Hazem Saleem Jarrar
December 27, 2017
Oscar Wilde is one of the most popular and controversial playwrights , in the late victorian England , the author and poet was born in 1854 in Dublin , he wrote plays , fiction , essays , and poetry , he became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890’s , his work is undeniably phenomenal but he’s also remembered for his private life and the circumstance of his early death .
And in this paper i will be discussing two of Oscar Wilde’s very popular and also controversial plays that have caused success and contention .
A Woman Of No Importance is one of Oscar’s society plays , it premiered on the 19th of April 1893 in the Haymarket theatre , it is a satire just like his other social plays that deride and criticizes the english upperclass society .
The opening of the play is at a party on a terrace of lady Hunstanton where we see the upperclass guests spending their time enjoying being glamorous but also fake and gossipy with their exchange of small talks , in this play Oscar explores how women had few rights and the double standards that existed in the victorian era between men and woman , where men were forgiven and they turned a blind eye over their descriptions and flaws and mishaps and indecency but woman were not on the contrary woman were brutally faced for any moral failing , the plot of the play is a simple one , its a psychological interactions between characters of the play that reveals a darker side to the victorian era and basically the theme of the story is the double standard that existed between men and women in that time period , women weren’t treated equally ,
The main characters of the play , Mr’s Arbuthnot has a great and wonderful reputation in the community although everyone believes that she’s a widow she was actually an unwed mother during a time where it was absolutely scandalous to have a child without being married , her son Gerald Arbuthnot had been recently offered a job by a man who turns out to be his father Lord illingworth ,
Gerald Arbuthnot is a naive young man who plans to marry an American woman named Hester , he was recently offered a job from a man who he respects very much Lord illingworth unaware that lord illingworth is his father until later on when his mother reveals it
Hester Worsley , she’s a young American woman with very strong opinions about those double standards in that community she feels for those scorned women and stands against the men who impregnate them , and how women are left with obvious evidence of their indecency when they become pregnant but of course men could just deny it , but just because Hester sees that inequality between sexes in that community doesn’t mean that she thinks that women could or should get off easy after doing something wrong or indecent and get away without blame she says that ” it is right that they should be punished , but don’t let them be the only ones to suffer , if a man and a women have sinned , let them both go forth into the desert to love or loathe each other there , let them both be branded , set a mark if you wish ,on each, but don’t punish the one and let the other one go free don’t have one law for man and another for women ” its obvious that Hester is one of the strongest characters in the play and through Hester Oscar Wilde seems to voice some of his own thoughts and opinions .
Lord George illingworth , he was a young man when Gerald was conceived who seems to not have changed he’s still just as indecent and flirtatious as he once was but of course he manages to keep up appearances before mrs Arbuthnot arrives to congratulate Gerald on his job offer , Lord illingworth sees a letter from mrs Arbuthnot laying on the table and he recognizes her handwriting from long ago , but when questioned about it he says that the letter was from a woman of no importance , and that shows Lord Illingworth’s horrible and irresponsible attitude towards the women he had slept with when he was young , and though he knows that Hester and Gerald are in love he goes on to making a bet with another guest , that he will make Hester his conquest within a week
Lady Hunstanton , a very wealthy woman who has a large home to host guests , she’s an upperclass woman who likes to gossip about other people , she seems to be a poor judge of character since she likes Lord illingworth .Mrs Arbuthnot arrives to congratulate Gerald on the new position she plans to spend the night because she had traveled from a far place but she doesn’t yet know that Gerald was offered that job by Lord illingworth , his own father , as one could imagine the first meeting between the two is very awkward , after finding out that he’s the one who offered her son that job Mr’s Arbuthnot is definitely against her son working for the man who impregnated her and then refused to marry her she says to him ” George , don’t take my son away from me , i have had twenty years of sorrow and i have only had one thing to love me , only one thing to love , you’ve had a life of joy and pleasure and success ” however Mr’s Arbuthnot leaves the choice to Gerald , after their discussion lord Illingworth reveals how horrible and corrupted of a character he is when he starts teaching Gerald on the craftiness of women , he even starts hinting that being with women outside of marriage has more joy and fulfillment than being married and tied down to one woman by marriage , and Gerald the naive character he is , he seemed to be soaking up everything that Lord illingworth is saying , then in a heart to heart talk with her son , Mr’s Arbuthnot tells Gerald the story of herself and Lord illingworth but without revealing that it was her , she tells him the story as if it had happened to another woman , when she finishes the story , Gerald replies to her saying ” dear mother , it all sounds very tragic , of course, but i dare say the girl was just as much to blame as lord Illingworth was . after all , would a really nice girl one with any nice feelings at all , go away from her home with a man to whom she was not married to , and live with him as his wife ?” , in that comment Gerald represents the general attitude of the common people of his day , his mother stays silent at that point , Gerald remains clueless about his father’s real identity until Hester accuses Lord Illingworth of trying to seduce her , Gerald swears that he will kill Lord illingworth but his mother stops him by revealing that Lord Illingworth is his father and after this Gerald finally decides to decline the job offer , Mr’s Arbuthnot returns to her home with Gerald and Hester , now that the two are madly in love and Hester has fallen for Gerald more than ever she decides and announces that she will support her family and share her money with Gerald because money isn’t worth anything if you don’t share it with whom you love , but before the story ends Lord Illingworth hasn’t given up trying to lure Gerald into his life by visiting Lady Arbuthnot who immediately sees through him and refuses , it appears that that situation had made her stronger , when he leaves Lord Illingworth forgets his glove , and Gerald is unaware of his father’s visit so he asks his mother who does this glove belong to and this is where the satisfying irony in the play kicks in when Mr’s Arbuthnot replies to him saying that the glove belongs to A man of no importance . In A Woman of No Importance , Oscar explores themes of gender equality , but he also explores themes that he felt passionate about and he had discussed and shed light on in other plays of his , one of which will be discuss next , these themes being ; social hypocrisy ,and ,the public and the private honor and occupation in the victorian era .
The next play we are going to discuss is The Importance of Being Earnest , one of Wile’s most popular plays , the comedic play premiered on the 14th of February 1895 . The play The Importance of Being Earnest takes a satirical look on the lives of two men who lead double lives to escape from their miserable reality and run away from their responsibilities , in the end their real identities are revealed and discovered which makes them able to lead a more fluffing lives , the comedic play tells the story of Jack Worthing , the play’s protagonist and a man who lives a double life in order to go after the pleasures and excitement he lacks in his own life , a life that he has many responsibilities and things that need taken care of , one of them is being the guardian of a girl named Cecily Cardew and being a landowner with many employees that depend on him , which causes him to get overwhelmed by his own life which leads him to claiming that he has a brother named Earnest so he would be able to take a break from his life and escape his responsibilities , jack lives in the country and he feels like his life is “boring” so when he travels to London as Earnest he acts like a young socialite and he enjoys himself and has lots of fun and when he’s there he calls himself earnest , jack claims that earnest is irresponsible and that he has to keep rescuing him ,Algernon his best friend , does the same thing , Algernon too pretends he has a friend in order to escape his busy city life and go to the country to relax and take a break , Algernon falls in love with no other than Cecily , he pretends to be earnest to gain her approval , eventually their real identities are discovered and they both decide to change their names to earnest in order to gain their love interests approval . The word Earnest is satirized throughout the play , in the victorian time being described as an earnest man is having an admirable qualities , earnest meant being intellectual , sincere , a good thinker and a clear headed person , the women in the story desire those men for the sake of their new names , they simply want someone with the name Earnest for the sake of the name not the good qualities , that shows the hypocrisy in that community , ironically those two men don’t own any of these qualities that the name represents , on the contrary ,those men represent the exact opposite of those qualities , they are lying lazy hypocrites who pretend to be other people to escape the difficulties of their lives .
Next and final play to be discussed is another social comedy by Wilde Lady Windermere’s Fan , this play is also a satire or a piece that uses humor to describe a situation , produced on February 1982 , in this play like the two before ,Wilde satirizes the upper class and their moral attitudes of that time period , the play pokes fun at the social expectations of the victorian England high society . The play begins with lady Windermere preparing for the ball they are going to have for her birthday , and with lord darlington trying to seduce lady windermere which upsets her since she is a puritan who’s very strict about her views as to what is a proper behavior , after Darlington leaves, the Duchess of Berwick arrives to Lady windermere with the news that she takes pleasure in delivering , that lady Windermere’s husband is cheating on her with another woman, and that he pays a bunch of money regularly to a woman named Mrs Erlynne , and then she implies that ‘society’ has known about it for a while , lady Windermere goes to check her husband’s bankbook then she finds that he has another hidden bank book with a lock in her husband’s desk , she breaks the lock and finds that he has actually been paying large sums of money to Mrs Erlynne , she confronts her husband who denies the affair but admits to having ‘dealings’ with her . then it is revealed that her husband is protecting her claiming that if that woman true identity came out lady windermere’s reputation will be ruined forever and she will be shamed . lady windermere decides to write a note to her husband saying that she’s leaving him and going away with another man , but Mr’s Erlynne finds the note , then it is revealed that Mr’s Erlynne is lady Windermere’s mother who had abandoned her , but now she decides to help lady Windermere , she goes to find her and beg her to go back to her home , after convincing her of leaving lord darlington she forgets her fan at his house which her husband lord Windermere sees and questions why is it there not knowing that his wife was going to leave him for Darlington then was persuaded not to , to save the situation and her daughter Mr’s Erlynne steps out claiming that she had brought the fan to Darlington’s house .
This play’s major themes are gender politics and social status , morality and gossip , Oscar wanted to show how appearances can be deceiving and what you hear isn’t always the truth and how people at the time loved to gossip and they loved to keep up appearance it was a thing that meant a lot to them .
Each of the plays that were discussed in this paper revolve around the same issues on top of it all ,the hypocrisy of the victorian England high society , its clear that it was very important to Oscar Wilde to expose that high society which might have provoked a lot of people but still it did not stop him from writing his best works .