Oscar Wilde was an Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist,
poet, and critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of the
Victorian Era. In his lifetime he wrote nine plays, one novel, and numerous
poems, short stories, and essays. Wilde was admired as an artist in the prudish Victorian
England, He was famous for his eloquence, extravagant behavior and criticism of
the upper class. Some of his works include ‘The importance of being Earnest’, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, ‘A
Woman of No Importance’, ‘An Ideal Husband’ and ‘Salome’.
Woman of no Importance was written by Oscar Wilde in 1893. The play centers
around the double standards of the 1800s. It showcases troubling attitudes towards
the role and expectations of women in the Victorian Era. The play premiered at London’s Haymarket Theatre
on April 19, 1893 and proceeded to run for 113 performances.
The main plot of the play revolves around a
woman, Mrs. Arbuthnot, who is an unwed mother with one grown son. People
believe her to be a widow. In a strange turn of events, her son, Gerald, is
offered a job by, Lord Illingworth, a scrupulous, unprincipled man, who also
happens to be his father. Gerald has to make a choice whether to take the job
offered by his father or to remain loyal to his mother who raised him alone.
Mrs Rachel Arbuthnot: Mrs Rachel Arbuthnot is the unwed mother
of Gerald. She is a thoughtful, and adorable mother who goes through a
lot of agony and suffering while raising Gerald on her own. She is
frustrated and lonely as Lord Illingworth did not want to marry her when she
was pregnant. She is an honest and sensitive woman who cannot let go of
her past. She despises the shallow upper class society. However she
still has a wonderful reputation in the community.
Lord George Illingworth: Lord Illingworth is a member of the
house of the Lords. He is Gerald Arbuthnot’s father and refused to give
him a name at the time of his conception. He doesn’t feel any pity for anyone but himself though
he manages to keep up appearances. He is quite
well-off but is still excessively flirtatious and
indecent. He is a liar, acts cold-bloodedly and lives his
life without caring about others.
Double standards of the Victorian Era: The
Woman of No Importance’, explores the double standards that existed
between men and women in the Victorian Era. The indiscretions of men were
forgiven far more readily than women. Women were more condemned for their moral
failings and had fewer rights as well.