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Oscar Wilde. o A.B Walkley’s criticism best illustrates this shift in focus. Walkley gave the play a mixed review. He commented that Wildes plots were.

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Presentation on theme: "Oscar Wilde. o A.B Walkley’s criticism best illustrates this shift in focus. Walkley gave the play a mixed review. He commented that Wildes plots were."— Presentation transcript:

1 Oscar Wilde

2 o A.B Walkley’s criticism best illustrates this shift in focus. Walkley gave the play a mixed review. He commented that Wildes plots were not original, but brilliantly written “in point of intellect”. o A women of no importance is a vibrant, well devised exemplum (Latin for example) of the radicalisation (is a process by which an individual or group comes to adopt political, social or religious ideas) of conventional nineteenth century drama. no-importance CRITICISMS

3 A Woman of No Importance has been described as the "weakest of the plays Wilde wrote in the Nineties". Many critics note that much of the first act-and-a-half surrounds the witty conversations of members of the upper-classes, the drama only beginning in the second half of the second act with Lord Illingworth and Mrs Arbuthnot finding their pasts catching up with them. Lytton Strachey gave a curious interpretation of the relationship between Lord Illingworth and his new-found son Gerald when Tree put on another production of the play in In a letter to Duncan Grant he described Lord Illingworth (again played by Tree) as having incestuous homosexual designs on his son. Strachey's interpretation of Tree's performance was probably influenced by Wilde's exposure as a homosexual himself. Like many of Wilde's plays the main theme is the secrets of the upper-classes: Lord Illingworth discovering that the young man he has employed as a secretary is in fact his illegitimate son, a situation similar to the central plot of Lady Windermere's Fan. Secrets would also affect the characters of The Importance of Being Earnest In one scene, Lord Illingworth and Mrs Allonby (whose unseen husband is called Ernest) share the line "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.", "No man does. That is his." Algernon would make the same remark in The Importance of Being Earnest. CRITICISMS

4 In A Woman of No Importance purity is asserted by Mrs Arbuthnot, the earnest American, Hester Worsley, and the MP, Mr Kelvil. The latter complains that Illingworth "regards woman simply as a toy,“ (link to ‘Cousin Kate’) whereas she is "the intellectual helpmeet of man in public as in private life. Without her we should forget the true ideals" (WNI 30). However, Kelvil has packed his own wife and eight children off to the seaside while he pursues his career; and although Mrs Arbuthnot wins out against the unpleasant Illingworth, it is at the cost of appearing narrow and obsessive. Meanwhile, feminine, dandified values are maintained by the leisured women. Like many of Wilde's plays the main theme is the secrets of the upper-classes: Lord Illingworth discovering that the young man he has employed as a secretary is in fact his illegitimate son, a situation similar to the central plot of Lady Windermere's Fan. Secrets would also affect the characters of The Importance of Being Earnest.

5 QUOTES- HESTER WORSLEY “set a mark, if you wish, on each, but don’t punish the one and let the other go free. Don’t have one law for men and another for women. You are unjust to women in England. “oh, your English society seems to me shallow, selfish, foolish. It had blinded its eyes and stopped its ears” “they are outcasts. They are nameless. If you met them on the street you would turn your head away. I don’t complain of their punishment. Let all women who have sinned be punished”.

6 Although Mrs. Arbuthnot was able to hide her unwed status as a mother, she represents the single woman of the Victorian Era who could have been in a desperate situation had she not had help. Even in the works of Jane Austen we see similar situations - Lords who take advantage of beautiful women of lower classes, and leave them destitute when they realize the women are pregnant. In the British 'Poor Laws' of the 19th Century, there was a 'Bastardly Clause' that let men off the hook while punishing unwed mothers by not allowing them to receive help from the government. There was a thought that this law would teach women to be more moral. The average working class wife was either pregnant or breast-feeding from wedding day to menopause,” bearing approximately eight pregnancies, and ultimately raising approximately five children. This overflow of offspring was most likely linked to the fact that birth control literature was illegal at the time. THE VICTORIAN UNWED MOTHER


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