- About Lady Windermere's Fan
- Act 3 Summary
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- Lady Windermere's Fan
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The higher the imagination soars, both from the work of art and from reality, the better the criticism. Just as the critic in this sense can be superior to the artist, so the artist is superior to the man of action.
About Lady Windermere's Fan
The man of action is the least imaginative because action is "a base concession to fact. In "The Decay of Lying" he argues that lying is a requisite of art, for without it there is nothing but a base realism. The problem with the novel in England, Wilde claims, is that writers do not lie enough; they do not have enough imagination in their works: "they find life crude, and leave it raw.
The Soul of Man under Socialism, though not collected in Intentions, was published in the same year, Wilde's society friends must have been amused at his advocacy of socialism, but the conclusions of this essay are consistent with those of the other essays—if we accept his premises about socialism. Wilde advocates a nonauthoritarian socialism under which the individual would be freed from either the burden of poverty or the burdens of greed and guilt.
As Michael Helfand and Philip Smith stated in Texas Studies in Literature and Language, "Wilde formulated a nonauthoritarian socialist theory which encouraged aesthetic activity, analogous to sexual selection, and reduced competition and thus natural selection , as the way of achieving continuous cultural and social improvement. Wilde's last important essay was written during his imprisonment.
Act 3 Summary
Events leading up to Wilde's incarceration began when Lord Alfred Douglas's father, the Marquess of Queensberry, tried unsuccessfully to end the relationship between his son and Wilde. Frustrated by his lack of success, he went to Wilde's club and left his card, which was inscribed "To Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite [ sic ]. Wilde lost the case, and as a result of the testimony against him at the trial, he was arrested and tried for homosexuality.
Since the jury could not agree on a verdict, Wilde was tried a second time and ultimately convicted.
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The record of these trials, which was published by H. Montgomery Hyde in as Trials of Oscar Wilde, makes fascinating reading, revealing as it does the vanity of Wilde, the eccentricities of Queensbury, and exultation of the British public at the verdict. Wilde was sentenced in May, , to two years of hard labor, most of which was spent at Reading Gaol. A heavily edited version of this letter was published in ; the entire work did not appear until Rupert Hart-Davis's complete edition of Wilde's letters was published in As a work of art, De Profundis suffers from a divided purpose caused in part by the fact that there is more than one audience.
From the beginning Wilde intended the letter to be read by more people than Douglas alone. At the end of the work he expressed its weaknesses as well as anyone later appraising De Profundis has: "How far I am away from the true temper of soul, this letter in its changing, uncertain moods, its scorn and bitterness, its aspirations and its failures to realize those aspirations shows you quite clearly.
Then Wilde reverses his position and accepts any blame for the outcome of events. But the vehemence of the early denunciation renders hollow a finely cried statement like the following: "To regret one's own experience is to arrest one's own development. To deny one's own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one's own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul. And Wilde reasserts the most important critical principles of the earlier essays: the importance of individualism, imagination, self-expression, and self-development. In De Profundis, Christ becomes the archetype of the artist, "the most supreme of individualists.
Hyde recorded in The Annotated Oscar Wilde that Yeats called it "a great or almost great poem," but the fact that he chose only thirty-eight of the poem's stanzas for publication in the Oxford Book of Modern Verse suggests his awareness of the work's diffuseness. The poem appeared in without Wilde's name but with the identification "C. The ballad tells a very moving story of a man condemned to death for the murder of his young wife and records the horror of his fellow prisoners as they watch him go through his last days.
Though the poem has much of the realism that Wilde always abhorred, it transcends nineteenth-century prison life in its handling of the themes of suffering, isolation, and collective guilt "Yet each man kills the thing he loves". The poem is the most successful of Wilde's non-dramatic works primarily because, as Robert Keith Miller said, Wilde himself is "no longer the center of attention. Similarly, Wilde eluded attention after his prison release. He wandered Europe for three and a half years under an assumed name, Sebastian Melmoth, and died bankrupt in a Paris hotel on November 30, In Wilde started to teach Aesthetic values in London.
In he went on a lecture tour in the United States and Canada. He was torn apart by no small number of critics, The Wasp, a San Francisco newspaper, published a cartoon ridiculing Wilde and Aestheticism , but also was surprisingly well-received in such rough-and-tumble settings as the mining town of Leadville, Colorado. Politically, Wilde endorsed an anarchistic brand of socialism, expounding his beliefs in the text "The Soul of Man Under Socialism". Literary works He had already published in A Selection of his Poems , which, however, attracted admiration in only a limited circle.
His most famous fairy tale, The House of Pomegranates , acknowledged by the author to be "intended neither for the British child nor the British public. His fame as a dramatist began with the production of Lady Windermere's Fan in February Wilde described it as "one of those modern drawing-room Plays with pink lampshades". It was immediately successful, the author making the enormous sum of seven thousand pounds from the original run.
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He apparently wore a green carnation for the first time on opening night. Wilde was furious, even contemplating he said changing his nationality to become a French citizen. The play was published in English, with illustrations by Aubrey Beardsley, in A French edition had appeared the year before. It repeated the success of Lady Windermere's Fan, consolidating Wilde's reputation as the best writer of "comedy-of-manners" since Richard Brinsley Sheridan. This contains a political melodrama—as opposed to the marital melodrama of the earlier comedies—running alongside the usual Wildean Epigrams , social commentary, comedy, and romance.
George Bernard Shaw's review said that " Mr Wilde is to me our only serious playwright. He plays with everything: with wit, with philosophy, with drama, with actors, with audience, with the whole theatre It caused a sensation. It is in a class of its own in the whole of English drama as a piece of pure, delightful nonsense. At least two versions of the play are in existence.
Wilde originally wrote it in four acts, but George Alexander asked him to cut it down to three for the original production. He never developed it, the Queensberry affair and his own trial intervening. Frank Harris eventually wrote a version called Mr and Mrs Daventry. Wilde wrote another little-known play in the form of a pantomime for a friend of his, Chan Toon, which was called For Love Of the King. The play also went under the name A Burmese Masque. It has never been widely circulated. Chan Toon, who was sent to prison for stealing money from her landlady.
His inclination towards relations with younger men was relatively well-known, and biographers have often recorded Robert Ross who would be his literary executor as Wilde's first such lover. Ross, a boy of seventeen when Wilde met him, was already aware of Wilde's poems and indeed had been beaten for reading them. By Richard Ellman's account, Ross, " However, Niel McKenna's more recent biography, The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde , demonstrates convincingly that Wilde was aware of his homosexuality from the moment of his first kiss with another boy at age 16, and had in fact lived with male lover Frank Miles two years his senior for several years before his marriage in By the late s, Wilde was already preoccupied with the philosophy of same-sex love, and had befriended several homosexual writers and law reformers.
Lady Windermere's Fan
Wilde was infuenced by the writings of gay-rights pioneer Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs and joined a secret organisation called the "Order of Chaeronea", referring in letters to the campaign for legalization of homosexuality as "the Cause". Wilde also met Walt Whitman in America in , writing to a friend that there was "no doubt" about the great American poet's sexual orientation — "I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips," he boasted.
For instance, what was a period piece for Lubitsch was urgently contemporary for Wilde — his own life story would show how much is at stake for his heroines as they risk social repudiation, an urgency diminished in the sexually liberated Jazz Age. It is true that Mrs. Erlynne — who is a magnificent force in Wilde, and whose off-stage difficulties must be implied — is more fully elaborated in Lubitsch: we see her agonising over debts, regretting the underhand means she must employ to pay them; or tantalisingly admiring the daughter she can never acknowledge. This boxing off of a married couple is brilliantly developed in the series of close-ups that separate the pair sitting together in his study as Lady Windermere confronts her husband with the supposed evidence of his infidelity.
Lady Windermere's Fan design
Language, attitudes, morals, characters, stereotypes and situations in the play are taken from the stock social and cultural forms of the day, and turned against that society and culture, rather as Nicholas Ray uses the visual language of advertising in Bigger than Life The real difference between these two great artists may be a matter of history. This openness may signal potential and maturity; for Lubitsch too, but also, perhaps, wariness and regret.
Edmund Wilson quoted in Herman G.
Georges Sadoul quoted in Weinberg, p. Weinberg, p. Ellmann, p.