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"Lady Windermere's Fan is a moral play about immoral people". Explore Wilde's presentation of attitudes in Act One.

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Introduction

"Lady Windermere's Fan is a moral play about immoral people". Explore Wilde's presentation of attitudes in Act One. Oscar Wilde wrote Lady Windermere's Fan, it was first performed in 1892 for a Victorian audience. As it is a comedy of manners, his portrayal of different characters is satirical. When he wrote this play, his ideals were to criticize the attitudes that the upper social class attached to morality through the presentation of different characters within the play. Members of Victorian society could relate to at least one of the characters, which would allow them to self-reflect and maybe change their ways. Ian Gregor states the play is concerned with "the hazards of precipitate and inflexible moral judgement. The subtitle of the play; "A play about a good woman" immediately shows us that the play shall revolve itself around the theme of morality. This is evident in Act One where attitudes are being explored through Lady Windermere's conversations with Lord Darlington, the Duchess of Berwick and Lord Windermere each in turn. Wilde presents different interpretations to morality through these characters's varying social position and their particular social mores. He is challenging the principles that distinguish between right and wrong held by this social milieu. In Act One, Wilde exposes different issues concerning morality and how different characters view morality; this is the exposition stage within this dramatic structure. ...read more.

Middle

In this conversation, we see them also discussing how to deal with a husband who has an affair, this is a subtle hint of what is suspected of Lord Windermere. He says should a wife "console herself" and she responds with "console herself?" frowning. Lord Darlington thinks there should be the same moral rules for both men and women concerning marriage. He also believes that life is too complex to label people's actions as simply good or evil - "it is absurd to divide people into good and evil", on the other hand Lady Windermere thinks that there is no complexity in the question of morality, people are either good or bad. She has an unrelentless attitude to life, and this makes her seem a bit remote and slightly cold, wouldn't this be seen as immoral or the wrong way to behave? The second conversation is with the Duchess of Berwick who is an upper- class older woman and she is the embodiment of hypocrisy. Wilde demonstrates through the Duchess of Berwick the contradictory and hypocritical nature of Victorian traditional moral values. She expresses the disparity between social expectations of men and women, as she believes that it is acceptable for men and women to have affairs as they can be "so extremely susceptible", but it is a ruin of a woman is she does: "I caught him winking at my maid, a most pretty, respectable girl. ...read more.

Conclusion

She uses a knife to open it, her moral code doesn't stop her from invading her privacy; a noticeable flaw in her absolute moral code. Her husband is shocked to discover his wife has done such a thing, he believes that hasty judgement is wrong and people deserve to be given a chance. He does not hold absolute values like his wife but he does know that when a wife spies on her husband this is wrong. However in this conversation, we see another glimpse of Lady Windermere's contradictory moral values, she says to her husband "you have taught me to love you", whereas in the earlier conversation with the Duchess she explains that "Windermere and I married for love". Lady Windermere says that "if that woman crosses my threshold, I shall strike her across the face"; violence is immoral under all circumstances, so she is hypocritical here. Throughout this first act, Wilde is setting her up for a fall, her moral code will let her down! Wilde is intrinsically criticizing Victorian society morals and he probably hopes his audience shall learn from the play as well as enjoy the humour. A modern audience would see this play and realise how much society has changed since then. Morality is a key issue in this play, and this theme is continued in the later acts. Charlene Abreu 01/11/2005 13 SHL Ms Smith ...read more.

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