George Bernard Shaw
Pygmalion tells the story of a poor, young flower girl who has been disrespected and overlooked; Colonel Pickering decides to pay the cost for Professor Higgins to teach Eliza and challenges him to present her as a duchess for the ambassador's garden party. The outcome is astonishing, in the end, she changes Professor Higgins as well.
George Bernard Shaw
PygmalionThe opening of the play and selected excerpts
Covent Garden at 11.15 p.m.
Torrents of heavy summer rain. Cab whistles blowing frantically in all directions. Pedestrians running for shelter into the market and under the portico of St. Paul's Church, where there are already several people, among them a lady and her daughter in evening dress. They are all peering out gloomily at the rain, except one man with his back turned to the rest, who seems wholly preoccupied with a notebook in which he is writing busily. The church clock strikes the first quarter.
THE DAUGHTER[in the space between the central pillars, close to the one on her left]
I'm getting chilled to the bone. What can Freddy be doing all this time? He's been gone twenty minutes.
THE MOTHER[on her daughter's right]
Not so long. But he ought to have got us a cab by this.
A BYSTANDER[on the lady's right]
He won't get no cab not until half-past eleven, missus, when they come back after dropping their theatre fares.
THE MOTHERBut we must have a cab. We can't stand here until half-past eleven. It's too bad.
THE BYSTANDERWell, it ain't my fault, missus.
THE DAUGHTERIf Freddy had a bit of gumption, he would have got one at the theatre door.
THE MOTHERWhat could he have done, poor boy?
THE DAUGHTEROther people got cabs. Why couldn't he? Freddy rushes in out of the rain from the Southampton Street side, and comes between them closing a dripping umbrella. He is a young man of twenty, in evening dress, very wet around the ankles.
THE DAUGHTERWell, haven't you got a cab?
FREDDYThere's not one to be had for love or money.
THE MOTHEROh, Freddy, there must be one. You can't have tried.
THE DAUGHTERIt's too tiresome. Do you expect us to go and get one our- selves?
FREDDYI tell you they're all engaged. The rain was so sudden: nobody was prepared; and everybody had to take a cab. I've been to Charing Cross one way and nearly to Ludgate Circus the other; and they were all engaged.
THE MOTHERDid you try Trafalgar Square?
FREDDYThere wasn't one at Trafalgar Square.
THE DAUGHTERDid you try?
FREDDYI tried as far as Charing Cross Station. Did you expect me to walk to Hammersmith?
THE DAUGHTERYou haven't tried at all.
THE MOTHERYou really are very helpless, Freddy. Go again; and don't come back until you have found a cab.
FREDDYI shall simply get soaked for nothing.
THE DAUGHTERAnd what about us? Are we to stay here all night in this draught, with next to nothing on. You selfish pig—
FREDDYOh, very well: I'll go, I'll go. [He opens his umbrella and dashes off Strandwards, but comes into collision with a flower girl, who is hurrying in for shelter, knocking her basket out of her hands. A blinding flash of lightning, fol- lowed instantly by a rattling peal of thunder, orchestrates the incident]
THE FLOWER GIRLNah then,
Freddy:look wh' y' gowin, deah.
FREDDYSorry [he rushes off].
THE FLOWER GIRL[picking up her scattered flowers and replacing them in the basket] There's menners f' yer! Te-oo banches o voylets trod into the mad. [She sits down on the plinth of the column, sorting her flowers, on the lady's right. She is not at all an attractive person. She is perhaps eighteen, perhaps twenty, hardly older. She wears a little sailor hat of black straw that has long been exposed to the dust and soot of London and has seldom if ever been brushed. Her hair needs washing rather badly: its mousy color can hardly be natural. She wears a shoddy black coat that reaches nearly to her knees and is shaped to her waist She has a brown skirt with a coarse apron. Her boots are much the worse for wear. She is no doubt as clean as she can afford to be; but compared to the ladies she is very dirty. Her features are no worse than theirs; but their condition leaves something to be desired; and she needs the services of a dentist].
THE MOTHERHow do you know that my son's name is Freddy, pray?
THE FLOWER GIRLOw, eez ye-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y' de-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel's flahrzn than ran awy atbaht pyin. Will ye-oo py me f'them? [Here, with apologies, this desperate attempt to represent her dialect without a phonetic alphabet must be abandoned as unintel- ligible outside London.]
THE DAUGHTERDo nothing of the sort, mother. The idea!
THE MOTHERPlease allow me, Clara. Have you any pennies?
THE DAUGHTER. No. I've nothing smaller than sixpence.
THE FLOWER GIRL[hopefully] I can give you change for a tanner, kind lady.
THE MOTHER[to Clara] Give it to me.
THE FLOWER GIRLThank you kindly, lady.
THE DAUGHTERMake her give you the change. These things are only a penny a bunch.
THE MOTHERDo hold your tongue, Clara. [To the girl]. You can keep the change.
“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 snivelling over you and the other half giving you black eyes. If you can't stand the coldness of my sort of life, and the strain of it, go back to the gutter. Work til you are more a brute than a human being; and then cuddle and squabble and drink til 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 can't appreciate what you've got, you'd better get what you can appreciate.” […]
“HIGGINS:I find that the moment I let a woman make friends with me, she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious, and a damned nuisance. I find that the moment I let myself make friends with a woman, I become selfish and tyrannical. Women upset everything. When you let them into your life, you find that the woman is driving at one thing and you're driving at another.
PICKERING:At what, for example?
“HIGGINS:Oh, Lord knows! I suppose the woman wants to live her own life; and the man wants to live his; and each tries to drag the other on to the wrong track. One wants to go north and the other south; and the result is that both have to go east, though they both hate the east wind.” “Eliza has no use for the foolish romantic tradition that all women love to be mastered, if not actually bullied and beaten. "When you go to women," says Nietzsche, "take your whip with you." Sensible despots have never confined that precaution to women: they have taken their whips with them when they have dealt with men, and been slavishly idealized by the men over whom they have flourished the whip much more than by women.
No doubt there are slavish women as well as slavish men; and women, like men, admire those that are stronger than themselves. But to admire a strong person and to live under that strong person's thumb are two different things. The weak may not be admired and hero-worshipped; but they are by no means disliked or shunned; and they never seem to have the least difficulty in marrying people who are too good for them. They may fail in emergencies; but life is not one long emergency: it is mostly a string of situations for which no exceptional strength is needed, and with which even rather weak people can cope if they have a stronger partner to help them out. Accordingly, it is a truth everywhere in evidence that strong people, masculine or feminine, not only do not marry stronger people, but do not show any preference for them in selecting their friends. When a lion meets another with a louder roar "the first lion thinks the last a bore." The man or woman who feels strong enough for two, seeks for every other quality in a partner than strength. The converse is also true. Weak people want to marry strong people who do not frighten them too much; and this often leads them to make the mistake we describe metaphorically as "biting off more than they can chew." They want too much for too little; and when the bargain is unreasonable beyond all bearing, the union becomes impossible: it ends in the weaker party being either discarded or borne as a cross, which is worse. People who are not only weak, but silly or obtuse as well, are often in these difficulties.”
The weak may not be admired and hero-worshipped; but they are by no means disliked or shunned; and they never seem to have the least difficulty in marrying people who are too good for them. They may fail in emergencies; but life is not one long emergency: it is mostly a string of situations for which no exceptional strength is needed, and with which even rather weak people can cope if they have a stronger partner to help them out