Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and I thought it appropriate to write about the play hub and I saw Sunday, Oscar Wilde’s The Ideal Husband.
The play successfully debuted in London at the twilight of the 19th century - on January 3, 1895. Oscar Wilde was initially listed as the author, but during the play’s run he was arrested for ‘gross indecency,’ a 19th century Victorian euphemism for homosexuality. Wilde’s name was removed from the list of credits. He spent two years in prison for his transgression.
The comedy takes place in upper class, aristocratic, Victorian London at the end of the 19th century. A lot of pomp and pretentiousness establishes the background for a chain of events revolving around the attempted blackmail of an upstanding member of the House of Commons.
The play centers around the world of money, business and politics, but all scenes occur within the warm, cushioned, handsomely decorated, safe domiciles where the main characters reside. We meet the doting wife, conniving lady, good-hearted wealthy aristocrat, rich ex-businessman, and a host of men and women totally Victorian and not-quite-Victorian.
The gorgeous costumes, set designs, and English accents establish a rather quaint world middle class Americans do not relate to or ever experience. But listening carefully, the repartee between characters, and the plot, are as relevant today as they were over 100 years ago.
A number of interesting quotes from the play include the following:
Women have a wonderful instinct about things. They can discover everything except the obvious.
Romance should never begin with sentiment. It should begin with science and end with a settlement.
To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.
The strength of women comes from the fact that psychology cannot explain us. Men can be analyzed, women merely adored.
The play recognizes the fact that there is no such thing as an ideal husband, but over one hundred years later I have discovered an anomaly - one member of the male species who qualifies as the ideal husband.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I love you!