Play Reading in English - An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
HK English Speaking Union
- Mon 18-08-2014 7:15 PM - 2 h
An Ideal Husband was written in 1895, the same year that Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest. Not only was it a very productive and successful year for Wilde but also a fateful one, being the year of his trial, disgrace and imprisonment. Although An Ideal Husband is not as famous for its comedy as The Importance of Being Earnest, it is a brilliantly conceived and tightly structured play, linking the social and political spheres with the domestic, thus highlighting Wilde's interest in the interplay of private and public image and perception. The play revolves around a blackmail scheme that has the effect of forcing a married couple, both highly regarded in their social circle, to re-evaluate the moral values and standards of their personal relationship and of the society in general.
The plot concerns a successful government minister, Sir Robert Chiltern whose marriage is threatened by the sudden appearance of a woman from the past, Mrs Laura Cheveley. This lady threatens to reveal a secret from Robert's past at a time when, being young and inexperienced, he acted naively. She intends to blackmail him in order to exert personal influence over a decision pending on a lucrative project, one which she wishes to force Robert to support. Robert turns to his charming but idle, cynical friend Lord Goring for help in view of the dangerous situation he is facing. As the crisis deepens, the latter has to start taking his flirting relationship with Robert's sister Mabel more seriously; he decides to use his charming exterior and his reputation for having casual affairs to good effect to help his friend. Threats, deceit and social banter all combine to make the ensuing plot tense and, at the same time, witty and compelling. Thus in the topsy-turvy world of Wilde's inverted social comedy a man seemingly without moral flaws becomes totally dependent on the man who appears to revel in his bad reputation to save his good name, his career and his marriage. What makes for an ideal husband in such circumstances?
The play was adapted into a delightful film starring Rupert, Everett, Cate Blanchett and Jeremy Northam in 1999, selections of which can be viewed on YouTube.
Play reading will be conducted in English.