A: Oscar Wilde Pf: 1895, London Pb: 1899 G: Drama in 4 acts S: Sir Robert's and Lord Goring's homes, London, 1895 C: 9m, 6fSir Robert Chiltern seems to be an ideal husband, a rich and successful politician and devoted spouse. However, Mrs Cheveley threatens to expose Sir Robert, whose whole career is founded on the former sale of a Cabinet secret to a financier. When Mrs Cheveley tells Lady Chiltern of her husband's dishonesty, Lady Chiltern writes to seek help from a good friend, Lord Goring. Goring discovers Mrs Cheveley in possession of a stolen brooch, and uses the threat of calling the police to force her to hand over the letter incriminating Sir Robert. Mrs Cheveley now tries to destroy Sir Robert's marriage by sending him the note Lady Chiltern sent to Goring. This fails too, and Sir Robert is even offered promotion. Although his wife at first feels that he should confess everything, she is persuaded that this will gain nothing and tears up Sir Robert's letter of resignation. Finally, Goring is to marry Sir Robert's sister Mabel.
A: Oscar Wilde Pf: 1895, London Pb: 1899 G: Drama in 4 acts S: Sir Robert's and Lord Goring's homes, London, 1895 C: 9m, 6f
Although this play has a conventional happy ending, even including a marriage, the preparation for which has been a very peripheral element of the plot, it hardly offers a satisfying dramatic resolution. Instead of injustice being exposed, Wilde's cynicism allows the somewhat less than ‘ideal’ husband to continue his successful career with impunity. Only the loyal friend and devoted wife provide positive models of behaviour, but they can maintain the moral high ground only because they are not required to be involved in political life.