Study Guide

An Ideal Husband Compassion and Forgiveness

By Oscar Wilde

Compassion and Forgiveness

In An Ideal Husband, compassion and forgiveness are the holy grail of marriage, and the only way marriage can possibly work. In this play, both the men and the women are forever messing up and inadvertently hurting each other. That seems to be inevitable when it comes romantic relationship. What is preventable is the stalemate that happens in the middle of the play, when each side denies the other any communication. According to Lord Goring, husbands and wives need to step back, let go of anger, try to step into the shoes of their spouses, and forgive. And Lord Goring gets the other characters to do just that.

Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

  1. Does Sir Robert deserve forgiveness? What about Mrs. Cheveley?
  2. How much of Lord Goring's gospel of forgiveness is founded on his tendency to behave like a wealthy aristocrat?
  3. If Mrs. Cheveley the only character undeserving of compassion, then why do you think this is the case?

Chew on This

Oscar Wilde's plea for indulgence – through the voice of Lord Goring – is rooted in his love life at the time the play was written.

Gestures of compassion, forgiveness and acceptance resolve the plot of An Ideal Husband, and define this play as a comedy.