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A TEACHER’S GUIDE TO THE SIGNET CLASSICS EDITION OF

G EORG E B E R N A R D S HAW ’S

PYGMALION

By LAURA REIS MAYER
BUNCOMBE COUNTY SCHOOLS, ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA

S E R I E S

E D I T O R S

JEANNE M. MCGLINN, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Asheville and W. GEIGER ELLIS, Ed.D., University of Georgia, Professor Emeritus

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

TABLE OF CONTENTS

An Introduction .......................................................................................3
Synopsis of the Play .................................................................................3
Prereading Activities .................................................................................6
During Reading Activities ......................................................................13
After Reading Activities .........................................................................21
About the Author of this Guide .............................................................29
About the Editors of this Guide .............................................................29
Full List of Free Teacher's Guides...........................................................30
Click on a Classic ..................................................................................31

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

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AN INTRODUCTION
To a generation of students raised on Disney films, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is a familiar story: Eliza Doolittle is Cinderella, a beautiful working girl turned princess by fairy godmother Henry Higgins. And indeed, Eliza is surrounded by beautiful ball gowns, horse-drawn carriages, and a handsome young admirer. Yet perhaps it is Pinocchio that is a more accurate comparison. For just as Gepetto creates his puppet and then loses control of his naughty son, so Henry Higgins turns a flower girl into a lady only to discover she has a will of her own.
Beyond its fairy tale aspects, Pygmalion is a social commentary on the systems of education and class in Victorian England. And most interesting to Shaw himself is the drama’s treatment of language, its power, and the preconceptions attached to it by society.
Today’s teachers are in an excellent position to share the historic, linguistic, and cultural significance of Pygmalion. In a society where American legislators and laymen debate the need to make English the official language, and where musical artists and texting teenagers continue to create dialects of their own, Shaw’s message is clear: each of us is “a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech . . . Our native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The
Bible,” and this gift needs to be appreciated. Shaw’s play provides plenty of opportunity for appreciation, engendering a host of topics for classroom discussion, research, speech, essays, and projects.
This guide is designed to assist teachers in planning a unit accessible to readers of various levels and learning styles. Ideas include opportunities for listening, speaking, writing, and creating. Pre-reading activities are provided to prepare students for reading a Victorian play and to challenge students to think about Shaw’s themes.
During-reading activities ask students to read more critically. And Post-reading activities encourage students to evaluate the significance of Pygmalion by analyzing
Shaw’s style, researching historical and cultural components, and comparing the play to other works, including Alan Jay Lerner’s My Fair Lady, which is published as a companion piece in the Signet Classics edition. The scope and variety of activities offered in this guide can be used selectively by teachers in focusing on the objectives of their course and their students.

SYNOPSIS OF THE PLAY
ACT ONE
Heavy rain drenches Mrs. Eynsford-Hill and her two adult children, Freddy and
Clara, as they wait hopelessly for a cab. The Eynsford-Hills and other patrons have just exited the theatre after a late night show. As Freddie leaves to continue looking, he runs into flower girl Eliza Doolittle. Dressed in dirty rags, Eliza is not shy about voicing her displeasure, and in her loud cockney accent, demands payment for her ruined flowers. She is overheard by a gentleman note-taker, who correctly identifies
Eliza’s neighborhood simply by listening to her speech. He does the same for various

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

bystanders and amazes all, including linguistics expert Colonel Pickering, who has coincidently traveled to London to meet the famous note taker, phonetics extraordinaire Henry Higgins. Professor Higgins admonishes Eliza for her “kerbstone”
English, and jokingly asserts to Colonel Pickering that “in three months (he) could pass that girl off as a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party.” Pickering and
Higgins leave to discuss phonetics over dinner, and Freddy arrives with a cab only to discover his mother and sister have gone home on the bus. Eliza, still reeling from
Higgins’s insults, decides to treat herself to Freddy’s cab with the money Higgins threw into her flower basket. Eliza arrives at her small and sparse rental room, counts her money, and goes to bed fully dressed.

ACT TWO
The next day, Professor Higgins is demonstrating his phonetics equipment to
Colonel Pickering as both men relax at Higgins’ Wimpole Street laboratory. Mrs.
Pearce, Higgins’ housekeeper, announces the arrival of a young woman. Thinking he can show Pickering how he makes records of his subjects’ voices, Higgins asks Mrs.
Pearce to admit the visitor. Cleaned up yet still obviously poor, Eliza enters the study. Higgins tells her to leave, but Eliza insists she is there to pay for voice lessons so she can be a lady in a flower shop instead of a street corner flower girl. Mrs. Pearce admonishes Eliza for her ignorance and poor manners, but Higgins begins to consider Eliza’s proposal. Remembering Higgins’s boast, Pickering offers to pay for the lessons and all expenses if Higgins can fool the party-goers at the ambassador’s garden party and present Eliza as a lady. Higgins agrees excitedly and orders Mrs.
Pearce to get Eliza cleaned up. Eliza balks at this new development, and Mrs. Pearce warns Higgins that he knows nothing about Eliza’s family, nor has he thought about what to do with Eliza when the experiment is complete. Higgins is assured he is doing Eliza a favor, and with a mixture of chocolates and harsh scoldings, he talks her into staying. Mrs. Pearce shows Eliza to a lovely bedroom and bath, and scrubs her roughly despite Eliza’s protests.
Meanwhile, Higgins assures Pickering he has only a professional, not a personal, interest in Eliza, as he believes that romantic relationships are too troublesome. Mrs.
Pearce warns Professor Higgins that he must watch his language and manners now if he wishes to serve as a proper model for Eliza. Another visitor soon arrives, this time Eliza’s alcoholic and spendthrift father, Alfred Doolittle. At first pretending to protect Eliza’s honor, Doolittle quickly admits he wishes cash in exchange for silence over Eliza’s living situation. Professor Higgins calls Alfred’s bluff, but is then impressed by Doolittle’s tirade against middle class morality. Sensing a kindred, though shameless spirit, Higgins asserts he and Pickering could turn Doolittle into a politician in three month’s time. After a brief encounter with Eliza, whom he does not recognize, Doolittle leaves. The act closes with a sample of the phonetics lessons the sobbing Eliza endures for the next several months.

ACT THREE
The act opens several months later inside Mrs. Higgins’s drawing room as she expects visitors. Her house is tastefully decorated and quite the opposite of her son’s crowded

A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

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quarters. When Higgins arrives without notice, his mother is dismayed and asks him to leave before embarrassing her in front of the impending visitors. Higgins tells his mother about his experiment with Eliza, informing Mrs. Higgins that Eliza will be trying out her new skills in front of his mother’s guests. Next to arrive are Mrs. and
Miss Eynsford-Hill, Colonel Pickering, and Freddy. Professor Higgins embarrasses his mother by belittling small talk, the very purpose of at-home days such as this one. When Eliza arrives, her audience is impressed. She is exquisitely dressed and appears quite well-bred. Freddy is particularly taken with her. The talk of weather turns to illness, and Eliza forgets her training when she says her aunt was “done in.”
Lapsing totally into her cockney brogue, Eliza astounds her audience. When Higgins attempts to salvage the situation by telling them Eliza’s language is the “new small talk,” the Eynsford-Hills are even further impressed. Higgins signals Eliza it is time she leaves, and Clara Eynsford-Hill attempts the “new small talk” herself, admonishing “this early Victorian prudery.” Mrs. Higgins tells her son Eliza is not yet presentable, for although her appearance is impeccable, her language still gives her away. Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering respond by singing Eliza’s praises, boasting about her quick acquisition of dialect and her natural talent on the piano.
Echoing Mrs. Pearce’s earlier warning, Mrs. Higgins is concerned about what will become of Eliza when the men are finished “playing with (their) live doll.”
With the six-month deadline approaching, Eliza is presented at a London Embassy.
Professor Higgins is surprised to see one of his former pupils, a man who now makes his living as an interpreter and an expert placing any speaker in Europe by listening to his speech. The interpreter speaks to Eliza, and deems her English too perfect for an English woman. The interpreter is further struck by her impeccable manners and announces Eliza must be a foreign princess. Pickering, Higgins, and Eliza leave,
Eliza exhausted and the men exhilarated by winning their bet.

ACT FOUR
The trio returns to Higgins’s laboratory, the men still bragging about their experiment. When Higgins asserts, “Thank God it’s over,” Eliza is hurt. Hurling his slippers directly at Higgins, Eliza accuses him of selfishness and bemoans what is to become of her now that the bet is over. Higgins suggests finding a husband for Eliza, and she is further insulted. Storming out of the house, Eliza encounters Freddy, who has been pacing, lovelorn, outside her window. Freddy expresses his love, and he and
Eliza get into a taxi to make plans.

ACT FIVE
The next morning, Mrs. Higgins is seated at her drawing-room writing table when
Higgins and Pickering arrive to report Eliza’s disappearance. Reproaching the men for their treatment of Eliza, Mrs. Higgins is interrupted by the arrival of Eliza’s father. Alfred Doolittle is dressed like a gentleman and is on his way to his own wedding. Blaming Professor Higgins for his newly found riches, Alfred explains how
Higgins’ letter to the recently deceased Ezra D. Wannafeller led to Doolittle’s share in the wealthy man’s trust with the provision that Alfred lecture for the Moral
Reform World League. Doolittle laments the fact that he has to “live for others and

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

not for (him)self: that’s middle class morality.” When Mrs. Higgins announces that
Eliza is upstairs, Higgins demands to see the girl. Eliza thanks Colonel Pickering for treating her like a lady, but accuses Professor Higgins of always thinking of her as a flower girl. Asserting her need for self respect, Eliza says she will not be returning home to Higgins. As the party leaves to go to Alfred’s wedding, Pickering and
Higgins both ask Eliza to reconsider. Higgins admits that he has not treated Eliza kindly, but reminds her that he treats all people exactly the same. Admitting that he has “grown accustomed” to her, Higgins tells Eliza that he wants her to return, not as a slave or a romantic interest, but as a friend. When Eliza asserts that she has always been as good as Higgins despite her upbringing, the professor is truly impressed. Though the play ends ambiguously, with the possibility of Eliza marrying
Freddy, she and Higgins have admitted their non-conventional need for each other, and Eliza has won Professor Higgins’s respect.

PRE-READING ACTIVITIES
These activities are designed to deepen students’ background knowledge of Victorian history, to widen their comprehension of literary genres and language, and to introduce them to the play’s major themes. (Note: Consult other Teacher’s Guides to Signet Classics; they contain ideas that can be adapted to prepare students to read and enjoy this play).

I.

LITERARY SOURCES AND FORMS
BACKGROUND READING

As a class, read the original story of the sculptor Pygmalion in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Focus on the relationship between the artist and his creation. Discuss as a class:
1.

Who is more responsible for Galatea’s “awakening,” Pygmalion or Aphrodite?
Explain.

2.

Because he is her creator, is Pygmalion’s love for Galatea indicative of selfobsession? To what extent is his love ethical?

3.

What rights of her own does Galatea have?

MULTIMEDIA PRESENTATION

Other myths detail artists and their human-like inventions, as well as characters who fall in love with themselves or their own creations. Ask students to read and find these connections to the Pygmalion legend. In partners, students choose one of the following mythological characters and research Edith Hamilton’s Mythology and other library sources for information to be compiled into a short multimedia presentation. The presentation summarizes the new myth or figure and suggests a connection to Ovid’s original. While partners share findings with the class, other

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students take notes. The objective is two-fold: whet students’ appetites for uncovering the play’s legendary and timeless intrigue, and provide practice in research, writing, and speaking. A topic list is below:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Daedalus
Elissa
Narcissus
Pandora
Talos

LITERARY ARCHETYPES

Introduce the different types of literary archetypes with emphasis on the artist as well as the inventor, the beggar, the fairy godmother (godfather), the quest, and the initiation. Descriptions and even personality tests to identify students’ own archetypes can be found online and in personality handbooks. Helpful sites include:
1.
2.

http://www.metareligion.com/Psychiatry/Analytical_psychology/a_ gallery_of_archetypes.htm http://www.readprint.com/article-3

Discuss with students:
1.
2.
3.

What characteristics define the archetype?
Name some artist/orphan/godmother archetypes in literature, film, and society. (Consider the film Pretty Woman, which showcases all three.)
How are these archetypes perceived in contemporary society? How has that perception evolved over time? Explain.

ROMANCE

Discuss the genre of romance. Ask students to describe what “romance” typically means. Answers will probably include “a love story” and “chick flicks.” Make a list on the board or overhead of books and movies the students have read or seen that would fall under the “romance” category. Remind the class that “romantic comedies” are a literary tradition dating back to Shakespeare. Ask students if they have read or seen Much Ado About Nothing, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Discuss the mix of humor and male-female relationship issues that is central to these works, and that while a “romance” to some is simply a love story, a “romantic comedy” delves into deeper issues about human relationships while maintaining a witty tone.
Explain to students that Victorian romances are more along these lines, that in addition to the witty dialogue and the relationships between men and women,
Victorian romances such as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre also set out to examine social issues, and often showcase leading ladies who are impoverished yet inherently moral, and male protagonists who learn that money and character do not necessarily go hand in hand. George Bernard Shaw is a Victorian playwright who makes these same issues central to Pygmalion: A Romance in Five Acts.

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

SHAVIAN DRAMA

Shavian (referring to Shaw) drama is the type of politically and socially charged
“discussion play” made popular by George Bernard Shaw and his contemporary,
Oscar Wilde. Shavian theater is in direct contrast to the simplistic fare deplored by
Shaw and typically found on the Victorian stage. For background on Shaw’s philosophical and literary ideals, ask students to read Richard H. Goldstone’s
“Introduction” and “George Bernard Shaw: Pygmalion” in the Signet Classics
Edition of Pygmalion.

II. KNOWLEDGE OF VICTORIAN HISTORY AND CULTURE
VICTORIAN WEB QUEST

Individually or in groups, students can use the internet to delve into Victorian history and culture. Teachers can create their own topics and links, or they can utilize web resources already available. Topics might include Victorian education, marriage, language, social reform, theatre, and clothing.
These links provide a starting point:






http://www.victorianweb.org/ http://www.britainexpress.com/History/Victorian_index.htm http://www.victorianstation.com/ http://www.victorianlondon.org/ http://www.victoriana.com/

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Pygmalion references many artists, designers, architecture, and traditions significant in Victorian England. Give students a list of items specifically referenced in
Pygmalion. Ask them to research each item and create a bibliographic entry for every source they use as well as a paragraph detailing the information that the source provides. Later, while reading the play, students can discuss their findings when the topic is referenced in the text.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

Covent Garden (5)
Inigo Jones (5)
St. Paul’s Church (5)
Sir Christopher Wren (5)
St. Paul’s Cathedral (5)
Cecil Lawson (51)
William Morris (51)
Edward Burne-Jones (51)
“at-home day” (51) navvy (47)

A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

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ART CRITICISM

On PowerPoint or similar computer slide program, show students a collection of paintings and sculptures that depict Pygmalion and Galatea. As each piece is shown, ask students to draw a thumbnail sketch for their notes, and then write a brief description and a brief analysis. After the viewing is complete, ask students to reflect on the works as a whole. Do they share any patterns in style, subject matter, or theme? Discuss the relationship between the artist and his creation. A collection of possible works appears below.
1.

Goya’s Pygmalion and Galatea (1812)

2.

Falconet’s Pygmalion and Galaté (1763)

3.

Burne-Jones four part series of Pygmalion (1868-1870); (1875-1878)

4.

Gerome’s Pygmalion and Galatea (1890)

5.

Rodin’s Pygmalion et Galatée (1908)

AUTHOR TIMELINE

Several ideas in Pygmalion (such as Higgins’ socialistic beliefs) have direct parallels to Shaw’s personal history. Ask students to create a timeline based on George
Bernard Shaw’s life and career. The information can be found in many British
Literature textbooks or in a print or online encyclopedia. Timelines can be handdrawn, word-processed, or digitally produced. Make sure to ask students to leave room to add information, because during the reading of the text, they can make connections between the play and Shaw’s life.

III. KNOWLEDGE OF LANGUAGE
PHONETIC ALPHABETS

Shaw asserted that Pygmalion is actually about phonetics. And his will included a suggestion that an alternate English alphabet be written in phonetics, and that a contest be held to produce it. He even offered money from his estate to encourage contest entries. The winner was Kinsley Read, who named the Shaw alphabet “Shavian.”
Have students study the Shavian alphabet and the International Phonetic Alphabet,
(IPA) and practice writing some of the symbols. Links appear below.
1.
2.

http://www.omniglot.com/writing/shavian.htm http://www.omniglot.com/writing/ipa.htm For further enrichment, ask students to translate a line from a famous poem or song into one of the phonetic alphabets. Students can switch and challenge each other to read the phonetic verses.

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

PARODY

Ask students to read Pygmalion’s opening scene, where Higgins guesses bystanders’ neighborhoods from their accents. Next, have students “translate” the scene for an audience of 21st century young adults by altering diction, syntax, and style, but maintaining Shaw’s plot and meaning. Students might choose to place Higgins in the Wild West, or in the contemporary South, or on the streets of New York.
Bystanders’ accents will change accordingly. Students might even choose to write the scene in “texting” or “Instant Message” (IM) language. This activity strengthens skill in audience, purpose, and comprehension, and can also be used as a directed reading or post-reading assessment.
COMPARISON/CONTRAST

Since Shaw’s favorite authors were Shakespeare and Milton, read aloud a monologue from Hamlet and from Paradise Lost (or other selections). Then read modern translations of both pieces. Links are found below. Ask students:
1.

What survives the translation?

2.

What is lost in translation?

3.

Is plot the most important message the author wants us to receive?

4.

What stylistic characteristics define each writer? Do these characteristics appear in the translation?



http://www.paradiselost.org/index-2.html



http://nfs.sparknotes.com/hamlet/page_18.epl

IV. INITIAL EXPLORATION OF THEMES
SOCIAL CLASSES AND DISTINCTIONS
TREE DIAGRAM

Write the words “social class” on the board and enclose them in a rectangle. Ask students to name social classes they believe exist in today’s society. Write their responses in rectangles directly under the main topic and connect them to the original with lines. Encourage students to develop the diagram more fully by assigning perceived characteristics and behaviors to each of these classes. Discussion:
Why do these distinctions exist? How has the class system in America changed over the years? Can Americans move from one class to another, or are there restrictions?
ROLE PLAY

Assign partners a scenario where one student coaches the other in preparation for a social event. For example, one student helps his partner prepare for a state dinner at the White House. What clothes should she wear? How should she speak? Which forks go with what food? Another group could prepare for a barbeque at a friend’s house. Ask partners to stage an impromptu scene with each other. Afterwards, ask

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partners to discuss their choices with the class. Why were the dress and language at the barbeque less formal? Emphasize social class distinctions and expectations.
DIRECTED READING ACTIVITY

Read aloud with students the first scene of Pygmalion. Ask them to take note of any descriptions or dialogue that indicates class differences. For example, students might write down Eliza and Doolittle’s contrasting outfits, or the difference in dialect between the flower girl and the theatre patrons. After the reading is complete, compile a class list on the board and discuss connections to contemporary society.
To what extent do clothes still “make the man”? Should it matter how a person speaks? Why and in what circumstances?
SOCIALISM
FREE WRITING

Give students a set time period to respond to one of the following prompts in writing, and then share with a partner or the class.
1.

Is education a right or a privilege? Is there a time when we have the right to deny education? Whose responsibility is it to place graduating students in college, careers, or training paths?

2.

To what extent does money equal social class in America? Can you think of anyone who has money but lacks “class”? Discuss.

3.

If two job candidates are equal in education and experience, is it fair to offer the job to the candidate who presents a more polished image? How is this image related to class?

INTRODUCTORY READING

1.

Ask students to read the foreword to Pygmalion in the Signet Classics edition. Point out the passage that says, “Pygmalion has as its subjecttheme the institutions man has constructed to help perpetuate both the privileges of the rich and the servility of the poor”(xi). Ask students what some of these institutions are in contemporary society. Language?
Education? Housing? Discuss.

2.

Ask students to read the article “The Fabian Society,” which details Shaw’s utopian socialist philosophy. The link is found below. Ask them to find and record the following information. What are the essential beliefs of
Fabian Socialism? Name three famous Fabian Society Members. How did
Fabians differ from Marxists? What was their time frame for action?



http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/LSEHistory/fabian.htm

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

THE POWER OF LANGUAGE
DEBATE

Divide the class into two groups. One group will argue the significance of formal spoken English; the other will support the importance of conversational English.
Ask each side to prepare supporting points, as well as predict what the opposing side will say. Allow students to use both personal and academic evidence. For example, students might reference the current debate on English as the official language of the
U.S., or they might defend the use of instant messenger shorthand when chatting with friends online. Challenge them to make connections to their own lives. Hold a class debate, complete with cross-examinations and rebuttals.
LOST IN TRANSLATION

Read aloud in class Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet XLIII, “How Do I Love
Thee.” Discuss the impact of its formal tone and diction. Now ask students to
“translate” the sonnet into modern slang or hip-hop lyrics. Share the results and discuss the impact of the language changes. Can the same feeling be expressed with vastly different word choice?
LANGUAGE LAW 101

Ask students to take the role of a college professor, designing a handout for a course in language law. They must prepare a list of do’s and don’ts for speaking in formal society. Tell students to include penalties for broken laws, such as what happens when someone uses a double negative or offensive language in formal society. Lists may be compiled individually or in groups and can be photocopied and shared with the class.
THE ARTIST’S DILEMMA
FILM CLIP

Show students the clip from Disney’s Pinocchio where Gepetto’s wish comes true and his puppet turns into a real boy, who is warned by the Blue Fairy that he needs to fully understand himself prior to being considered “human.” A discussion of the scene is an excellent introduction to the idea of the Artist’s Dilemma.
Discuss with students:
1.

What archetypal roles are played by Gepetto, Pinocchio, and the Blue
Fairy?

2.

Is Gepetto’s wish for his puppet to become real an ethical desire?

3.

What is the role of an artist in reference to his work? Should he be able to control his art, or to control the outside world’s reactions to it? At what point must the artist abandon his creation?

THINK, PAIR, SHARE

Discuss with the class the fascination the public still maintains with Leonardo Da
Vinci’s 500-year-old Mona Lisa. For centuries audiences have argued the meaning of

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her enigmatic smile. Dan Brown’s bestselling The Da Vinci Code asserts that Da
Vinci ascribed countless hidden messages and meanings to this work, and that the painting is much more than simple representative art. Yet the fact remains that the artist cannot tell us for sure. And so we are left with the eternal question, does the artist lose control of his art the minute it leaves his brush, pen, or mold? Does the audience have a right to interpretation? Can the art take on a life of its own? More importantly, should it? Ask students to respond in writing after thinking about these questions, then find a partner and share responses.

DURING READING ACTIVITIES
These activities invite students to examine the text more closely and to think, speak, and write analytically about the themes and issues introduced in the pre-reading activities. Whether the play is read aloud in class or silently at home, teachers can choose appropriate assignments from the ideas below.

I.

ANALYZING THROUGH INDIVIDUAL RESPONSE
QUOTATION JOURNALS (ELECTRONIC OR HANDWRITTEN)

Quotation journals encourage students to take a second look while reading and to read for analysis, not simply plot. The best journals are composed as the student reads, not after the reading is completed. In this way students prove to themselves and their teachers that they are thinking as they read. Whether handwritten or electronic journals that students submit via email, teachers can add comments throughout, responding personally to ideas students may not be willing to verbalize in class.
Ask students to find one or more significant quotations from each act in Pygmalion, and then write down or type their quotations. After each quotation, students analyze in a short paragraph why they found the quotation significant. They might comment on patterns they see developing, themes they see evolving, social or historical commentary they see being made, or connections they believe tie the play to modern society. As the journal progresses, students should see their notes falling into categories that illustrate their comprehension of Shaw’s significant themes and issues.
Later, quotation journals can be used to initiate student-led discussions in class. Ask students: “Who would like to share a quotation from Act Two?” After a student answers, the teacher can invite responses, and the discussion is off and running.
READER’S RESPONSE

The reader’s response is a short (one page or so), informal written reaction to a section of text. Reading responses are often written during, not after reading, to organize student thoughts and to allow teacher assessment of student comprehension during the reading process. Reader’s responses are most useful and analytical when students pick narrow topics rather than combinations of issues. In this way students

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

are encouraged to “dig deep” rather than stay on the surface of comprehending the play. While the reading response is assessed less formally than an essay, students should be required to illustrate good organizational strategies, include a thesis that is narrow in focus, and most importantly, use the text to support their analysis.
Response topics can be assigned by the teacher, but allowing students a choice of topics promotes confidence, thereby developing writer’s voice.
Possible response prompts include:
1.

Choose a minor character from the play and analyze his/her role in the play. Examples include:
• Mrs. Pearce
• Clara
• Colonel Pickering
• Alfred Doolittle

2.

Choose a symbol, pattern, or theme we’ve talked about and trace its significance throughout the play or scene. Examples include:
• Middle class morality
• Male mastery
• Narcissism
• Artists’ lack of control over their subjects
• Victorian class system

3.

Pick a quotation or passage that addresses one of the major themes or issues we’ve been discussing in class. Discuss its significance. Sample passages include:
1.

“A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere – no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible: and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.” (Act I, p 14)

2.

“You see, she’ll be a pupil; and teaching would be impossible unless pupils were sacred.” (Act II, p. 35)

3.

“What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything.” (Act II, p. 43)

4.

“You see, we’re all savages, more or less. We’re supposed to be civilized and cultured – to know all about poetry and philosophy and art and science, and so on; but how many of us even know the meanings of these names? What do you know of poetry?
What does he know of art or science or anything else? What the devil do you imagine I know of philosophy?” (Act III, p. 57)

5.

“Such nonsense, all this early Victorian prudery!” (Act III, p. 61)

6.

“You certainly are a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll.” (Act III, p. 63)

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7.

“(She speaks) too perfectly. Can you show me any English woman who speaks English as it should be spoken? Only foreigners who have been taught to speak it speak it as well.” (Act III, p.70)

8.

“We were above that at the corner of Tottenham Court Road. . . .
I sold flowers. I didn’t sell myself. Now you’ve made a lady out of me I’m not fit to sell anything else. I wish you’d left me where you found me.” (Act IV, p. 77)

9.

“Let her speak for herself. You will jolly soon see whether she has an idea that I haven’t put into her head or a word that I haven’t put into her mouth. I tell you I have created this thing out of the squashed cabbage leaves of Covent Garden; and now she pretends to play the fine lady with me.” (Act V, p.92)

10. “The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manners for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another.” (Act V, pp. 97-98)
CLASS EXPERTS

A variation on the annotated bibliography from the pre-reading activities: each student can research one of the play’s references to Victorian people and places and be prepared to present the information to classmates when the reference occurs during reading.
For example, when Eliza explains her father is a “navvy” by trade (p. 47), the student who researched that topic can explain to the class that “navvys” in Victorian England were common laborers who dug ditches for government work projects.
STAGE DIRECTIONS AND DESCRIPTIONS

At the beginning of Acts Two and Three, Shaw writes a lengthy description first for
Higgins and his laboratory, and then Mrs. Higgins and her drawing room. Eliza has been detailed twice, first as the bedraggled flower girl, then as she cleans up for her visit to Wimpole Street. Yet the other characters have much shorter, if any, descriptions. And other rooms in the two houses are not described at all.
Ask students to become playwrights and set designers by choosing a character, such as Mrs. Pearce, or a room, such as Higgins’s bedroom, to describe. Students should respect what choices Shaw has already made, but tap their creativity to delve deeper.
These descriptions are very useful as an examination of character history, motivation, and thought process, and lead to better comprehension of the play as a whole.
Considerations might include:
1.

What does this character look like? How does he/she carry himself? How does he/she dress?

2.

How does this character speak? Does he/she have any identifiable speech patterns? 16

A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

3.

Analyze the character’s personality strengths and flaws. From where do they stem? How do they affect the choices he/she makes?

4.

What décor or style best reflects this personality? What colors would the character choose? Why? What objects would best convey this character?
Would his/her room include personal possessions? What would they be?

SCRIPT WRITING

Ask students to step into the playwright’s shoes by writing a monologue, dialogue, or scene. When students write script, they demonstrate their understanding of Shaw’s writing style, characterization, and dramatic purpose. Students can write in either
Victorian or modern language. Speeches can illustrate characters’ internal or external struggles, elaborate on one of their thoughts, or depict their objectives. Scripts can be assessed as written assignments, or students can perform them before the class, as well.
Ideas for script writing include:
1.

Pretend you are Mrs. Pearce in Act One. Explain to Eliza why she is stepping beyond her proper place in approaching Professor Higgins.

2.

Put yourself in Mrs. Higgins’ shoes in Act Three. Elaborate on what you mean when you tell Higgins that he offends all your friends.

3.

Take on the role of Eliza in Act Four. Instead of threatening to smash
Higgins’s face, verbalize your reasons for being angry at his reaction to the garden party.

RECOMMENDATION LETTERS AND RÉSUMÉS

Early in the play both Mrs. Pearce and Mrs. Higgins warn Professor Higgins to think about what will become of Eliza when the experiment is completed. Higgins suggests she can be a flower shop girl or a society wife. Ask students to come up with their own suggestions after reading Act III, pages 64-65, where Higgins and
Pickering list Eliza’s many skills. Students can write a letter of recommendation for
Eliza or a resume with a modern profession for its objective. Provide models of both.
Make sure students see skill-based as well as chronological resumes, so they can decide which best suits Eliza’s needs. This activity demonstrates comprehension of characterization, provides practice in technical writing, and gives students a sense of real-world relevance. Students can find resume and recommendation templates on line or can be provided a format by the teacher. Eliza’s resume or letter might include:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

Name and address
Objectives, goals
Education
Relevant experience
Skills
Honors & awards
References

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Student work can be creative and even amusing, provided that students illustrate attention to and comprehension of text. An extension of this activity would ask students to compose their own résumés in preparation for college admission or job opportunities. II. ANALYZING THROUGH GROUP RESPONSE
READER’S THEATRE

Assign roles for a particular act and ask students to sit in a row of chairs at the front of the classroom. Students use their scripts, but they should utilize vocal and facial expression to bring the play alive for the class.
Alternatively, clear a space in the middle or front of the classroom and ask students to stand and follow stage directions as they read the play. Provide a flower basket for
Eliza and a pipe for Henry Higgins, and watch students have fun.
After the reading, hold a “Meet the Cast” Session, where actors discuss their characterization choices with the rest of the class. Alternatively, students can journal or write a critical response to explain their interpretations.
To prepare for dramatic reading activities, teachers might choose one or more of the following activities.
1.

Character Sketch – If the reading will be done after the class has discussed or read part of the play already, ask students to write a one-page, firstperson point of view description of the character whose lines they will read. For instance, a student reading Henry Higgins might write, “My name is Henry Higgins. I am forty-five years old, I love language, and I despise any type of sentimentality. I was raised in an upper class home, but
I am of the firm belief that money is not what determines a person’s character.” For minor characters, students can fill in the blanks, creating appropriate backgrounds for characters whose description is light.

2.

Modeling – If the reading will be done without prior discussion or research, the teacher can model proper interpretive form for students. Pick a monologue from the assigned reading and read once with no vocal inflection or facial expression, and then follow up with an animated reading of the same passage. Ask students to point out specific qualities that made the second reading more interesting and informative. Make a list on the board of those qualities students should reflect as they read, such as volume, enthusiasm, facial expression, and word-emphasis.

3.

Line Rehearsal – This is a variation of teacher modeling. Choose several lines from Pygmalion and ask one or more students to read them one at a time, first with no emphasis, inflection, or expression, and then with energy and meaning. Ask readers to explain their interpretive choices.

4.

Role Study – Show students a clip from My Fair Lady and ask them to take notes on the actor who portrays the part they will be reading. How does the character speak? Describe his accent. Is the character loud or soft

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

spoken? Does he use any hand gestures? How does his vocal and physical portrayal help define his character? Do you like the actor’s choices? Why or why not? Students can choose to fashion their characterization on the film, or they may create their own interpretations. In any case, ask students to be ready to defend their choices.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Discussion questions encourage students to deepen their individual analysis of the play by sharing their reactions with classmates. Students generally feel more comfortable sharing their ideas with a small group of peers first. When group discussions are complete, student spokespersons can discuss their findings with the class as a whole.
Discussion questions on Pygmalion ask students to analyze playwright’s purpose, theme, social commentary, and literary techniques. Below are some thought-provoking questions from each act.
ACT I

1.

At the opening of Act I, Shaw makes a distinction between St. Paul’s
Cathedral and St. Paul’s Church. Why might this difference be important?

2.

A bystander defends Higgins with “It’s aw rawt: e’s a gentleman: look at his boots” (page 9). What does this observation signify about social class and crime?

3.

Higgins identifies Eliza’s neighborhood and upbringing simply by listening to her accent. Do such judgments and assumptions occur in our society?
Discuss.

4.

Compare Higgins’ and Pickering’s treatment of Eliza.

5.

In the scene where Eliza returns home and puts herself to bed, description is lengthier than dialogue. Give more than one reason for this stylistic choice.

ACT II

1.

What does the lengthy description of Higgins’ laboratory tell you about his character? What is important to him? What is of no importance?

2.

Throughout the opening scene, Mrs. Pearce treats Eliza with disdain. What does her attitude toward the girl illustrate about Mrs. Pearce’s placement in the social hierarchy? Keep in mind Mrs. Pearce is a housekeeper.

3.

What does Higgins mean when he says, “teaching would be impossible unless pupils were sacred”? (35)

4.

Describe the irony in Mrs. Pearce’s warning to Higgins about his language and manners.

5.

Why do you think Shaw created the character of Alfred Doolittle?

ACT III

1.

Shaw goes to great lengths to describe Mrs. Higgins’s drawing room. Based on this description, compare Mrs. Higgins with her son.

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2.

Mrs. Higgins says Henry “offends all (her) friends.” Based on what you’ve seen of Higgins so far, how do you suppose he offends them? Does that make his offensive behavior towards Eliza more acceptable? Explain.

3.

Why is Eliza’s lapse into the cockney dialect not only acceptable, but admirable in this setting?

4.

Mrs. Higgins asks, “what is to be done with her (Eliza) afterwards.” (65)
Explain her concern.

5.

Identify the literary technique in Higgins’ response to Nepommuck: “I say an ordinary London girl out of the gutter and taught to speak by an expert. I place her in Drury Lane.” (71)

ACT IV

1.

Why does Higgins’ exclamation, “Thank God it’s over!” (73) hurt Eliza?

2.

Give more than one reason Eliza decides to leave Wimpole Street.

3.

Is Freddy in love, or is he infatuated? On what is his admiration based?
How is his relationship with Eliza different than Higgins’? How is it similar?

ACT V

1.

Why is Alfred Doolittle so unhappy to be wealthy?

2.

How are Doolittle and Higgins mirror images of one another?

3.

Under what circumstances does Higgins want Eliza to come back? Try to
“read between the lines.”

4.

What is Eliza’s greatest concern about returning? How does this concern fit in with Victorian morality? Explain.

5.

Shaw purposely leaves the ending ambiguous. What is his purpose in doing so?

FUN AND GAMES

Create a “Bingo” or “tic-tac-toe” grid with significant themes and topics. Photocopy and distribute the same or different grids to each student. Several internet sites are available to help you design your grids. As the class reads Pygmalion aloud, students look for examples of topics on their grids. The first student to shout out the topic and defend it with textual support gets to check off that topic on his grid. Class gets noisy at times, but students stay alert as they try to win.
Sample topics include:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

social inequality gender relations male mastery middle class morality education system artist verses his art power of language

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

ONLINE DISCUSSION BOARD

Using an online teaching assistant such as Blackboard or Moodle, create a discussion topic for student responses outside of class. Give students a deadline to respond, and ask them to discuss not only the initial topic, but their classmates’ responses as well.
You may wish to extend the discussion in class.
ELECTRONIC CHAT ROOM

The difference in the discussion board and the online chat is that discussion boards take place over a period of days, whereas the chat occurs in “real time,” while the teacher is present and monitoring. Using a program such as Blackboard or Moodle, students register under fake screen names in order to participate in an online discussion board. The teacher posts two or three open-ended questions designed to elicit a broad range of answers with the capacity for complex and controversial responses. In a computer lab or lap-top classroom, students read and respond to each other’s posts in silence. Because online postings allow multiple responses simultaneously, questions that normally receive only a few verbal responses in the classroom elicit many more responses online. And due to the screen names’ anonymity, students who usually are too reticent to share aloud are encouraged to respond without fear of appearing foolish or hurting classmates’ feelings. The teacher’s job is to insure posts are on-task and analytical. Assessments can be completed later when the teacher pulls up the discussion as a whole.
Sample chat room prompts include:
1.

Is Higgins a fairy godmother or a mad scientist?

2.

Defend or support Doolittle’s accusations about “middle class morality.”

3.

Who cares for Eliza more, Freddy or Higgins? Explain.

STUDY GUIDE

Ask student groups to devise their own study guides and demonstrate their recognition of significant patterns, themes, and excerpts in Pygmalion. The guides will illustrate their comprehension of the play at surface as well as analytical levels, and can serve as a study tool for the rest of the class. Ask groups to compose three easy “recall” questions and their answers. Such questions might start with “Name,” or “What is”, or “Describe.” A sample recall question might read, “What is Higgins’s profession?” Then, the group composes three “comprehension” questions. These questions might begin, “Why does", or “Discuss”, or “Explain.” Again, the group composes a key with complete answers, as well. A sample comprehension question might ask, “Why does Higgins admire Doolittle’s ramblings about the middle class?”
Next, the group finds three quotations or excerpts that they feel are significant to the play as a whole. After writing these down, the group writes an explanation of their significance, too. A sample quotation might be, “He’s no right to take away my character. My character is the same to me as any lady’s” (Act I, p. 13). The student explanation might read, “Here, Eliza asserts that despite her poverty, her morality

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should not be in question. The use of the word “lady” is significant, because it is a name typically ascribed to the Victorian wealthy.” Finally, the groups switch and answer the questions and analyze the quotations found on each other’s study guides.
In doing so, they are learning cooperatively and gaining confidence in interpretation outside the teacher-led discussion.
SCENE ANALYSIS

Ask several groups of students to re-read an identical passage from Pygmalion.
Afterwards, each group will be responsible for analyzing a particular aspect of the excerpt, recording their findings, and then discussing them with the class as a whole.
For example, groups may read the end of Act IV, where Eliza escapes Wimpole Street with Freddy.
Group 1: Discuss characterization. Why does Freddy love Eliza? Is his understanding of her character different than Higgins’s? Compare Freddy’s and Higgins’s motivations.
Group 2: Discuss the use of irony. Why do the police approach Freddy and Eliza but not Higgins, Pickering, and Eliza?
Group 3: Discuss setting. Why does Shaw associate Freddy with cabs twice in the play?
When she leaves with Freddy in a cab, what is Eliza demonstrating?

AFTER READING ACTIVITIES
These activities encourage students to deepen their interpretation of Pygmalion by helping them make connections between themes and issues in the play, in other works, and in the outside world.

I. TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION AND ESSAYS
Now that students have read the entire play, they can return to the text for a deeper understanding of its significant themes. The following topics and questions can be used for whole class and small group discussion or as essay topics.
1.

Revisit one of your quotation journal entries or your reading response.
Now that you have completed the play, what further commentary can you add? Do you see your topic differently now? Why or why not?

2.

Shaw explores the artificiality of class distinctions throughout Pygmalion.
Trace this theme throughout the play. What classes are represented in the play? On what factors is membership based? Which characters strive to move above their class? Which wish to stay as they are? What are their reasons?

3.

The original Pygmalion is a sculptor who creates a beautiful woman out of clay and is rewarded when she turns human. How does Henry Higgins mold Eliza’s character in much the same way? As Eliza’s creator, does
Higgins deserve a certain amount of control over her? Where does his creation end and Eliza’s independence begin? What is the nature of the relationship between artists and their art? Discuss.

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

4.

Pygmalion is in many ways a Cinderella story with its transformation of a poor but lovely young girl into a princess. But is Eliza the only character to undergo such a transformation? Consider her father, Alfred Doolittle, as well as Henry Higgins himself. Describe the other transformations.
Whose transformation is the most significant? Why?

5.

George Bernard Shaw entitles his play Pygmalion: A Romance in Five Acts.
Is Pygmalion really a romance? Or is it a comedy? Shaw suggests the play is about language, while many critics interpret it as a satire with a socialist message. Consider the characteristics of romances, comedies, and satires, and cite specific evidence from the play to support your answer. Argue for one of these interpretations.

6.

Much is made of “middle class morality” in Pygmalion. To what extent is this phrase an oxymoron? What is Shaw suggesting about the rules and traditions of his class?

7.

Consider the character of Henry Higgins. Is he closest in character to
Doolittle, Freddy, or the sculptor, Pygmalion? Is Higgins a hero? A socialist with noble aspirations? Or a failure as a human being? Could Higgins be more accurately labeled an “anti-hero?” Research this archetype and discuss.

8.

Why are there so many references to “what is to become” of Eliza? Trace these references throughout the play. What broader concern for society might Shaw be expressing?

9.

What is the role of Alfred Doolittle in Pygmalion? Is he simply a fool cast for comic relief? Or is he more? Explain.

10. The ending of the play is ambiguous in that the audience does not know whether Eliza marries Freddy or returns to live with Higgins. Why did
Shaw write such an open ending? Cite evidence from Eliza’s closing speeches to indicate which choice you believe she makes.

II. CONNECTING TO MY FAIR LADY
The following activities can be used for enrichment as George Bernard Shaw’s original play, Pygmalion, is compared to Alan Jay Lerner’s musical adaptation, My Fair Lady.
TITLE SEARCH

Ask students to take the role of screen writers and select an appropriate title for the play.
Discuss why Shaw named his script Pygmalion but Lerner named his My Fair Lady.
Does the play center on the role of the artist (Higgins), or his art (Eliza)? Which of the two titles best fits the play’s message? Or is there a third title that is indicative of important themes but would still appeal to an audience? Hold a title writing contest and pick a winner. Ask students to justify their choice of the best title.

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MUSIC AND LYRICS

My Fair Lady replaces several scenes of Pygmalion dialogue with music. For instance, where Shaw has Freddy tell Eliza, “I spend most of my nights here. It’s the only place where I’m happy” (Act IV, pp. 80-81), Lerner writes the words to an entire song,
“On the Street Where You Live.” In doing so, Freddy’s character is expanded, and his infatuation for Eliza made romantic rather than superficial. Ask students to consider why Lerner made such decisions. Discuss the power of song to extend or transform the messages of Pygmalion. Assign each student one of the songs in the musical, and ask them to respond in writing to the following questions:
1.

What scene in Pygmalion does this song parallel?

2.

Does the song from My Fair Lady extend, replace, or change one of
Pygmalion’s ideas?

3.

What is the effect of the elaboration or change, and why might Lerner have made this choice?

An extension of this activity would be for students to become composers or lyricists and write their own song to parallel a key scene in Pygmalion.
FILM CRITICISM

After watching an excerpt or the entirety of the 1964 My Fair Lady film starring Rex
Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, students write a film critique discussing the cinematic choices of casting, characterization, special effects, and theme development.
Critiques should include comparative discussion on watching the film versus reading the script of Pygmalion and/or My Fair Lady and the effectiveness of those differences.
Ask students:
1.

Describe the setting of the film version of My Fair Lady. Where and when does it take place? Does the setting seem authentic? Why or why not?
What specific direction and production choices add to the atmosphere?
Discuss costuming and prop choices.

2.

Discuss the use of special effects. Consider lighting, music, and sound. How do these elements add to your understanding of the play? What differences exist between the film’s interpretation and your own while reading? Do these differences add to or change your analysis of Shaw’s work? Explain.

3.

Discuss the production’s casting. Do Harrison and Hepburn provide effective portrayals of Higgins and Eliza? Why were these actors cast?
(Explain to students that Audrey Hepburn did not sing Eliza’s songs).
Consider the time period in which the film was produced.

4.

What were the strengths of this film production? Use specific evidence from the film. Were there any weaknesses? If so, discuss specific issues.

5.

What is your overall impression of this film? Would your impression be different had you not read the play first?

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

WRITE A SEQUEL

While George Bernard Shaw’s play ends ambiguously, Lerner’s musical opts for a happy ending with Eliza returning to live with Higgins. Because Shaw’s ending has spurred controversy among audiences and critics alike, ask students to write a sequel, or an additional ending scene, making clear whether Eliza marries Freddie, returns to Higgins, or embarks on a life of her own. Students can parody Shaw’s language, illustrating their comprehension of style. And because they choose the ending they believe Shaw intended based on the evidence he included, students will also be utilizing their skills in research and analysis. To extend this assignment, students might be provided a rubric prior to beginning. The rubric indicates components that will be assessed, such as adherence to Shaw’s style, complexity of character and theme, editing, and effort. Upon completion of the scene, writers can move into peer edit groups and evaluate two other classmates’ scenes using the rubric. Editors should make comments on both the scene and the rubric, and discuss their observations with writers. In this way students practice writing to specific audiences and for specific purposes. Later, writers can share their scenes with the rest of the class.
STAGE A SCENE

Because plays are meant to be staged, encourage students to bring the text alive.
Have small groups pick a scene from Pygmalion or even a song from My Fair Lady to act out for the class. Assign extra credit for props and costumes. Assign a director or choreographer in each group. After the group meets to discuss what themes, emotions, or messages they want their scene to portray, the director or choreographer helps bring this vision to life by making sure all blocking or choreography is planned, practiced, and focused on the intended goal. Remind students to use vocal and facial expression and energy. For further ideas for scene preparation, refer to the
“Reader’s Theater” activity in the During Reading section.

III. GROUP AND INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS
UTOPIAN SOCIETY

Ask groups of three or four students to create a utopian society based on Higgins’ description at the end of the play: “The great secret . . . is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manners for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no thirdclass carriages, and one soul is as good as another.” (97-98) Ask groups to consider:
1.

What will you name your utopia? Describe its locale, climate, inhabitants, and culture.

2.

What rules will your society have? What will happen if they are broken?
Elaborate.

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3.

Describe the class structure that exists in your society and explain its origins.

4.

What is the ultimate aim of your utopia, and how do its inhabitants help strive for that goal?

MOVIE CLIP

Ask the class to re-read Higgins’s warning to Eliza at the end of the play: “If you’re going to be a lady, you’ll have to give up feeling neglected if the men you know don’t spend half their time sniveling over you and the other half giving you black eyes.
. . . Marry some sentimental hog or other with lots of money, and a thick pair of lips to kiss you with and a thick pair of boots to kick you with. If you can’t appreciate what you’ve got, you’d better get what you can appreciate.” (p. 102)
Next show students the scene from Titanic (1997) where the wealthy fiancé gives
Rose a priceless necklace one night, only to follow up the next morning with violence, threats, and aggression that leave the young woman in tears as she is splayed on the floor in front of her servant. Discuss the nature of gender relations in Victorian England.
CREATE A LANGUAGE

Ask individuals or groups to create an original language or dialect complete with a phonetic alphabet and simple grammar rules. Have students demonstrate their languages to the class.
MASTER A DIALECT

Challenge students to master a dialect. Point out that some of their favorite actors have to meet this challenge on a regular basis. For instance, René Zellweger has to adopt a British accent each time she portrays Bridget Jones, and Mel Gibson and
Nicole Kidman must drop their Aussie accents whenever they portray Americans.
For research, students can watch one of their movies, listen to dialect recordings on tape, or consult the Internet.
PODCAST

Appeal to your tech-savvy students by asking them to put together a “podcast” of local dialects. All they need is a microphone and an audio-editing software program like Audacity, which can be downloaded for free. Students create an MP3 file demonstrating various accents or dialects around town and edit the broadcast with transitional commentary. Next, students upload the podcast to a free site such as iTunes, or ask the local webmaster to post it to the school website. Classmates, parents, and other community members can listen to the recordings online or download them to their ipods.

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A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

PRODUCTION PACKETS

Assign teams of four students each to create a “production pack” for a modern film production of either Pygmalion or My Fair Lady. This assignment provides practice in cooperative learning, technical writing, and digital storytelling. Production Teams are responsible for creating a dynamic presentation meant to persuade a producer to produce their film. Groups decide on a concept, such as what time period the film will be set in and whether they plan to use Lerner and Loewe’s music or create an original soundtrack. Groups then cast the film with modern actors. Next, team members assign themselves the individual roles of director, costume designer, set designer, and sound designer. Each position creates both a written as well as a visual proposal analyzing the following considerations:
Director:

Supervises the team and pulls together all word processed work into a single document. Also creates a promotional product such as a digital movie trailer or movie poster.

Costume Designer:

Creates a portfolio of costumes for major characters. Work can be hand-drawn, computer assisted, or cut from magazines. Costume styles must align with the team concept, such as Victorian or contemporary, casual or formal. Research is documented and choices are analyzed in writing. Set Designer:

Creates a set plan that fits the team concept. If the film is to be shot on location, the plan details the locations and their appropriateness, and includes pictures. If the film is to be shot on an inside set, the plan describes the stage, explains the design, and includes a hand-drawn or computerized drawing. Sound Designer:

Creates a sound design that fits the team concept. If My Fair
Lady’s music is to be used, chooses what to keep or cut and analyzes how and why music will either remain orchestral or will add a modern twist such as a hip-hop or techno beat.
Includes a vision for dance sequences. If an original soundtrack is to be used, creates a CD complete with insert that analyzes choices.

BOOK CHATS

Book chats are particularly effective if the reading has been completed outside of class. It is a method by which students can discuss reactions and interpretations in small peer groups before participating in a large group discussion. Chats can also be used to stimulate student-initiated ideas for timed writing assessments. In book chats, the teacher assigns broad categories for the groups to discuss, and perhaps distributes a “book chat note-taking guide” for students to record their ideas.

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Book chat topics may include:
1.

Plot Summary (a quick outline of Pygmalion to refresh memories)

2.

Major Themes (what patterns or issues did you see develop throughout the play?)

3.

Social Commentary (What thoughts does Shaw reveal about his society?)

4.

Style (what particular writing characteristics do you remember? Think about dialect, stage directions and descriptions, etc.)

5.

Personal Reaction (Did you or did you not like this play? Why or why not?
Be very specific as you support your answer).

The discussions on style and personal reaction are particularly enlightening because students often learn to appreciate specific literature regardless of whether they “liked” it.
LITERARY CRITICISM SUMMARIES

Literary criticisms provide additional insight and development of themes discussed throughout the reading of Pygmalion. Students also benefit from reading criticisms because they will incorporate and cite them in literary research papers. Criticisms can be found in school libraries and in online subscription services. One method students can use to illustrate their reading, comprehension, and synthesis of these criticisms is to write short (one to three page) responses that summarize the critic’s main ideas. While the teacher may ask students to describe their reactions to these criticisms, it is actually useful to require summary alone, so that students understand that literary research is a multi-stepped process, and that literary dialogue can only happen effectively if readers first understand what the critic is saying. To this end, teachers can ask students to read a criticism of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.
A discussion of research strategies and source validity is helpful in order to discourage online searches of Internet work that has never been pre-published or vetted before an editorial board. Directly on the photocopied criticism, students highlight main ideas and summarize paragraphs in the margin. This note-taking step discourages summaries that are simple translation, and instead encourages comprehension of global concepts prior to writing the summary. Students then write the actual summary, which introduces the author, title, and focus of the article before presenting an explanation of the critic’s main ideas. Along with the summary, students compose a works-cited entry that includes the criticism’s original and reprint publication information. After summaries are submitted, students can present their critic’s ideas to the class for discussion. When other students react or follow up with a similar or opposing criticism, a natural, student-led discussion may ensue.
EXTENDED READING

George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion raises significant questions about the artificiality of class distinctions, the complexity of language, and the nature of human relations.
Ask students to read one short story, play, or novel, and watch one film that depicts

28

A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

the transformation from ignorance to enlightenment as either the mentor or protégée (or both) awaken to a new world. Students can make a comparison chart depicting the similarities and differences between the character(s) and Eliza/Higgins.
Students should consider the following questions as they read/view:
1.

What character traits depict the character as a mentor or protégée?

2.

From what societal class does the character originate? To which does s(he) move? What are the boundaries of these separate classes? Why do they exist?

3.

What lessons are learned by the character(s)?

The following titles focus on themes of transformation, social inequality, education, and language, and are excellent for independent reading, class discussion, or literature circles where each group of students reads a different work on the same theme. Ask students for their own additions to the list.
Cabot, Meg. The Princess Diaries. NY: Harper Trophy, 2000.
Cinderella. Dirs. Clyde Geronomi, Hamilton Luske, and Wilfred Jackson.
Disney, 1950.
Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives. NY: Harper, 2002.
Mannequinn. Dir. Micahel Gottlieb. 20th Century Fox, 1987.
One Touch of Venus. Dir. William Seiter. Universal Pictures, 1948.
Ovid. The Metamorphoses. New York: Signet Classics, 2001.
Pinocchio. Dirs. Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen. Disney, 1940.
Pretty Woman. Dir. Garry Marshall. Touchstone Pictures, 1990.
The Princess Diaries. Dir. Garry Marshall. Disney, 2001.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Signet Classics, 2000.

A Teacher’s Guide to the Signet Classics Edition of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion

29

ABOUT THE AUTHOR OF THIS GUIDE
LAURA REIS MAYER is a high school English teacher from Asheville, North
Carolina, where she currently serves as a teacher coach and language arts specialist.
A National Board Certified Teacher and former copy editor of the Journal of Health
Occupations Education, she has written several textbook reviews. She has facilitated at state and regional conferences on Senior Project, National Board Certification, and technology in the English classroom. She is also the author of A Teacher’s Guide to The Signet Classics Edition of Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus.

ABOUT THE EDITORS OF THIS GUIDE
JEANNE M. MCGLINN, Professor and chairperson in the Department of
Education at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Dr. McGlinn teaches
Children's and Adolescent Literature and directs the field experiences of 9-12
English licensure candidates. She is a Board member of NC English Teachers
Association and the Children’s Literature and Reading SIG of the IRA. She has written a critical book on the historical fiction of adolescent writer Ann Rinaldi for
Scarecrow Press Young Adult Writers series and numerous articles on methods of teaching and educational research.
W. GEIGER ELLIS, Professor Emeritus, University of Georgia, received his A.B. and M.Ed. degrees from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and his
Ed.D. from the University of Virginia. His teaching focused on adolescent literature, having introduced the first courses on the subject at both the University of Virginia and the University of Georgia. He developed and edited The ALAN Review.

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