Pygmalion is a play written by George Bernard Shaw. It was first performed in 1914. It tells the story of Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics. Phonetics is the study of speech sounds. Higgins makes a bet that he can transform a flower girl from the streets of London into a high class lady within six months.
The central idea of the play is that your life can be shaped by the way that you speak.
Bernard Shaw took the title Pygmalion from mythology. The Pygmalion myth features in Metamorphoses, a work by the Roman poet Ovid. In Ovid's telling of the story, Pygmalion is a lonely sculptor who carves an ivory statue representing his ideal of womanhood. He falls deeply in love with his own creation. He prays to Venus, the goddess of beauty and love who takes pity on him and brings the statue to life.
This scene takes place in Covent Garden market, where Freddy and his mother and sister have taken shelter from the rain. They are joined by the flower girl. The conversation is overheard by Henry Higgins, whose hobby it is to record overheard speech phonetically, so that he can recreate it exactly. He claims to be able to identify exactly where people come from based on the sound of their speech.