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My Fair Lady

a play by Bernard Shaw, performed in 1913 in Vienna, published and performed in London in 1916. This amusing piece, which was eventually to achieve popular renown as the musical My Fair Lady (1957), describes the reconstruction of the Cockney flower-girl Eliza Doolittle by the arrogant phonetician Henry Higgins. Her education falls into three stages. At first she says the wrong things in the right accent, bewildering the respectable. Then she learns how to be a plausible ‘lady’, triumphing at a fashionable ball. Finally, she realizes that being a lady without an income leaves her with little option but to find a husband to support her: ‘I sold flowers, I didn't sell myself, but now you've made a lady of me I'm not fit to sell anything else.’ For Higgins, this insight at last changes her from a ‘millstone’ to a ‘woman’, meaning a self-sufficient individual. Though Shaw wrote a postscript suggesting that Eliza married the devoted but dim Freddy Eynsford-Hill, and set up a flower shop with him, the play itself does not resolve the questions it raises. It remains Shaw's critique of the obstacles to self-discovery and self-realization caused by class.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog to Rabbit Tetralogy