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The 'wicked aristocrat' and the 'virtuous maiden' are common characters in Victorian plays. Explore Wilde's purposes in his presentation of Lord Illingworth, Mrs Arbuthnot and Hester Worsley.

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Introduction

The 'wicked aristocrat' and the 'virtuous maiden' are common characters in Victorian plays. Explore Wilde's purposes in his presentation of Lord Illingworth, Mrs Arbuthnot and Hester Worsley. Wilde uses these types of character to present many of his key themes. Lord Illingworth represents Aesthetism and shows the characteristics of the Dandy. His character also shares aspects of personality with Wilde as he shows that Aesthetism is not actually bad through changing the character of Lord Illingworth towards the end. In contrast Hester is a very religious and moralistic character who, compared to Mrs Arbuthnot, seems to be too moralistic in her views. Again, this character changes towards the end of the play to portray Wilde's thoughts on society. Together, the characters of Mrs Arbuthnot and Lord Illingworth show the theme of marriage and the views about it in Victorian society. Also they show how the roles of men and women change through the power alteration we see between them. The 'virtuous maiden', one of them being Hester, also shows the ideas of the New Woman. ...read more.

Middle

At the end of Act Two Lord Illingworth seems to bully Mrs Arbuthnot asking her if she has any reason why she does not 'wish your son to accept this post' which builds tension as the audience want her to tell Gerald. Lord Illingworth uses his power speaking in a threatening tone towards Gerald's mother saying that she had 'acted very, very wisely' then 'exit with Gerald. Mrs Arbuthnot is left alone' representing Lord Illingworth's success in gaining Gerald. The power change between men and women is shown towards the end when Mrs Arbuthnot gains power over Gerald and over Lord Illingworth. This is first shown when 'Lord Illingworth enters at back of stage' which contrasts with earlier in the play when 'Mrs Arbuthnot enters from terrace behind'. When the characters enter from the back of the stage it can be seen as a lack of power therefore through these stage directions Mrs Arbuthnot has more power at the end of the play than Lord Illingworth does. We can see her power over Gerald towards the end when he says that 'nothing in the world would induce me to go away with Lord Illingworth' and we even see the power she has over Lord Illingworth. ...read more.

Conclusion

Wilde is an aesthete so he does not want to show the audience that Aesthetism is not bad. Therefore towards the end he takes away Aesthetism away from Lord Illingworth as he makes him a worse character. Therefore the audience think that he was a better character when he was an aesthete making it a good aspect. He is insulting at the end when he realises that he has lost the battle with Mrs Arbuthnot. He says that 'it has been an amusing experience to have met amongst people of one's own rank, and treated quite seriously too, one's mistress, and one's-'. Lord Illingworth was quite comfortable to insult Gerald by going to call him a 'bastard' showing that he never cared about his son but only 'win' him as a possession away from Mrs Arbuthnot to show his social status and his power. This shows the other view of the Dandy and Aesthetism as they believe there is no such thing as morals which Wilde agrees with as he says that 'there can be no such thing as morality' as 'all morality is flawed'. Mrs Arbuthnot's speech in Act 4, page 98-99, portrays the truly moral views that she has. ...read more.

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