Emily Snyder's Reviews > An Ideal Husband

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
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Oct 16, 2011

it was amazing

When the name "Oscar Wilde" is brought into company, most people immediately think of "The Importance of Being Earnest," or "That fellow who was so witty," or "Oh, wasn't he really, really gay?"

What most people DON'T seem to think of is that Wilde's work was far from trifling (Earnest), more than witty, and often centered quite firmly around the difficulties of heterosexual relationships.

"An Ideal Husband" is a comedy. It's important to remember that when watching recent versions which like to make it too arch AND simultaneously too sinister. To read the play, one can enjoy all the witticisms and bon mots for which Wilde is justly famous. But beneath that clever exterior is more than a child in a handbasket (a la Earnest) but the difficulties, obligations, and complications with being a MAN in society.

Like Wilde's best work (Salome, Dorian Grey, etc.) the hero in "An Ideal Husband" is no saint, although he's perceived as one. And his youthful demons come back to haunt him in the form of blackmail. However, Sir Robert Chilton is a respected politician, a public figure whose whole persona is based around integrity. MORE, though - since we do not travel to Parliament with him, Oscar Wilde makes Robert a seeming paragon at home: a foil to his foppish friend, supporter of his sister-in-law, nearly worshipped by his wife.

Perfection is too much to bear. After trying to hide his past from his wife, Robert is forced by Lady Chilton to reveal the truth of his own shameful past. One cannot help but consider Wilde's own domesticity, his public persona - and what heartbreaking conversations were had behind closed doors. In one particularly moving speech, Robert begs his wife to allow him to be human, to be imperfect, and t be loved nonetheless. BUT - and here's what people forget about Wilde, presuming him to be nothing but a lush, Robert also asks his wife for help to overcome his current opportunity to backslide into his former depravity.

Wilde's personal voice always comes through the clearer in such soul-searching plays as these. His is the perpetual story of the woman caught in adultery, thrust at Christ's feet, who is ultimately spared, forgiven, and rebuked. I highly recommend anyone studying Wilde's works NOT to neglect reading them, not only in conjunction with the many biographies available, but ALSO in the light of his poems which he wrote in Rome, that are particularly revealing.

What's beautiful about Wilde is that he knew how to make us cry, even in the middle of our cultivated smiles.
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Quotes Emily Liked

Oscar Wilde
“The error all women commit. Why can’t you women love us, faults
and all? Why do you place us on monstrous pedestals? We have all feet of
clay, women as well as men; but when we men love women, we love them
knowing their weaknesses, their follies, their imperfections, love them all
the more, it may be, for that reason. It is not the perfect, but the imperfect,
who have need of love. It is when we are wounded by our own hands,
or by the hands of others, that love should come to cure us – else what use
is love at all? All sins, except a sin against itself, Love should forgive. All
lives, save loveless lives, true Love should pardon. A man’s love is like that.
It is wider, larger, more human than a woman’s. Women think that they
are making ideals of men. What they are making of us are false idols
merely. You made your false idol of me, and I had not the courage to
come down, show you my wounds, tell you my weaknesses. I was afraid
that I might lose your love, as I have lost it now.”
Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband

Reading Progress

02/10 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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Alysa Great review - I love this book - makes me want to read it again.
"Now don't stir. I'll be back in five minutes. And don't fall into any temptations while I am away. "

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