Pygmalion Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does the play deal with the issue of social class? Does Shaw ultimately uphold it or not--is there enough evidence in the play to demonstrate Shaw's point of view? Consider Pickering, for example, who is very much a product of the British hierarchy, and who is one of the most sympathetic characters.

  2. 2

    Does the play suggest that true love is possible and good? On the basis of evidence in the text, what are the feelings that Liza has for Higgins and Freddy, and why does Liza marry Freddy?

  3. 3

    Does language itself have transformative power, or does its power come entirely through the people who use it? In what sense is Eliza a new person after she learns to speak differently?

  4. 4

    The subtitle of the play is "A Romance in Five Acts." Discuss the ways that the play is a romance--or might it more properly be called a tragedy or a comedy?

  5. 5

    Is Freddy the perfect match for Eliza? If the story is a romance, is Freddy or Higgins a romantic hero?

  6. 6

    How does the knowledge that Shaw was a socialist color one's reading of this play? Consider, for instance, Doolittle's speech on the undeserving poor. Does Shaw sympathize with this "class" of people, or should we view his presentation of each character uniquely?

  7. 7

    How does the movement from the public space of Covent Garden to the private spaces of Wimpole Street and Mrs. Higgins's home affect the behavior of the characters? What is the safest space for Eliza?

  8. 8

    How does the audience appreciate dramatic irony in the play? For instance, What does it mean when Clara swears using the term "bloody"?

  9. 9

    Shaw gives one of the reasons that a marriage between Eliza and Higgins would never work out as that Eliza would have been unable to come between Higgins and his mother, suggesting that such a dynamic is necessary in marriage. Given the events of the last act, does this reason seem accurate?

  10. 10

    How does the quotation from Nietzsche that Shaw quotes at the end of the play, "when you go to women, take your whip with you," relate to Eliza's relationship with Higgins? With Pickering? With Freddy?