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Themes

Marriage was a popular topic for plays in Oscar Wilde's time. It's still popular in ours. Remember all those movies in which a young couple fight and break up, but make up in time for the credits? Same thing here. The characters mill around in a comic fog of misunderstanding and hardheadedness until their need for each other (with a little meddling) overcomes the odds. They learn to be honest, to forgive, to commit, and to give. In An Ideal Husband, marriage seems to be a generally desirable institution. Only the villain stays single.

Questions About Marriage

  1. If Oscar Wilde were performing a wedding ceremony, what advice would he give to the newlyweds?
  2. Will Lord Goring and Mabel have a happy marriage? On what do you base your answer to this question?
  3. What did Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern learn about each other that may make them more compatible?
  4. Do you think Mrs. Cheveley is capable of love? What sort of fellow would be the lucky man?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Lord Goring's irreverence toward marriage and other respected institutions makes him the ideal problem-solver for the crisis of Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern.

Denied influence in the public sphere, women in Victorian England exerted influence through marriage.

The marriage of Lord Goring and Mabel at the end of An Ideal Husband is a contrivance put in to please the audience.

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