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A Woman of No Importance


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A: Oscar Wilde Pf: 1893, London Pb: 1894 G: Drama in 4 acts S: English country house and Mrs Arbuthnot's house, 1890s C: 8m, 7fAt his imposing house of Hunstanton Chase the charming bachelor Lord Illingworth is entertaining several guests, among whom are an outspoken young American heiress Hester Worsley and her fiancé Gerald Arbuthnot. Gerald is hoping to become Illingworth's secretary, but his mother attempts to dissuade him. She reveals to Illingworth that Gerald is his son, the product of a liaison which Illingworth broke off, because he considered her ‘a woman of no importance’. When Illingworth molests Hester, Gerald is so incensed against him that he is prepared to kill him. This forces Mrs Arbuthnot to reveal the secret of his parentage. Gerald demands that Illingworth marry his mother, but, encouraged by Hester, she refuses, preferring instead to live with the young couple and dismissing Illingworth as ‘a man of no importance’.

A: Oscar Wilde Pf: 1893, London Pb: 1894 G: Drama in 4 acts S: English country house and Mrs Arbuthnot's house, 1890s C: 8m, 7f

When attacked by critics for including too little action in Lady Windermere's Fan, Wilde responded by gleefully writing this play, in whose first act, ‘There is absolutely no action at all.’ Equally successful with audiences, Wilde transformed the Victorian interest in the ‘fallen woman’ into a witty and elegant piece, in which the abused Mrs Arbuthnot triumphs morally over the elegant but empty Lord Illingworth.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Oscar Wilde (1854—1900) writer


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