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An Ideal Husband

  • Study Guide

Act II - Part One

Summary Act II - Part One

Though ever playful, Goring nevertheless remains passionately loyal to rather sentimental notions like love, pledging to do all he can to assist his friend and sway the morally inflexible Lady Chiltern. As Goring tells Lady Chiltern, love, (and not German philosophy) that "explains" and determines the human world, should trump her obsession with having an ideal husband. More specifically, the love Goring praises to Lady Chiltern emphasizes charity and the forgiveness of faults and errors. Thus in their exchange we see a number of poles emerging around the theme of love and conjugal life, Lady Chiltern's adoration for her ideal mate being posed against the ideas offered by her counselor. As we will see in Act IV, the woman's proper role in love will ultimately become what Goring describes, that of the forgiving caretaker.

Finally, we should note that Goring remains mischievous even in his quite moving gravity, interrupting the dialogue with an occasional joke or repartee. At one point, for example, he declares that truth is a bad habit; after advising Lady Chiltern, perplexed by his sudden seriousness, he denies that he precisely understands what he is talking about. Thus Goring himself would warn his listeners against taking his advice in earnest. His banter continually defuses attempts to engage him in "serious" conversation and provides mild comic relief.