Professor Henry Higgins is one of the main characters in the acclaimed George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, which was later turned into the Broadway musical and Oscar-winning film My Fair Lady, starring Rex Harrison as the professor.
Professor Higgins is a highly esteemed professor of linguistics and phonetics. A self-confirmed bachelor, Higgins represents the very worst of the egotistical intellectual: arrogant, condescending, and cold. His self-absorption proves to be a major turnoff for the majority of the people he meets, but what makes Henry such an endearing curmudgeon is his inability to even recognize that he is offending the people he is talking to. Instead of being horrified by this brutish man, we pity him, because he simply doesn't understand the ways of the world, despite it his self-proclaimed genius.
When Higgins meets Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flowergirl wishing to better her life, he is charmed by the idea of turning this poor street rat into someone presentable to the high society of Victorian England. When Eliza begins to have feelings for the professor, he chides her for being so inconsiderate to him. In the end, of course, the boy gets the girl, but Shaw's message, much like the Pygmalion myth, is somewhat ill-displayed: in order to get the girl we want, we must transform an otherwise undesirable and ordinary girl into something they're not that meets our precise and demanding specifications. Hardly the modern romantic comedy.
Yet even in this interpretation, we come to realize the dramatic irony of the situation: that Eliza has gone through her transformation, and has come out to the better for it, more self-assured and assertive. Meanwhile, Henry Higgins, our beloved hero from Act I, is still the same dunderheaded self-centered dandy he was when the curtain rose. Only the briefest glimpses into the potentially revised Henry Higgins are offered; one finds it best not to place wagers on him remaining so cordial.