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Free Study Guide-Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw-Free Book Notes
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SCENE SUMMARY AND NOTES

ACT THREE

Summary

The third Act opens at Higgins' mother's house on her at-home day. She is dismayed when Higgins turns up unexpectedly since his lack of social etiquette always succeeds in offending her vistors. Higgins tells her that he has a job for her and fills her in on the details of his latest project to pass off a common flower girl as a duchess in six months. He further tells her that he has invited Eliza to her at-home. Higgins allays his mother's fears by assuring her that he has instructed Eliza to restrict her conversation to only two subjects--the weather and everybody's health. Before Mrs. Higgins has any time to voice her objections, they are interrupted by the arrival of two guests - Mrs. and Miss Eynsford Hill. Very soon Colonel Pickering and Mr. Eynsford Hill (Freddy) are also ushered in by the parlor-maid. Higgins has had a lingering suspicion that he has seen Mrs. and Miss. Eynsford Hill somewhere earlier as he recognizes their accents. Shortly Miss. Doolittle is announced and an exquisitely dressed Eliza enters. She produces an impression of remarkable sophistication and awes those present.

Eliza speaks with pedantic correctness of pronunciation and her actions are marked with an air of studied grace. The conversation begins with a reference to the weather and Eliza's meteorological rejoinder, said in all seriousness, provides a few laughs. But Eliza does not keep to the weather and health, the subjects that Higgins had prescribed for her. She charts dangerous territories as she proceeds to voice her doubts that her aunt had not died of influenza but been murdered for her new straw hat. She launches into an elaborate description of her aunt's death that is full of idioms and abrasive and frank language.


Fortunately Higgins convinces those present that Eliza's strange way of conversation is the new small talk very current in the fashionable crowd. He is eager to leave since he fears that Eliza will expose herself if she continues in this manner any longer. He rises and looks at his watch which gives Eliza a hint that its time to leave. Eliza takes the hint to go and takes her leave of those present. Freddy, who is evidently smitten by her beauty, offers to accompany her while she walks across the park. It is here that Eliza responds with the infamous words - "Walk! Not bloody likely"- which shocks everybody present, especially Mrs. Eynsford Hill who laments that she really can't get used to the new ways. However, her daughter Clara declares that she finds the new small talk quaint and delightful.

The at-home breaks up as the Eynsford Hills leave. Higgins eagerly asks his mother whether Eliza is presentable. Mrs. Higgins pronounces her reservations and Pickering agrees that the "sanguinary element" needs to be eliminated form her conversation. Mrs. Higgins proceeds to voice her concern about Eliza's future. She rebukes Higgins and Pickering for being "a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll." However Higgins defends himself by saying that by teaching Eliza a new speech he is actually "filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul." Then in an extreme state of excitement Higgins and Pickering declare that they both take Eliza very seriously and that they are always "talking Eliza," "teaching Eliza," "dressing Eliza" and "inventing new Elizas."

But Mrs. Higgins resolutely insists that her son is overlooking the problem of what is to be done with Eliza after she is passed off as a lady. While Higgins does not foresee any problem and assumes that Eliza can go her own way with all the advantages that he has given her, Mrs. Higgins sees the case more accurately. She realizes that the advantages imparted by Higgins will transform Eliza into a fine lady that would disqualify her from earning her own living without giving her a fine lady's income. However, Pickering and Higgins don't consider this a significant problem and take their leave. Mrs. Higgins, after listening to her son and the Colonel on the subject of Eliza, can only say angrily, "Oh men! men!! men!!!"

Next the audience is offered a glimpse of Eliza's successful society appearance as a duchess at an Embassy in London one summer evening. It is given to understand that a considerable period of time has elapsed since Eliza's appearance at Mrs. Higgins' at-home. Eliza, dressed resplendently, arrives at the Embassy in a Rolls Royce car along with the Colonel and Higgins. The presence of Nepommuck, Higgins' best student of phonetics, provides the requisite degree of danger to Eliza's trial. Nepommuck recognizes Higgins and brags about his ability of being able to place any man in Europe by the sole virtue of his pronunciation. This worries Pickering who is afraid that Nepommuck might sniff out Eliza's origins and blackmail her. Higgins replies that they must wait to see what happens and concedes that if Neommuck exposes Eliza, then he shall lose his bet.

Meanwhile they are joined by Eliza, who declares that she has rehearsed this so many times that she dreams it now. She cautions Higgins not to wake her because if he does so she is liable to forget everything and talk Cockney.

Eliza is received by the Ambassador and his wife who are struck by the beautiful gravity of her pronunciation. As she passes to the drawing room, the hostess instructs Nepommuck to find out all about her. Eliza's strangely attractive self and magnificent dress and jewels dazzle everybody in the drawing room where the reception is in full swing. Higgins, who has grown quite cynical of the whole affair, joins the group of the host and hostess who are now mingling among their guests. Nepommuck soon joins them too. He announces quite dramatically that Eliza Doolittle is a fraud. According to him, Doolittle can't be her real name since it is an English name and Eliza isn't English. He reasons that he thinks only foreigners have been taught to speak well. He is convinced that Eliza is Hungarian and of royal blood since only royalty can produce that aura of divine right and resoluteness of purpose. When asked for his opinion, Higgins bluntly replies that he thinks that she is on ordinary London girl picked out of Drury Lane and taught to speak by an expert. However the others refuse to believe this and agree with Nepommuck that she must be a princess at least, although not necessarily legitimate.

Soon the group breaks up and Higgins is left alone. He is joined by Colonel Pickering and Eliza, who expresses her desire to leave. She feels that she has lost Higgins' bet since an old lady has told her that she speaks exactly like Queen Victoria. Pickering consoles her by saying that she has instead won the bet ten times over. Since they are all tired they leave.

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