A Parent’s Guide to Pygmalion (Play)

WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Type: Classic, Comedy

Basic Plot: Henry Higgins, a phonetician, and his friend Colonel Pickering decide to teach a flower girl named Eliza how to be a proper lady in six months, mainly by changing her speech habits.


Plot: 3½/5 Above Average: The plot was unique. Higgins ability to help change a person to such a great extent is very interesting to watch or even read, but if you notice Eliza is still the same person on the inside, no matter how much her speech and manners change. The plot also shows how social status in the late Victorian era effected people and the pros and cons that the different classes brought them.

Setup and Style: 4½/5 Very Well Done: The play showed Eliza at three different stages of her development, so it was a good pace. I think that the play would have even been better as a novel though. It would have been interesting to read about Eliza at all her different stages, but for a play it was a good pace and showed her development appropriately.

I found the dialogue very enjoyable. The style was natural and playful. It was not extremely poetic or completely imaginary like Shakespeare’s work, yet still not realistic in every way. I think it was a good balance, sounding believable and occasionally realistic, but it was more elegant and intelligent then the way people speak as well. There are a lot of humorous things put in the dialogue as well such as sarcasm, the outrageous and ridiculous way Higgins speaks, and the exasperated way his mother and housekeeper speak to him.

Moral: 4/5 Very Good Morals: There are a few morals in the play Pygmalion. The first one is the idea that if given the right environment a person is capable of changing for the better. Though this does not always happen because of the choices a person makes no matter the situation, when given a chance a person that is thought to be destined to become a criminal or always be on welfare can completely change if given help. The second moral has to do with how people treat each other. Eliza is angry at Higgins because of the way he treats her, but in conclusion Higgins says that the important thing is not about how people are treated as much as making sure we treat all people the same. Now I do not completely agree with this idea as we should not treat people badly ever, but it is a good idea to keep in mind that we should not be a “respecter of persons” as the Bible is greatly against “buttering up” people that have a lot of money or are in politics. The last is the idea of building false expectations and having self-respect. Eliza seeks Higgins friendship and affection in a non-romantic way, and to get it she does things that were unexpected of her so that he will like her more. Though Higgins thinks of her as a friend, because he does not meet the standard that Eliza expects or thank her for what she does for him, she gets angry at him for not keep up to her expectations. In the end Higgins says that he finds he admires her more she has self-respect and is friendly just because she chooses rather than trying to buy friendship with servitude. He clearly explains it when he says, “No use slaving for me and then saying you want to be cared for: who cares for a slave?”

Overall: 4/5 Well Done: I really liked this play and think it is a very good piece of literature or theater. I like the style of the dialogue the different things it shows about social class, and the several morals that one can find in it. The play is also very funny and is good just for entertainment. I think teenagers and adults would appreciate it best, but an intelligent child younger than thirteen may also enjoy it as well.

Moral Content

Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Suggestive: When Higgins takes Eliza’s speech down, it is lightly suggested that she thinks he will report her for prostitution. The phrase is “molestation by young woman” is used when a man is saying Eliza was not trying to do anything immoral. Though it is not shown, it is mentioned that Eliza’s clothes were all burnt except for her hat. Her father suggests taking her home but says he can’t because of this. He also has lived with multiple women (not at the same time) without marrying them, though he wants to marry one. Eliza’s father also reveals that if they had wanted Eliza for immoral reasons he would have let them have her for some money.

Violence: 1/5 Non-Descriptive, Spoken Violence: Eliza thinks a Higgins will hit her, but he doesn’t. Higgins threatens Eliza when she considers selling his information to other people. Verbally violence and injury is mentioned and sometimes threatened, though mainly threatened for humorous reasons. No violence happens in the play.

Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 3½/5 Multiple forms of “damn” and “devil” are misused at least fifteen times each. “Bloody” is misused twice. The alternate term for donkey used to swear once. “Slut” is used once. Forms of God’s name are taken in vain thirteen times.

Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 0/5

Religious Issues: 1/5 In the play phrases like “purgatory” and such are used as descriptions, though they are not used in there original meaning. There are references of church positions that are related to the Anglican Church such as the bishop and clergyman. A church is hinted to be Lutheran or Catholic by its name.

Magic: 0/5 None

Others: It mentions several times that Eliza’s father drinks, and it is said how her aunt also drank, especially gin when she was ill. No drinking is shown in the play. Higgins asks Eliza if she wants champagne. Some men wear smoking jackets (jackets that men had to where when they smoked) but it never says they are smoking. Eliza is afraid that drugs have been put in her chocolate.

Overall: 3½/5 Almost Teenage Appropriate: There is a lot more swearing than I would prefer in this play and the suggestiveness is not overflowing, but still enough to be a small problem. I think it is age appropriate for teenagers that are at least fifteen or sixteen and older.

Disclaimer: All plays and musicals are done differently, and the author is not responsible if the play was better than or not as good as the review claims it is as all versions will have different performers, costumes, choreography, etc. If the play or musical did not meet your expectations we apologize in advance.

Also this review does not include commentary, forwards, or afterwords any version may have. It does not include the a review the prologue or epilogue that a special version may have.


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