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.
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.