Act 3 Notes from Pygmalion

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Pygmalion Act 3

Higgins bursts into his mother's sitting room. Mrs. Higgins is writing at a desk in her elegantly decorated parlor. She is waiting for visitors to arrive as it is her at-home-day. Mrs. Higgins scolds Higgins for coming, and tells him to leave as he always offends her visitors. Higgins says he has picked up a girl. Mrs. Higgins hopes it is a love interest, but Higgins says he is not interested in young women and that his idea of a lovable woman is someone just like his mother. He tells her about his project and says that he has invited Eliza to practice at Mrs. Higgins at-home-day. He has instructed Eliza to converse only on two topics, the weather and everyone's health.

Higgins jumps up to leave as Mrs. Higgins first guests, Mrs. And Miss Eynsford Hill, arrive. The mother appears reserved and the daughter gay and arrogant. Shaw attributes both of these characteristics to the women's social station of "genteel poverty." Act 3, pg. 70 Higgins attempted escape is unsuccessful. He is introduced and thinks he has meet the pair somewhere. Pickering arrives, followed by Mrs. Eynsford Hill's son, Freddy. Higgins is slightly spooked by these people he cannot quite remember. He is also irritated because his talk with his mother was interrupted. He therefore treats the guests quite rudely by his mother's estimation. Miss Hill commiserates with Higgins by saying that she wishes everyone would say what they really think. Higgins says it would be quite indecent if they did.

Topic Tracking: Manners 6

Eliza arrives, and Higgins covertly indicates to her which woman is his mother, the hostess. Eliza is dressed exquisitely and greets Mrs. Higgins with studied grace. Mrs. Hill introduces her daughter, Clara, and son, Freddy. They are both impressed by Eliza's appearance. During the introduction, Higgins remembers the occasion on which he met the Hills. He swears but is silenced by his mother and retreats in exasperation. Mrs. Higgins asks about the weather, and Liza gives her an intricate scientific answer that causes Freddy to laugh. She then relates a story about her father pouring gin down her aunt's throat to cure her diphtheria. Mrs. Hill is confused by the vulgar terms that Eliza uses. Higgins explains that it is the new small talk. Freddy can barely contain his laughter. Higgins cues Eliza and she rises to leave. Freddy offers to walk her across the park, and she responds in perfect English, "Walk! Not bloody likely [Sensation]. I am going to take a taxi." Act 3, pg. 78

The Hills are shocked by Eliza's use of the vulgar term bloody, but with some coaching by Higgins accept it as part of the new small talk. Clara determines to use it at her next social engagement. Freddy is determined to see Eliza again. The Hills leave, and Higgins eagerly questions Mrs. Higgins on her opinion of Eliza's performance. She says Eliza will never be presentable while she continues to live with Higgins, because his language is so loose. He protests, but when Pickering sides with his mother he accepts the criticism. Mrs. Higgins inquires about the arrangement they have with the girl. After their explanation she cajoles them for playing with a live doll. Higgins replies saying, "You have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her. It's filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul." Act 3, pg. 82

Both Pickering and Higgins are effusive about Eliza's brilliant progress. They have a shouting match in which Pickering describes her skill at the piano and Higgins describes her precocious language acquisition. Mrs. Higgins reminds them that they should consider what they are going to do with this woman who they have educated beyond her social class. They brush off her concern, by saying they will find her some job, and leave discussing plans to take Eliza to the theater. Mrs. Higgins is exasperated and unable to continue writing letters.

Topic Tracking: Feminine Power 4
Topic Tracking: Language 6

Near the end of the six-month bet, Pickering and Higgins take Eliza to an exclusive party at an embassy in London. They arrive in style. Eliza wears an evening gown and diamonds. As Higgins is taking off his coat, a smartly dressed, bearded man greets him with open arms. He reminds Higgins that he is Nepommuck, the Hungarian linguistic prodigy and his former student. He says he speaks thirtytwo languages and can place a man anywhere in Europe just by hearing him speak. Nepommuck is called away to translate for a Greek diplomat, and Higgins worries that he may be able to figure out Eliza. Eliza is presented to the Ambassador and his wife. They compliment Pickering on his adopted daughter, and the wife tells Nepommuck to find out everything about her.

In the salon, the crowd admires Eliza's strange grace. The Ambassador's wife asks Higgins about Eliza, but is interrupted by Nepommuck who exclaims with pride that Eliza is a fraud. He says she is a Hungarian of royal blood. The Ambassador asks Higgins what he thinks, and he replies that she is an ordinary girl who has been taught to speak by an expert. They are not convinced, and think Higgins is stubborn and obsessed with cockney dialects. The group breaks up and Higgins and Pickering decide the bet has been decided in Higgins favor. The three leave the party.

Topic Tracking: Language 7

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