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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)
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
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
Ace your assignments with our guide to An Ideal Husband!