Lady Windermere's Fan. Oscar Wilde. 1893. 70 pages. [Source: Bought]
Parker. Is your ladyship at home this afternoon?
Lady Windermere. Yes—who has called?
Parker. Lord Darlington, my lady.
Lady Windermere. [Hesitates for a moment.] Show him up—and I’m at home to any one who calls.
Parker. Yes, my lady.
Premise/plot: Lady Windermere's Fan is a play by Oscar Wilde. Lady Winderemere (Margaret) learns on her birthday that her husband has been keeping company with a 'bad woman' with a past. They've just been married two years, and she's always thought he was most trustworthy. But when one person strongly hints and another out and out tells her that her husband has been paying to keep another woman, well, she's shaken. She confronts her husband, and he insists that she invites her to her birthday party--or birthday ball as the case may be. She's insulted, upset, adamant. She will NOT put up with such treatment! But a card and invitation is sent out--and she comes, Mrs. Erlynne comes.
Meanwhile while this 'bad woman' is dancing and charming the men at the party, one man in particular is trying to charm Lady Windermere. Lord Darlington is professing his love; he truly, madly, deeply loves, loves, loves her. Won't she run away with him? After all who could blame her?! Her husband is inviting THAT WOMAN to her birthday party, and openly socializing with her!!! Surely a good woman would be justified in leaving her husband for another man? Even if she does have a baby with her husband...
Will Lady Windermere say YES to Lord Darlington? Will Lady Windermere forgive her husband? What would a good woman do under the circumstances?
My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one!!! I am thinking this one might be less well known--as opposed to The Importance of Being Earnest--so I won't spoil the secrets of Lady Windermere's Fan...but it's a GOOD read. In some ways it reminds me of HIGH SOCIETY which is one of my most favorite, favorite, favorite musicals. (Although Wilde's play doesn't have Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong.)
I definitely enjoyed the writing and the characters.
Lord Darlington. [Still seated L.C.] Oh, nowadays so many conceited people go about Society pretending to be good, that I think it shows rather a sweet and modest disposition to pretend to be bad. Besides, there is this to be said. If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad, it doesn’t. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism.
Lady Windermere. [Leaning
back on the sofa.] You look on me as being behind the
age.—Well, I am! I should be sorry to be on the same
level as an age like this.
Lord Darlington. You think the age very bad?
Lady Windermere. Yes. Nowadays people seem to look on life as a speculation. It is not a speculation. It is a sacrament. Its ideal is Love. Its purification is sacrifice.
Lord Darlington. [Smiling.] Oh, anything is better than being sacrificed!
Lady Windermere. [Leaning forward.] Don’t say that.
Lord Darlington. Do you know I am afraid that good people do a great deal of harm in this world. Certainly the greatest harm they do is that they make badness of such extraordinary importance. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious. I take the side of the charming, and you, Lady Windermere, can’t help belonging to them.
Lady Windermere. Why do you
talk so trivially about life, then?
Lord Darlington. Because I think that life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it.
Duchess of Berwick. That’s quite right, dear. Crying is the refuge of plain women but the ruin of pretty ones.
Lord Darlington. My life—my whole life. Take it, and do with it what you will. . . . I love you—love you as I have never loved any living thing. From the moment I met you I loved you, loved you blindly, adoringly, madly! You did not know it then—you know it now! Leave this house to-night. I won’t tell you that the world matters nothing, or the world’s voice, or the voice of society. They matter a great deal. They matter far too much. But there are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely—or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands. You have that moment now. Choose! Oh, my love, choose.
Cecil Graham. My own business always bores me to death. I prefer other people’s.
Cecil Graham. [Coming
towards him L.C.] My dear Arthur, I never talk
scandal. I only talk gossip.
Lord Windermere. What is the difference between scandal and gossip?
Cecil Graham. Oh! gossip is charming! History is merely gossip. But scandal is gossip made tedious by morality. Now, I never moralise. A man who moralises is usually a hypocrite, and a woman who moralises is invariably plain. There is nothing in the whole world so unbecoming to a woman as a Nonconformist conscience. And most women know it, I’m glad to say.
Dumby. I congratulate you, my
dear fellow. In this world there are only two
tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other
is getting it. The last is much the worst; the last is a
real tragedy! But I am interested to hear she does not love
Cecil Graham. What is a
cynic? [Sitting on the back of the sofa.]
Lord Darlington. A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Cecil Graham. And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.
Lord Darlington. You always amuse me, Cecil. You talk as if you were a man of experience.
Cecil Graham. I am. [Moves up to front off fireplace.]
Lord Darlington. You are far too young!
Cecil Graham. That is a great error. Experience is a question of instinct about life. I have got it. Tuppy hasn’t. Experience is the name Tuppy gives to his mistakes. That is all. [Lord Augustus looks round indignantly.]
Dumby. Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.
Dumby. It’s no use
talking to Tuppy. You might just as well talk to a brick
Cecil Graham. But I like talking to a brick wall—it’s the only thing in the world that never contradicts me! Tuppy!
Lady Windermere. We all have
ideals in life. At least we all should have. Mine is
Mrs. Erlynne. Ideals are dangerous things. Realities are better. They wound, but they’re better.
Lady Windermere. [Shaking her head.] If I lost my ideals, I should lose everything.
Mrs. Erlynne. Everything?
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