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An Ideal Husband

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
By: (1854-1900)

This story opens at a fashionable dinner party in Sir Robert Chiltern's home in the heart of London's stylish Grosvenor Square. One of Lady Chiltern's old school-friends, Mrs. Cheveley, a woman with a dubious past, accosts Sir Robert and threatens to expose a financial crime that he had once participated in, unless he agrees to finance a fraudulent construction project that she's promoting. Lady Chiltern is astounded when her husband who had been the severest critic of this project suddenly begins to speak in its favor. Yet she has secrets of her own, which she desperately needs to hide. Behind the lives of this fashionable set who inhabit the higher echelons of political life in England lie some very unsavory truths.

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde was wildly popular when it was first staged on January 3, 1895 and has remained one of his most performed and studied works ever since. Critics and audiences alike thoroughly enjoyed this tale of blackmail, mystery and high level political corruption. Garnished with Wilde's inimitable witty one liners, the play combines an airy lightness with a solid underpinning of thought provoking ideas. The concept of public and private honor, the place of a woman in her husband's life, society, marriage, femininity and feminism and what Mrs. Cheveley calls the “fine art of living” are some of the important themes explored in this play which takes place over just twenty-four hours in the lives of the characters.

The play clocked more than a hundred performances in its first outing itself and has continued to delight viewers and readers ever since. It has been filmed at least four times, with the latest screen adaptation being in 1999, starring Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett. Several television, audio and radio adaptations have been made.

Some of the memorable quotes from the play include “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance!” “When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers” “Even you are not rich enough Sir Robert, to buy back your past. No man is.”

An Ideal Husband is relevant, especially today, more than a hundred years after it was first written, in this age of extreme media focus on the private lives of celebrities. It also takes a long hard look at the crumbling facade of Victorian upper class life in the closing years of the nineteenth century.

For enthusiasts of Wilde's delightful wit, almost endless banter between characters, mannered comedies and the subtle portrayal of the underlying tragedy of life, An Ideal Husband is indeed a great story to read!

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Reviews (Rated: 5 Stars - 2 reviews)

Reviewer: - April 13, 2017
Enjoyed well done
Reviewer: - March 11, 2015
Subject: Well done
I don't usually like books read as skits with all the characters by different people. But this was good. I was worried by mrs. Chevelys voice. I had heard her before and it was not good. But it was fine. And it's a good story.

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