Where does she return? Does she belong there anymore?
45. Eliza meets her dad at Covent Gardens . How has Alfred changed?
46. How has Alfred been ruined by Henry?
47. Alfred is on his way somewhere and sings a song about it, “Pull out the _________________________/ Let’s have a ___________________________/ But get me to the ___________________________ on time !” What does the song tell us about Alfred now?
48. What does Henry Higgins tell Pickering to do since Eliza is missing?
49. Higgins says, "She behaved in the most outrageous way. I never gave her the slightest provocation." Is he lying or
50. Who is able to give the police the description of Eliza’s hair and eyes? Why?
51. What is ironic about Henry Higgins singing, “ women are irrational, calculating, infuriating...” ?
52. Eliza seeks refuge at Mrs. Higgins’ house. Why is that the only place she has left to go?
53. To whom does Eliza believe helped her to become a lady?
54. When Eliza tells Henry that he only wants her back to fetch his slippers, how does Henry respond?
55. After Eliza tells Henry that he can listen to her voice on the gramophone if he misses her, he replies to himself, “But I can’t _______________ your ________________ on.” What does this reveal about Henry Higgens?
56. Eliza asks why she should return. Henry tells her what?
57 Who does Eliza declare she will marry?
58. Eliza threatens to make money by working for whom?
59. Eliza then sings to Henry, “You are not the beginning or the ______________________ . There’ll be ___________________ without you.” What opinion is she convincing herself of?
60. On his way home, Henry is clearly conflicted. He switches between two songs. One laments, “I’ve gone accustomed to your __________________________,” and the other exclaims, “I’ll never ____________________ her back.” What is confusing Henry Higgins?
61 After entering his house, where does Henry go? What does he do there?
62 Who quietly appears in the hallway?
63 How do you characterize the relationship between Henry Higgins and Eliza at this point in time?
****Discussion Questions over the Entire Play****
64. I recently asked you to explain a story that made you, the reader/audience, feel both “pleasure and disquietude.” How does the ending of the play offer you the same two emotions? Why?
65.. How are Pickering and Higgins foils for each other?
66. What are the major themes of the play?
67. The study guide is separated into 3 parts. What does Eliza achieve at each stage?
68. How do Henry Higgins and Alfred Doolittle get educated during the play?
69. In Shaw’s ending of the play, Eliza marries Freddy and works in a flower shop to support them. They remain friends with Henry Higgins and Pickering. Why do you think Shaw chose to deviate from the Pygmalion myth’s ending in his original?
70. Has Higgins learned something new when he says to Eliza, "I can’t turn your soul on.” What will he miss about not having her at his house?
71. What does this play suggest as possible results of education? Do teachers and students alike need to be concerned about those results?
72. What does the play suggest about the differences between social classes? What does it suggest about marriage and family?