Pygmalion

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Henry Higgins' mother, who hosts the Eynsford Hills at her wealthy home in Act Three. She is initially upset by Eliza's intrusion into her polite company, but is kind to her. She tries to tell her son not to treat Eliza like an object or possession, but to instead to consider Eliza's feelings. While Higgins doesn't listen to her, she does her best to resolve things in Act Five, at least patching things up with Mr. Doolittle, Eliza, and Pickering. On stage only in her drawing room, she plays an important role and exerts some agency in the play even while constrained by the oppressive gender roles of Victorian society.

Mrs. Higgins Quotes in Pygmalion

The Pygmalion quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Higgins or refer to Mrs. Higgins. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Language and Speech Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Pygmalion published in 2000.
Act 3 Quotes

You certainly are a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll.

Related Characters: Mrs. Higgins (speaker), Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:

After the guests leave, Mrs. Higgins grills Pickering and her son as to their true intentions for Eliza. When they explain their project and bet, Mrs. Higgins is horrified and points out the fallacies in their experimental design: Eliza is a human, and she will continue to live a life after the project is over. 

In this quote, Mrs. Higgins points out that the two men are acting like children delighting over the intricacies of their "live doll." When children play with a doll, they manipulate its movements and perhaps make up what it says, but they don't actually believe that the doll has a mind of its own. This is how Pickering and Higgins approach Eliza: as a toy for their amusement, without consulting her on her own beliefs and thoughts, because it has never occurred to them that she has any. Their project, though supposedly intended for real-world application, ultimately lives in the world of academia, especially since they have not thought of what to do with Eliza when she succeeds, or doesn't, at the garden party. This lack of foresight is what truly makes their experiment and actions immature. 

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Act 5 Quotes

She had become attached to you both. She worked very hard for you, Henry! I don't think you quite realize what anything in the nature of brain work means to a girl like that. Well, it seems that when the great day of trial came, and she did this wonderful thing for you without making a single mistake, you two sat there and never said a word to her, but talked together of how glad you were that it was all over and how you had been bored with the whole thing. And then you were surprised because she threw your slippers at you!

Related Characters: Mrs. Higgins (speaker), Eliza Doolittle, Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

After storming out of Higgins' house, Eliza goes to Mrs. Higgins to spend the night and relate her woes from Wimpole Street. In this quote, Mrs. Higgins explains to her son all the ways he has failed his protégé. 

Higgins' views of wealth and class meant that he felt that his work on Eliza was very generous, and that it was he who succeeded at the garden party, not her--similar to the way he would have been proud of himself for publishing an academic paper, not for the paper due to its personal achievements. Eliza, however, is a human being, and feels that her own achievements have been completely ignored. Everyone besides Pickering, it appears, sees very clearly how poorly Higgins has treated Eliza, including his own mother. Higgins' disdain for young women meant that though he worked with Eliza, he never truly got to know her, since he didn't feel like she was worth it. Yet when she became angry at him, he felt very hurt, since he had assumed she felt fondly for him and grateful for his "service." Higgins can almost, but not quite, be forgiven for his behavior, since he is completely ignorant of how his actions and words affect others. However, his refusal to believe other people when they tell him he has misbehaved qualifies Shaw's statement that the character he has created is utterly "incorrigible." 

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Mrs. Higgins Character Timeline in Pygmalion

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Higgins appears in Pygmalion. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 3
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Higgins barges into his mother's home one afternoon. Mrs. Higgins is surprised to see her son and tells him to leave, as she is expecting... (full context)
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Higgins tells his mother about Eliza and says that she is to sit with Mrs. Higgins and her friends today and speak like a lady. Just as Higgins is preparing to... (full context)
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...all people are really "savages, more or less," even though they're supposed to be civilized. Mrs. Higgins tells him to mind his manners, and just then Eliza arrives. Eliza behaves elegantly and... (full context)
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...seemingly fond of her, and Eliza asks if she has said anything she shouldn't have. Mrs. Higgins assures her she hasn't. She begins to speak again, but Higgins interrupts her, signaling that... (full context)
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...to date with "the latest slang." Higgins asks his mother if Eliza was presentable, and Mrs. Higgins says she isn't. She says there is no hope of Eliza speaking properly if she... (full context)
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Mrs. Higgins asks about the state of Higgins' home, and learns that Higgins, Pickering, and Eliza are... (full context)
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Pickering assures Mrs. Higgins that they take Eliza very seriously, and Higgins calls her "the most absorbing experiment I... (full context)
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Mrs. Higgins says that Eliza will have all "the manners and habits that disqualify a fine lady... (full context)
Act 5
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Mrs. Higgins is sitting in her drawing room. Her parlor-maid announces that Higgins and Pickering are downstairs,... (full context)
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Mrs. Higgins tells her son to calm down and says that Eliza has the right to leave... (full context)
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...has to learn proper English from Higgins, and suspects this was Higgins' plan all along. Mrs. Higgins tells him that he can reject the inheritance, but Mr. Doolittle says that he doesn't... (full context)
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Mrs. Higgins says that Mr. Doolittle can take care of Eliza now that he has money. Higgins... (full context)
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Mrs. Higgins scolds them for having talked about how glad they were that their experiment was over,... (full context)
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...He didn't marry Eliza's mother, because marriage isn't natural, but merely "the middle class way." Mrs. Higgins asks if she can come to the wedding, as well, and then leaves to get... (full context)
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Just then, Mrs. Higgins returns and tells Eliza a carriage is ready to take them to her father's wedding.... (full context)