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An Ideal Husband

An Ideal Husband

by Oscar Wilde

Power Theme

Characters in An Ideal Husband have two kinds of power. In a play with a political setting, the first is naturally public power, the ability to make decisions on a grand scale. Speeches made, votes taken, meetings and reports – at this level of government, one man can affect thousands of people. But this one man is at the mercy of the second kind of power, one individual's control over another person. And it's not just the villain he has to fear. All of the characters in this play try controlling each other, whether as blackmailers, tastemakers, armchair judges, or spouses. Even the "good" characters work hard to get what they want.

Questions About Power

  1. Who is the play's most powerful character? What gives him/her power over the other characters?
  2. Is any character totally powerless?
  3. How does the need for power or control manifest itself in each character? Which tactics are the most successful?

Chew on This

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

Mrs. Cheveley's influence descends as Lord Goring's ascends, revealing the play's optimistic perspective; the forces of friendship are stronger than those of self-interest.

Lady Chiltern has all the power in the Chiltern marriage.

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