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An Ideal Husband

Oscar Wilde

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Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions and Essay Topics

full title ·  An Ideal Husband

author · Oscar Wilde

type of work · Drama

genre · Romantic melodrama; farce; "satire" of popular Victorian society dramas (i.e. the formulaic "well-made play," which emphasized stock characters, situations, and themes emphasizing bourgeois morality)

language · English

time and place written · Written in 1894 in London; staged immediately prior to Wilde's most successful play, The Importance of Being Earnest, in 1895

date of first publication · 1895

publisher · L. Smithers

narrator · None

climax ·  An Ideal Husband has no clear climax, but relies a series of complications and crises. There are numerous climatic speeches and climatic reversals at the end of each act (i.e. the revelation of Sir Robert's secret, Mrs. Cheveley's theft of Lady Chiltern's letter, etc.). The most climatic confrontation is probably between Mrs. Cheveley and Lord Goring at the end of Act III

protagonists · Sir Robert Chiltern, Lady Chiltern, and Lord Goring

setting (time) · 1895; thus, first staged in "the present." The time of the play's action is twenty-four hours.

setting (place) · London

point of view · Point of view is not located as there is no narrator figure

falling action · Falling action comes at the end of Act IV, where Sir Robert accepts his Cabinet post and reconciles with his wife; subsequently, Mabel and Lord Goring announce their engagement

tense · The play unfolds in the time of the present

tone · Tone is differentiated according to character. For example: Mrs. Cheveley displays an acrid wit; Mabel Chiltern is pert and flirtatious; Lady Chiltern and Sir Robert are prone to moments of high moralistic pathos; Lord Goring is a master of irony, sarcasm, etc

themes · The ideal marriage; the ideal woman; Aestheticism and the art of modern living

motifs · Wit, irony, paradox, hyperbole; the melodramatic speech

symbols · The Rococo tapestry; the diamond brooch

foreshadowing · There are two notable examples in terms of plot: the speech by Lady Chiltern at the end of Act I that prefigures Sir Robert's fall and Lord Goring's vague remarks about the diamond bracelet and his past engagement to Mrs. Cheveley in Act II

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