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Themes

In An Ideal Husband, morality and ethics are inextricably bound to respect and reputation. As most characters shrewdly scale the social skyscraper, ethical behavior is valuable in gaining credibility with others – not necessarily valuable in itself. Good deeds are rewarded with respect and power; bad deeds get you kicked off the island. Those with no part in the rat race are a little freer to define their own ethical code. They may even play with social expectations, doing good while acting badly in order to ease the strictures.

Questions About Morality and Ethics

  1. Who is the most ethical person in the play? Who is the least ethical?
  2. Which characters see morality as connected to reputation? Which don't?
  3. How do different generations in the play view moral decision-making?

Chew on This

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

Mrs. Cheveley says Sir Robert is fraudulent and dishonest. She's right. His ruthless pursuit of wealth and influence typify the turn-of-the-century London politician.

The play argues for compassion as the ultimate morality.

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