Tony's Reviews > A Woman of No Importance

A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde
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May 11, 12

bookshelves: drama
Read in May, 2012

A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE. (1893). ***.
This play is mostly a vehicle for Wilde’s sense of irony about the titled class of England. It is obvious that he is ridiculing his very audience with the characters in his play. If the drama has a focus, it is about the secret relationship between Mrs. Arbuthnot (The woman of no importance.) and her son, and – though not learned until later in the play – his father. Twenty years ago, Mrs. Arbuthnot was seduced by Lord Illingworth. When they learned she was pregnant, he agreed to marry her, but backed out on the deal. They have not seen each other for these twenty years, nor has the Lord seen or known his son, Gerald. When he learns that Gerald is his son (although Geerald doesn’t know that the Lord is his father) he offers to take him on as his secretary – a move that would guarantee Gerald a secure career. It doesn’t work out. At a social at a neighbor’s manor, all three meet and a scandal ensues when Illingworth tries to put the moves on Gerald’s girlfriend, Hester, an American heiress. Gerald then learns that Illingworth is his father and a cad, and turns down the job offer. The fourth act is an exercise in bathos, a sentimental farce in itself that didn’t seem worth of Wilde’s pen. I think that Wilde thought that he had to end the drama in a conventional way to satisfy his audience; good must triumph over bad! To illustrate Wilde’s extensive use clever quips throughout the work, here are a few examples:
• Men always want to be a woman’s first love...What we (women) like is to be a man’s last romance.
• ...(T)he Ideal Man should talk to us as if we were goddesses, and treat us as if we were children. He should refuse all our serious requests, and gratify every one of our whims. He should encourage us to have caprices, and forbid us to have missions. He should always say much more than he means, and always mean much more than he says.
• People’s mothers always bore me to death. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy.
• If a man is a gentleman, he knows quite enough, and if he is not a gentleman, whatever he knows is bad for him.
• To win back my youth, Gerald (this from Illingworth), there is nothing I wouldn’t do – except take exercise, get up early or be a useful member of the community.
I could go on quoting excerpts like this forever, but these should give you the flavor of the dialog. I wish I could recommend this play, but it comes out as trivial compared to other Wilde works.
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message 1: by Caroline (new)

Caroline An excellent review. I notice I only want to 'like' reviews if I like the sound of the book (or in this case play), which I don't, so will just leave a comment instead.


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