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An Ideal Husband

An Ideal Husband

(p.130) 5 An Ideal Husband
Revising Wilde
Sos Eltis
Oxford University Press

Interviewed by a reporter from the Sketch a week after An Ideal Husband opened at the Haymarket, Oscar Wilde provocatively dismissed the role of the public in judging the success of his play. In a more serious tone, Wilde explained his belief that drama is rightly a private form of art. An Ideal Husband was as deceptive a play as its predecessors, its superficial conservatism concealing its more subversive implications from the common playgoer. The play is constructed in layer upon layer of assertion and contradiction. Characters alternately depend upon and subvert traditional stereotypes. Apparently unironic statements are rendered ambiguous by the action which accompanies them. While presenting a reassuringly familiar melodrama of intrigue and blackmail, Wilde placed his action in the centre of 19th-century political life, and examined the issues of private and public morality and their relation to the contemporary debate on the role of women in society.

Keywords:   An Ideal Husband, drama, art, conservatism, Sketch, assertion, contradiction, blackmail, morality, women

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