The Misunderstood Legacy of Oscar Wilde
Surrounded by scandal caused by his own deception, Oscar Wilde left this world with a legacy of often misunderstood wit, a brilliant collection of writing, and sordid tales of an extramarital homosexual affair. The playwright progressed from a fashionable, flippant fop immersed in London society to a man broken by the public discovery of his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas. In his prime, Oscar Wilde was a social butterfly, admired and accepted by an artistic circle until his illicit affair became public; throughout his plays, he mocked the same London society with which he himself was quite involved. Within these plays, Oscar Wilde frequently created a character to represent himself, usually a witty, slightly devious dandy who could be a direct voice for the playwright. In An Ideal Husband, the characteristically clever Lord Goring cloaked wisdom in triviality, much like Wilde himself; in The Importance of Being Earnest, the deceitful but good-hearted Algernon embodied many of the qualities of his creator. In each of these plays, struggles within Wilde’s life often surfaced within the plot and dialogue. At the time they were written, the frenzied affair between Douglas and Wilde was at an apex, and the issues surrounding the situation--marital problems, conflicts with the government, and deception--permeated the works. The concept of deception woven throughout Oscar Wilde’s plays An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest both reflected and drew inspiration from the artifice within his own life.
Within An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, deception pervaded the formation of both plot and characters. Wilde’s self-referential Lord Goring flirted ...
... middle of paper ...
...fe of the artist, just as Wilde imitated himself in his deceptive art.
Beckson, Karl. The Oscar Wilde Encyclopedia. New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1998.
Bird, Alan. The Plays of Oscar Wilde. London: Vision Press Ltd., 1977.
Eltis, Sos. Revising Wilde: Society and Subversion in the Plays of Oscar Wilde. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Holland, Merlin. The Wilde Album. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1997.
Raby, Peter. The Importance of Being Earnest: A Reader’s Companion. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1995.
Stokes, John. Oscar Wilde: Myths, Miracles, and Imitations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. Woodbury: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1959.
Wilde, Oscar. An Ideal Husband. Two Plays by Oscar Wilde. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1997.