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Oscar Wilde's Victorian Stage Melodrama, An Ideal Husband

1316 words - 5 pages

Oscar Wilde began to write An Ideal Husband in the summer of 1893, he completed it later that winter. At the time of when it was written, he was familiarised to success, and in writing this play he wanted to guarantee himself to stay in the public eye. An ideal husband is one of the most serious social comedies that Oscar Wilde published, it contains bold political tinges, ironically and pessimistically looking at the current political background. The central focus of the play is the corruption of great wealth, which is where the public are usually uninformed. The play is about London society throughout the mid 80s, it condemns the value of Victorian society – it can also be perceived as a social satire.
The Victorian stage melodrama was made up of six stock characters: The hero, villain, heroine, aged parent (Lord Caversham), sidekick and a servant (Phibbs). A stock character is a fictional character that is based upon a stereotype or well-known traits within society. Stock characters rely heavily on the names that they’re provided with (language used, personality and dress code). Stock characters are placed in order for parodies to occur which will amplify any labels connected with these characters. Several stock characters can be applied to characters within ‘An Ideal husband’ and Oscar Wilde’s use of this was intentional to create a comical effect to the play instead of being serious.
As the title may suggest, An Ideal Husband’s main theme is marriage a common principle for the melodrama’s of Oscar Wilde’s era. The Victorian popular theatre provided typical narratives of domestic life that, after several tragedies, would conclude in the repetition of identifiable themes: faithfulness, sacrifice, eternal love, mercy, commitment etc. Although An Ideal Husband includes these keynotes, it also mocks, ironizes and imitates them with more dandified and crooked characters. Therefore the reader can classify the plays treatment of marriage according to the “opposites” these characters may signify.
A hero’s characteristics are known to be: strong, independent, helpful, handsome, and most of all they defeat the villain. This particular stock character can be applied to Lord Goring because, he is able to resolve problems that arise throughout the play and aids other characters that are in need of his help.
– Lord Goring states that he will help get Robert Chiltern out of the chaos that he is about to face. This is a typical trait of a hero as they will go to extreme lengths to help somebody out without any reward for themselves. The hero is usually in love with the heroine but is separated from her and she is left emotional and deserted – within ‘An Ideal Husband’ Lord Goring is in love with Mabel Chiltern and they two of them are unaware of their potential relationship because of the troubles that arise throughout the play but, in the last act of the play both Lord Goring and Mabel Chiltern are alone together where she confronts him about her feelings...

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