In George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, Shaw makes a distinction in Act 1 between St. Paul's church and St. Paul's cathedral. What is the difference?

2 Answers | Add Yours

mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

It is the difference between a mountain and molehill, between cursing and the Queen's English, and between a girl and a lady.

According to Wikipedia:

St Paul's Church, also commonly known as the Actors' Church, is a church located in Convent Garden, London.  As well as being the parish churchof Covent Garden, the church gained its nickname by a long association with the theatre community.


St Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral, the highest point in London, and is the seat of the Bishop of London.

If you look at pictures, you'll notice the difference in size: one is quaint and the other is a monolith on the skyline.  The same it is for "My Fair Lady" Eliza, who is at first a quaint commoner.  She will become a woman of high society through speech, dress, manners, and attitude--all cornerstones of a grand cathedral.

teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

Shaw refers to the place where the opening of the play occurs as a portico of St. Paul's Church near Covent Garden, where in the play, pedestrians take shelter from a sudden downpour of rain. Since Shaw says "St. Paul's church" rather than simply "St. Paul's" or "St. Paul's cathedral," this would distinguish it from the more famous structure.

St. Paul's Church, which was rebuilt in the 1790s after a fire burned down the original, does have a very deep portico, and plays were sometimes performed there. From the point of view of a realist play like this one, the portico is logically a place where people would take shelter from a rainstorm, and where, especially given its location in the east end of the city, rich and poor might literally rub elbows for a few minutes.

A poor young woman like Eliza would be most likely to sell her flowers near her home, if only to avoid a long walk home and trouble with police in the west end, so it also makes sense that she would be discovered by Higgins near a church in the Cockney portion of the city.

We’ve answered 317,377 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question