An Ideal Husband
Sir Robert Chiltern
If this were a musical, there might be a "How Do You Solve a Problem like Sir Robert" number. That's the fundamental question of the play. It makes Sir Robert the protagonist even though he spends most of the play in a very passive woe mode. Sir Robert reacts to the wrongs committed by women in his life and runs to Lord Goring for help. Wilde asks his audience: what is the just way to view a man who has made mistakes and will doubtless make them again, but whose intentions are good? Lady Chiltern takes the Super-Strict Sheriff view: it may have been a small offense a long time ago, but lock him up, boys, he's no good to our society. Lord Goring encourages her to see the lenient view – condemn the act, not the man. He can be rehabilitated, but only with your love.