Monday, June 8, 2015

My Fair Lady and Pygmalion

So, everybody knows that the epilogue of Shaw's Pygmalion has Eliza Doolittle marrying Freddie. What I didn't know until I actually read the epilogue today ( is WHY. Shaw's reasoning is twofold:

1.) Shaw's Henry Higgins is a bachelor because he is a mama's boy; she is the primary woman in his life and always will be, and Eliza doesn't want to compete with that. In other words, Shaw's Higgins has no character arc--he's still basically the same person at the end of the play as at the beginning.

2.) Strong people are drawn to weak people, not other strong people. "This being the state of human affairs, what is Eliza fairly sure to do when she is placed between Freddy and Higgins? Will she look forward to a lifetime of fetching Higgins's slippers or to a lifetime of Freddy fetching hers?"

#2 is debatable (I don't agree with it myself) but #1 clearly doesn't apply to My Fair Lady as written, or as filmed with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. Henry does arc. Ergo, Henry and Eliza probably do wind up together in the end--even in Shaw's telling, Eliza still idolizes Henry and occasionally fantasizes about him in private, so in a universe where Henry has actually realized that Eliza matters to him more than his mother does (as he does in My Fair Lady), odds are good that the interest will be reciprocated. Besides, they totally deserve each other.


If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.

I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not Honor more.