An Ideal Husband
Study Questions and Essay Topics
Take a short, humorous example of Wildean banter and explain why it is funny. What literary devices (irony, sarcasm, paradox, etc.) make the joke possible? What, if any, is the joke's insight? How might it function in the larger context of the play? If applicable, also consider the use of facial expressions, gestures, stage movement, and so on.
Discuss how objects in circulation (letters, etc.) function in the play. What might they suggest about characters, plot structure, etc.? What might they symbolize?
Compare and contrast the different notions of love proffered by the players, both major and minor. Contextualize these opinions within the larger moral scheme of the play. You may want to isolate two characters or couples for comparison.
Suggested Essay Topics
In Act I, Mrs. Cheveley's tells Sir Robert: "Questions are never indiscreet. Answers sometimes are." In Act II, Goring tells Sir Robert: "It is always worthwhile asking a question, though it is not always worthwhile answering one." With these quotes in mind, discuss how moments of interrogation function in the play.
In Act III, Lord Caversham tells Lord Goring that he hates paradox. In what ways does Goring use paradox in his speech? What are the effects of such use?
Discuss Wilde's techniques of characterization. How does he make use of art work in drawing the introductory "portraits" of his players? How does he make use of costume? What are the differences in the speech of individual characters? You may choose to focus on two or three characters to make comparisons.
Discuss how the play constructs Mrs. Cheveley's femininity. For example: why is she described as lamia-like? You may want to consider her dialogue, dialogue about her, her costumes, etc.
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