Master Doolittle and The Poor

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose…”. Doolittle can hardly be considered a rose but he certainly seems to live up to his name. He represents thousands of others in similar situations. He i s perhaps more open and honest about his aspirations — or lack of them –than others.

In contrast, Shaw shows us the genteel poor in the Eynsford-Hills. They were born to the upper class, with its proper dialect and manners, but their family had lost the money which would have allowed them to live in upper-class style. They cling to the edge of society, wearing old clothes, attending at homes but giving none, never dreaming of getting jobs since that would detract from their appearance of wealth.

Stage Directions

Look at the positioning of the characters in Act 3 when the Eynesford-Hills enter the scene (54-62). What is the significance of this movement?


If the deserving poor:

  • work hard
  • save money
  • protect their children
  • are moral
  • take charity
  • use money wisely
  • marry

How would you contrast the undeserving poor (Doolittle) and the genteel poor? Create contrasting lists.

Consider the Eynesford Hills. What doe the reaction of Clara and her other to Liz’as new small talk reveal about them?


Write a scene showing clara and her mother at their next at-home, using Liza’s language and small talk as Higgins encouraged them to do. Make it humorous. Consider how you could employ stage directions.


Later in the play, Doolittle becomes a rich man. Which of his listed characteristics change? How different is he?

What differences are there between Doolittle, who chooses to work as little as possible, and Freddy, who chooses not to work at all? Does social class make one better than the other?

Why did Shaw let Doolittle become a rich man? What was he saying about society?

Image: ‘vintage portrait of victorian couple, great-great-grandparents


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