Pygmalion

Higgins is a brilliant linguist, who studies phonetics and documents different dialects and ways of speaking. He first appears in Act One as the suspicious man in the back of the crowd jotting down notes on everyone's manner of speech. Higgins is so focused on his academic interest that he lacks empathy and fails to consider other people's feelings or concerns. Instead, he sees people mainly as subjects of study. He views Eliza, for example, as an experiment and a "phonetic job." He doesn't so much invite Eliza to stay with him and learn to speak like a lady, but rather orders her to. Higgins is rude not only to Eliza, but generally to everyone he meets. He is impatient with class hierarchy and the Victorian obsession with manners. As he tells Eliza in Act Five, he treats everyone the same (that is, rudely) regardless of social class. Thus, while an inconsiderate character—and often a misogynist—Higgins at least sees through the hypocrisy and fallacies of the Victorian social hierarchy, and relishes the opportunity to beat high society at its own game by making Eliza pass as a lady.

Henry Higgins Quotes in Pygmalion

The Pygmalion quotes below are all either spoken by Henry Higgins or refer to Henry 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Pygmalion published in 2000.
Act 1 Quotes

It's aw rawt: e's a genleman: look at his ba-oots.

Related Characters: Bystander (speaker), Henry Higgins
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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And how are all your people down at Selsey?
Who told you my people come from Selsey?

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Bystander
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

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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.

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Eliza Doolittle
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

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You see this creature with her kerbstone English: the English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days. Well, sir, in three months I could pass that girl off as a duchess at an ambassador's garden party.

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Eliza Doolittle
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 2 Quotes

A young woman! What does she want?
Well, sir, she says you'll be glad to see her when you know what she's come about. She's quite a common girl, sir. Very common indeed.

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Mrs. Pearce (speaker), Eliza Doolittle
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

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You know, Pickering, if you consider a shilling, not as a simple shilling, but as a percentage of this girl's income, it works out as fully equivalent to sixty or seventy guineas from a millionaire.

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Eliza Doolittle, Colonel Pickering
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

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Well, the matter is, sir, that you can't take a girl up like that as if you were picking up a pebble on the beach.

Related Characters: Mrs. Pearce (speaker), Eliza Doolittle, Henry Higgins
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

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I find that the moment I let a woman make friends with me, she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious, and a damned nuisance. I find that the moment I let myself make friends with a woman, I become selfish and tyrannical. Women upset everything.

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Eliza Doolittle
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

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Then might I ask you not to come down to breakfast in your dressing-gown, or at any rate not to use it as a napkin to the extent you do, sir. And if you would be so good as not to eat everything off the same plate, and to remember not to put the porridge saucepan out of your hand on the clean tablecloth, it would be a better example to the girl.

Related Characters: Mrs. Pearce (speaker), Henry Higgins
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 3 Quotes

I shall never get into the way of seriously liking young women: some habits lie too deep to be changed. [Rising abruptly and walking about, jingling his money and his keys in his trouser pockets] Besides, they're all idiots.

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Eliza Doolittle
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Act 4 Quotes

Well, I feel a bit tired. It's been a long day. The garden party, a dinner party, and the opera! Rather too much of a good thing. But you've won your bet, Higgins. Eliza did the trick, and something to spare, eh?
Thank God it's over!

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Colonel Pickering (speaker), Eliza Doolittle
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

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It was interesting enough at first, while we were at the phonetics; but after that I got deadly sick of it. If I hadn't backed myself to do it I should have chucked the whole thing up two months ago. It was a silly notion: the whole thing has been a bore.

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Eliza Doolittle
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:

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I'd like to kill you, you selfish brute. Why didn't you leave me where you picked me out of—in the gutter? You thank God it's all over, and that now you can throw me back again there, do you?

Related Characters: Eliza Doolittle (speaker), Henry Higgins
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

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Do my clothes belong to me or to Colonel Pickering?

Related Characters: Eliza Doolittle (speaker), Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering
Related Symbols: Clothing
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

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Act 5 Quotes

Nonsense! He can't provide for her. He shan't provide for her. She doesn't belong to him. I paid him five pounds for her.

Related Characters: Henry Higgins (speaker), Eliza Doolittle, Alfred Doolittle
Page Number: 90
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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Liza: Freddy loves me: that makes him king enough for me. I don't want him to work: he wasn't brought up to it as I was. I'll go and be a teacher.
Higgins: What'll you teach, in heaven's name?
Liza: What you taught me. I'll teach phonetics.

Related Characters: Eliza Doolittle (speaker), Henry Higgins (speaker)
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:

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Henry Higgins Character Timeline in Pygmalion

The timeline below shows where the character Henry Higgins appears in Pygmalion. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
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...a variety of pedestrians seek shelter under the portico of a church, including a wealthy woman and her daughter, Clara. The mother and daughter are waiting impatiently for Freddy, Clara's brother,... (full context)
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...The mother agrees and gives her six-pence. The flower-girl says that she just called the man Freddy because that is how she would refer to any random person she doesn't know.... (full context)
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The flower-girl asks the gentleman to buy a flower, but he says he doesn't have any change. He rummages in... (full context)
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The flower-girl worries that she is in trouble but the man taking notes steps forward and asks what the matter is. A bystander tells him the... (full context)
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Some of the bystanders think the man is a policeman and tell him not to worry about the flower-girl. One bystander says... (full context)
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The note-taking man continues to guess where everyone is from, to all the bystanders' surprise. The rain begins... (full context)
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The gentleman asks the note-taker how he knows where everyone is from, and he answers that he... (full context)
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The note-taking man then says to the gentleman that the flower-girl's accent and dialect will keep her in... (full context)
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The gentleman says that he himself is "a student of Indian dialects." He introduces himself as Colonel... (full context)
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Higgins and Pickering leave to get dinner together. Higgins reluctantly gives the flower-girl some money. Freddy... (full context)
Act 2
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The next morning, Higgins and Pickering are at Higgins' "laboratory," a huge room filled with various tools and devices... (full context)
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Higgins' housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, comes in and announces that a young woman is here to see... (full context)
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Higgins is frustrated because he has already recorded her accent, and tells her to leave. But... (full context)
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...flower-girl says her name is Eliza Doolittle, and offers to pay a shilling for lessons. Higgins reflects aloud that this sum of money is a sizable percentage of what she makes,... (full context)
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Amused by Eliza, Pickering offers to pay for her lessons and bets Higgins that he can't teach Eliza to speak so well that she passes as a noble... (full context)
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Higgins tells Mrs. Pearce to wash Eliza, throw out her dirty clothes, and get new ones.... (full context)
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Higgins says that when he is done teaching her, Eliza will have countless men courting her.... (full context)
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Higgins says that Eliza is "no use to anybody but me," and tells Mrs. Pearce that... (full context)
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Eliza is upset and prepares to leave, but Higgins gives her a chocolate and promises her boxes and barrels of them if she stays.... (full context)
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Higgins tells Eliza that she will live with him for six months, learning how to speak... (full context)
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...leaves, saying she hasn't asked for any of this. Once she is gone, Pickering asks Higgins if he is "a man of good character where women are concerned." Higgins says that... (full context)
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Pickering tells Higgins that if he is involved with teaching Eliza, he will feel responsible for her. Higgins... (full context)
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Mrs. Pearce asks Higgins to behave with good manners while Eliza is around—for example, not to come to breakfast... (full context)
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Mrs. Pearce leaves but returns quickly, saying that a man is at the door claiming to be Eliza's father. Higgins has her bring the man... (full context)
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...two months, but learned of her whereabouts from the cab driver who brought her to Higgins' place. Higgins comments on his accent, saying his Welsh origins account for his "mendacity and... (full context)
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Mr. Doolittle has brought some of Eliza's things to the house. Higgins calls Mrs. Pearce and tells her that Mr. Doolittle has come to take Eliza away,... (full context)
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...leaves and Mr. Doolittle asks for five pounds in return for letting Eliza stay with Higgins. Pickering and Higgins are shocked at his willingness to sell his own daughter and think... (full context)
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Higgins proposes to take Mr. Doolittle in along with Eliza and teach him to speak nobly,... (full context)
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...get into an argument as she says he has only come to get money from Higgins for his drinking habit. Mr. Doolittle prepares to leave. Higgins asks him to come visit... (full context)
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...that she has more clothes for her to try on. She leaves eagerly, saying "Ah-ow-oo-ooh!" Higgins and Pickering reflect on the difficult task ahead of them in making Eliza pass for... (full context)
Act 3
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Higgins barges into his mother's home one afternoon. Mrs. Higgins is surprised to see her son... (full context)
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Higgins tells his mother about Eliza and says that she is to sit with Mrs. Higgins... (full context)
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Freddy Eynsford Hill enters, and Higgins again thinks he looks familiar but can't remember why. He wonders what everyone will talk... (full context)
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Higgins goes on to say that all people are really "savages, more or less," even though... (full context)
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Higgins finally realizes where he knows the Eynsford Hills from. Everyone discusses the weather and Eliza... (full context)
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...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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The Eynsford Hills prepare to leave, and Higgins encourages Clara to try out the new fashion of speaking (Eliza's). Clara calls the Victorian... (full context)
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...that Clara is annoyed when she is not up to date with "the latest slang." Higgins asks his mother if Eliza was presentable, and Mrs. Higgins says she isn't. She says... (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 4
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It is midnight at Higgins' house. Eliza, Higgins, and Pickering all enter, tired and dressed formally. Eliza is quiet, as... (full context)
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Higgins says he knew Eliza would be fine, and tells Pickering that he has long been... (full context)
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Preparing for bed, Higgins tells Eliza to turn out the lights. Eliza is becoming increasingly upset. Higgins can't find... (full context)
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Eliza calls Higgins a "selfish brute," and says that now she will be thrown back "in the gutter,"... (full context)
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...regains her composure, but is still upset. She wonders what will happen to her now. Higgins tells her she will be alright, and suggests she marries someone. He offers for his... (full context)
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Higgins is annoyed by Eliza's comment, and tells her she doesn't have to marry. He says... (full context)
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Higgins is offended at the question, but Eliza says that she has to be mindful of... (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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The parlor-maid enters and announces that a gentleman named Mr. Doolittle has arrived at the house. Higgins assumes that it is a relative... (full context)
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Mr. Doolittle is not aware that Eliza is missing, though, and so Higgins is confused as to why he is mad at him. Doolittle says that Higgins mentioned... (full context)
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Mr. Doolittle says that now he has to learn proper English from Higgins, and suspects this was Higgins' plan all along. Mrs. Higgins tells him that he can... (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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Eliza enters and is very polite, which is baffling to Higgins. He tells her to "get up and come home." He says she doesn't have an... (full context)
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Eliza tells Pickering that she is grateful to him for teaching her proper manners, unlike Higgins, who set a bad example for her. She says that she grew up... (full context)
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...is not how she behaves, but how she's treated." Eliza says that she would like Higgins to call her Miss Doolittle, and Higgins curses. (full context)
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Pickering tells Eliza to curse back at Higgins, but she says she cannot now. She says that she has forgotten her old way... (full context)
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...behind Eliza and surprises her. She cries out, "A-a-a-a-a-ah-ow-ooh!" just as she used to, and Higgins is delighted that she has relapsed into one of her old speech habits. Mr. Doolittle... (full context)
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...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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Higgins explains to Eliza that he is rude to everyone, regardless of social class, whereas Pickering... (full context)
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Higgins says that he will miss Eliza if she leaves. He says he has grown fond... (full context)
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Higgins says that if she comes back, he will throw her out if she doesn't do... (full context)
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Higgins offers to adopt Eliza, or marry her to Pickering. Eliza says she doesn't want this,... (full context)
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...she is not interested in anyone making anything of someone else, whereas that is all Higgins cares about. Higgins asks if Eliza wants him to care about her like Freddy does,... (full context)
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Higgins tells Eliza that if she can't deal with his coldness, she can leave and return... (full context)
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Eliza responds that if she can't have kindness from Higgins, she'll have independence. She says she could become a teacher of phonetics, advertising that she... (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)