"An Ideal Husband" By Oscar Wilde

1449 words - 6 pages

Many forms of drama deal with the social and political issues of a particular society. In comedies such as Oscar Wilde's nineteenth century play, An Ideal Husband, the author often makes fun of such issues, or presents them in a different way than what the audience might usually see them. These issues might include such aspects as the relationships between the sexes in a particular class, or certain comical habits that were not usually accepted or permitted by that society. While these may be presented in a comical way to the original audience, these issues might have a totally different impact to an audience of a different time. A modern audience might interpret the play in a totally different way, possibly even find some aspects offensive, while finding other aspects normal that the original audience found hilarious. This is due to society's ever-changing attitudes and values. With no knowledge of the culture or the attitudes of the society of the original audience, or the society in which An Ideal Husband is set it becomes easy for aspects of the play to become misinterpreted or misunderstood, and so a modern day audience will have difficulty relating to such aspects to the same extent as the original audience.Gender relations have changed greatly since the time that An Ideal Husband was written, when men were considered the dominant sex. Women had modest rights in comparison, and were almost considered second class. Women had few opportunities if they wanted to work. Most usually did not, their role was to supervise the household and support their husbands. The few that chose to work had few opportunities. Possible choices would be to work in the textile factories and in domestic services. The only female political figure was Queen Victoria herself and almost all the major reforms of this time were carried out by men. As well as this, no women were allowed to vote. Lady Chiltern endeavored to change this, and so spent much of her time in volunteer groups, such as the Women's Liberal Association. These groups sought rights for women, such as the right to vote. This reveals the irony of the fact that while Mrs Cheverly oppresses various characters such as trying to blackmail Sir Robert Chiltern with his foolish letter of so long ago, lady Chiltern is volunteering her time to fight for the rights of women, to get rid of female suffrage. This would have been apparent to the original audience, so much more than it is apparent to us today, because they were accustomed to seeing men dominate over women, and now they see a woman blackmailing a man. This would have made this part of the play a lot more humorous to the original audience than it would be to a similar modern audience.The culture among the upper class people living in London during the late nineteenth century was very different than what most people are used to today because people of this era were extremely rich. They were so rich that they never had to work. Instead they spent their...

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