A Note On The Opening Scene Of Pygmalion By G.B. Shaw

The opening scene of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” is a brilliant exposition that sets the stage for the transformative journey of its characters, particularly Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins. Taking place in Covent Garden, a bustling London market area, this scene is a masterful blend of social commentary and character introduction, laying the groundwork for the themes that permeate the play.

This scene serves as a microcosm of Edwardian society, highlighting the stark contrasts between different social classes. The diverse mix of characters, from the affluent Eynsford-Hills to the working-class flower girl Eliza, provides a vivid backdrop against which the play’s exploration of social mobility and class distinctions unfolds. Shaw’s acute ear for dialect and speech patterns is showcased here, as the way characters speak not only reveals their social standing but also becomes a central element in the plot.

Professor Henry Higgins, introduced as a phonetics expert, is found taking notes on the accents of the crowd, demonstrating his fascination and obsession with speech. Eliza Doolittle’s thick Cockney accent immediately draws his attention, setting the stage for their consequential interaction. Their meeting in this scene is pivotal, as it plants the seeds for Eliza’s transformation and the ensuing critique of societal attitudes towards class and language.

The bustling atmosphere of Covent Garden, with its vendors and passersby, is vividly captured by Shaw, offering a slice of life from Edwardian London. This setting not only grounds the play in a specific time and place but also adds a layer of realism to the social issues it explores.

Pygmalion is a representative play of G.B. Shaw. Shaw was a noted dramatist of modern Ireland. He is primarily a dramatist of ideas. A typical Shakespearean comedy is divided into three parts exposition, complication and resolution. Exactly in the same way, every Shavian comedy is divided into three parts-exposition, complication and resolution. The Pygmalion also has the same structural device. The first act of this play serves the purpose of exposition. In it we are introduced with the main characters of this play. At the same time, it also gives us an insight into the central action of the play. The action of the first act takes place in the portico of the St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is raining torrentially. Pedestrians have taken shelter into the portico of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Among the dipole taking shelter, there is a lady and her daughter in evening dress. All are peering out gloomily at the rain. There is one man who is completely pre-occupied with writing something in his note book.

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The name of the lady is Mrs. Eynsford Hill. She is accompanied with his daughter Clara. Freddy is her son. He has gone to brings a taxi for his mother and sister. In the portico, there are two mere also whose names are Mr. Higgins and Mr. Pickering. A flower girl also comes to take refuge. But Freddy dashes her violently. As a result of this, all her flowers are scattered from the basket. The mother of Freddy pays six pence to the flower girl for compensation to the loss of her flowers. Mr. Higgins is sympathetic to the flowers girl. He is a professor of phonetics. Mr. Pickering is another gentleman there who is an expert of oriental languages, Mr. Higgins is of the view that with bad pronunciation has no right to live. He decides to teach phonetics to the flower girl so that she may qualify for the job of lady’s maid and shop assistant.

Mr. Higgins and Mr. Pickering go together for dinner. Freddy comes with a taxi for his mother and sister who have gone to the bus station. This taxi is engaged by the flower girl. It is on this taxi that she comes to her house which is situated in the Buckingham palace area. The name of the flower girl is Eliza. She lives in a palace area. She lives in a single rom. It is extremely damp and out of repair. Her bed is wretched. As she is extremely tired, she lies on her bed and is thinks ways and means to improve her status, in the meantime she falls asleep. The action of the first comes to standstill at this very point. A close study of the this act of Pygmalion shows that her all the important characters of the play are introduced. Mrs. Eynsfort Hill is the mother of Clara and Freddy. The flower girl is the heroine of the play. She collides with Freddy at the time of seeking shelter into the portico of St. Paul’s church. This accidental collision later develops into the love, and ultimately it takes the shape of marriage. Mr. Higgins and Mr. Pickering are linguists. They show great concern for improving the status of flower girl whose name is Eliza. Mr. Higgins accepts her as one of his students and takes every care for her refinement. It is with his teaching that he looks and speaks like duchess. Mr. Higgins is a bachelor and as such, he wants to marry the flower girl. But the flower girl rejects her proposal because she gets love only from Mr. Freddy. In the last act of the play. the marriage ceremony of the flower girl is solemnized in the premises of the church. Thus, the first act of the play contains key to the central action of the whole play.

In essence, the opening scene of “Pygmalion” is a cleverly constructed introduction that not only presents key characters and settings but also frames the social themes that Shaw seeks to explore. Its engaging dialogue, rich characterizations, and vivid setting lay a strong foundation for the play’s exploration of identity, class, and the transformative power of language.

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