In An Ideal Husband, the past is mostly a thing one wishes had never happened. The characters don't want to talk about the past or hear about it. They definitely don't want a letter from it, especially if said letter identifies them as an erstwhile crook. There's some dispute about the past's influence on the future. Does it define these characters? Or can they leave the past behind like a snake shedding an old skin? Ultimately, love buries the old ghosts and banishes the vipers. With the promise of one new marriage and one renewed one, the last act of the play looks resolutely toward the future.
An Ideal Husband pits different conceptions of human development against each other. Through the course of the play, the author endorses the idea of a human being as a work in progress. A person's past is just a draft in the ongoing creation of identity.
As the millennium approaches, the couples reject the past as represented by Mrs. Markby and Lord Caversham.