A woman of no importance, is divided into 4 acts, and 0 scenes. Some critics, have seen a lack-of-action in the three first acts, that’s why they classify it as the weakest of Oscar Wilde’s plays.

Basically, since the first act until the end of the third act doesn’t happen anything, we see a groups of rich people guessed in Lady Hunstanton’s Chase, the countryside house of Lady Hunstanton. They talk about trivialities and somehow Wilde tries to display a peaceful party day in which nothing surprising could happen. During these 3 acts, there is a constant entry and exit of characters, that, as we’ve seen before, are useful to “refresh” the scene. It isn’t until the third act, when Lady Arbuthnot says to Gerald that Lord Illingworth is his father that the story becomes more and more attractive. Since this point, the action seems to evolve faster than before, it seems that Gerald has no time to decide if he will accept the offer of Lord Illingworth, or will stay with his mother.

Dramatic situations, as many structuralists as Mukarovski have studied, are connected between themselves, as a system, and they give a sense of unity to the plot.18

In our case, in A woman of no importance we find situations that are related to others in the same play, and another situation that could be related to another book.

Some examples,

1.      Gerald Arbuthnot is offered by Illingworth to be his secretary

2.      Lady Hunstanton sends a letter to Mrs Arbuthnot and she replies her.

3.      Allonby bet Illingworth that he wouldn’t be able to kiss Esther Worsley in less than a week.

4.      Illingworth see the reply that Mrs Arbuthnot did and the orthography makes him think about a woman. “A woman of no importance” he says.

5.      Illingworth tries to kiss Esther Worsley but she doesn’t want it and she feels insulted.

6.      Gerald defends Esther because he’s in love with her. (Esther realizes that Gerald loves her

7.      Gerald is said that Illingworth is his father in order to stop him to do something wrong.

8.      Esther Worsley agree to marry Gerald

9.      Illingworth forgets a glove in Arbuthnot’s home

10.  Lady Arbuthnot said that the glove belonged to “a man of no importance”

Notice how Wilde relates every these dramatic situations, really cleverly, to achieve a whole conception of a play in which, at first sight, it seems that the only strong point it’s when Mrs. Arbuthnot tells Gerald that Lord Illingworth is his father, but there are a lots of complications and situations that turns a simple plot into a successful theatrical piece.

That’s the work of a genius.

In every play, it’s widely known there are many entries and exits of characters. Francisca Domingo del Campo argued in a study she did that every entry of exit of a character should be marked by a scene.16

Anyway, entries and exits of characters divided into scenes are only a superficial study of it, entries and exits of characters could modify the whole scene, entries and exits of characters could be used to introduce new ideas to the general plot, could be used to “refresh” the scene when it’s becoming more and more boring.

In A woman of no importance itself, entries and exits of characters are divided randomly, I mean, Wilde tries not to follow an order, or pattern to introduce a character on the stage or to leave him, mainly because it’s a society drama, he’s representing a countryside aristocratic house in which the host, Lady Hunstanton, has invited some “friends” and these friends walk around the house freely, that is, they can “join the scene and leave it” whenever they want as if they were in their own house, and this can lead the play to unpleasant situations as we will see later. Wilde wants to be as realistic as he can, and he almost never introduces a character artificially, but spontaneously.17

For instance, in A woman of no importance, we must remark the entry of Lord Illingworth to the scene, and then the entry of Sir Kelvil. It’s also noticeable the entry of Lady Caroline, looking for her husband, Sir John. Let’s see these entries and its context in the play(Enter Sir John and Sir Kelvil).

Lady Hunstanton:  Well, Mr. Kelvil, have you got through your work?

Kelvil:  I have finished my writing for the day, Lady Hunstanton. It has been an arduous task. The demands on the time of a public man are very heavy nowadays, very heavy indeed. And I don’t think they meet with adequate recognition. (Act I, p. 7)7

In the firt Act, when the scene is becoming more and more boring as we argued before, Wilde cleverly introduces a charismatic character as Sir Kelvil is to “refresh” the plot, to modify the dialogue, and right after Kelvil has been introduced to the scene, joins it Lord Illingworth. The entry of Lord Illingworth is an example of spontaneous entry.Kelvil:  The growing influence of women is the one reassuring thing in our political life, Lady Caroline. Women are always on the side of morality, public and private.

Lady Stutfield:  It is so very, very gratifying to hear you say that.

Lady Hunstanton:  Ah, yes! – the moral qualities in women – that is the important thing. I am afraid, Caroline, that dear Lord Illingworth doesn’t value the moral qualities in women as much as he should.

(Enter Lord Illingwort).

Lady Stutfield:  The world says that Lord Illingworth is very, very wicked.

Lord Illingworth:  But what world says that, Lady Stutfield? It must be the next world. This world and I are on excellent terms. (Sits down beside Mrs. Allonby).

Lady Stutfield:  Everyone I know says you are very, very wicked.

Lord Illingworth:  It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about, nowadays, saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true. (Act III, p. 8)7

They are talking about Lord Illingworth when Lord Illingworth joins the stage, he gets surprised, but as a dandy he is, he acts normally and polite. The entry of Lord Illingworth to the stage is also useful to Wilde to raise the dialogue to another level, it is, the political life. They both are aware of that issue and deal it smartly.

Another example of spontaneous entry is,

(Gerald shrugs his shoulders and looks irritably over at his mother. Enter Lady Caroline).

Lady Caroline:  Jane, have you seen John anywhere?

Lady Hunstanton:  You needn’t be anxious about him, dear. He is with Lady Stutfield; I saw them some time ago, in the Yellow Drawing-room. They seem quite happy together. You are not going, Caroline? Pray sit down.

Lady Caroline:  I think I had better look after John.

(Exit Lady Caroline).

Lady Hunstanton:  It doesn’t do to pay men so much attention. And Caroline has really nothing to be anxious about. Lady Stutfield is very sympathetic. She is just as sympathetic about one thing as she is about another. A beautiful nature.

(Enter Sir John and Mrs Allonby). (Act III, p. 48)7

Notice how Wilde, represent it like if it was a pursuit or a chase, Lady Caroline is looking for Sir John, she suddenly joins the scene, and suddenly leaves it, then, right after Lady Caroline have left the scene, enter John. This way, we imagine that Lady Caroline will never find her husband, and will be seeking for her husband all around the house, that is, she can join and leave the scene all of sudden.

Finally, and as it’s normal, even Wilde tried to make entries and exits as spontaneous as they are in real life, he couldn’t avoid the artificial way of doing drama. I’m referring to the last scene, when Lord Illingworth leaves Mrs. Arbuthnot house, and Gerald and Hester join the scene.

(Mrs. Arbuthnot: Snatches up glove and strikes Lord Illingworth across the face with it. Lord Illingworth starts. He is dazed by the insult of his punishment. Then he controls himself, and goes to window and looks out at his son. Sighs and leaves the room.).

Mrs. Arbuthnot. (Falls sobbing on the sofa). He would have said it. He would have said it.

(Enter Gerald and Hester from the garden). (Act IV, p. 76)

Just when Lord Illingworth has left the scene, enter Gerald and Hester, coincidence? No, it is an example of artificial entries.


19 maig, 2013

Asensi, Manuel. Historia de la teoría de la literatura[desde los inicios hasta el siglo XIX. València: Tirant lo blanc, 1998. print. (120-127)

Beckson, Karl. Oscar Wilde, The Critical Heritage. .London, New York : Routledge, 1974.  Print. (23-41)

Bristow, Joseph. Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture : The Making of a Legend. Athens:  Ohio University Press, 2009. print. (211-213)

Carlson, Marvin. Speaking in Tongues : Languages at Play in the Theatre. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009. Print. (45-55)

Catron E., Louis. n.d. (accessed 012-05-2013) http://lecatr.people.wm.edu/ web. (Accessed 10 – 05 – 2013)

Daniel Margaret, Anne. Palgrave advances in Oscar Wilde studies. Great Britain: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, 2004. ed. Frederick S. Roden. (36-63)

Domingo del Campo, Francisca. Una propuesta para el comentario de textos dramáticos. Spain: Servicio de publicaciones, Universidad complutense de Madrid, 2002. print. (10-18)

Gay Ramos, Ignarcio.  “La dramaturgia de Oscar Wilde, ejemplo paradigmático de la influencia y recepción del teatro francés en Gran Bretaña (1880-1895)” , Spain: Servei de publicacions, Universitat de València, 2004.  PDF CD file. – Also, Gay Ramos, Ignarcio,  “La dramaturgia de Oscar Wilde, ejemplo paradigmático de la influencia y recepción del teatro francés en Gran Bretaña (1880-1895)” , Spain: Servei de publicacions, Universitat de València, 2004. web. and print. (160-161)

Genc, Burcu. The Changing Face of Femme Fatale. Is She Really Villainous?. Inter-Disciplinary.net: 2013. http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/ web. (Accessed 10 – 05 – 2013)

Hidalgo, Pilar. et al. Historia crítica del teatro inglés. Alcoi: Editorial Marfil, 1988. (17-21) (199-210) print. (190-209)

Hornychová , Lucie. Social Criticism in Oscar Wilde’s Comedies (An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest). Tomas Bata University, 2010. http://dspace.k.utb.cz web. (Accessed 11-05-2012)

Larson, Sharon. The Dancing Decadent, Salomé and Literary Creation at the Fin de Siècle. Oscholars: 2012.  http://oscholars-oscholars.com/ web. (Accessed 14 – 05 – 2013)

Laver, James. Oscar Wilde. Great Britain: The British Council and The National Book League by Longmans, Green & Co. First published 1954, repr. 1963. Print. (1-20)

N.p. n.d. The official website of Oscar Wilde. http://www.cmgww.com/historic/wilde/index.php web. (Accessed 14 – 05 – 2013)

Raúl de Toro Santos , Antonio. Algunas notas entorno a la función del dandy en las comedias de Oscar Wilde. Colegio Universitario de La Coruña: 2012. http://www.atlantisjournal.org/Papers/v1%20n2/v1n2-03b.pdf Web. (Accessed 20 – 05 – 2013)

Thomson, Peter. The Cambridge Introduction to English Theatre, 1660-1900. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print. (99-103)

Wilde, Oscar.  An Ideal Husband. The literary page: 2003-2012 http://www.literaturepage.com/  web. (Accessed 17 – 05 – 2013)

Wilde, Oscar.  Salomé. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 2000. ed. Luís Antonio de Villena, trans. Rafael Cansinos-Assens y Luis Antonio de Villena print. (7-15)

Wilde, Oscar. Salomé. Oscar Wilde online, the works and life of Oscar Wilde: 2007-2013.  http://www.wilde-online.info/ web. (Accessed 17 – 05 – 2013)


A Woman Of No Importance promo video  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p17ufSuTiU (Accessed 19 – 05 – 2013)

An Ideal husband – 1999 Trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ST4ne1nVK0w (Accessed 19 – 05 – 2013)

An Ideal Husband – Full movie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k98iw_rn7us (Accessed 19 – 05 – 2013)

Oscar Wilde, phrases and philosophies for the use of Young http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0OQt5S8-SQ (Accessed 19 – 05 – 2013)

Salomé – 1923. From Oscar Wilde’s play – silent with clear english intertitles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkMq_Cs3OUs (Accessed 20 – 05 – 2013)


19 maig, 2013

  1. Manuel Asensi, “Recepción, lectura e história literaria en Felix Vodicka” Historia de la teoría de la literatura(El siglo XX hasta los años setenta) (València: Tirant lo Blanch, 1998). p. 124,125 print.
  2.  Oscar Wilde, Salomé (Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 2000) ed. Luís Antonio de Villena, trans. Rafael Cansinos-Assens y Luis Antonio de Villena p. 14 print.
  3. Hesketh Pearson, The Life of Oscar Wilde (London: Methuen, 1947) p. 226, quoted in Lucie Hornychová, Social Criticism in Oscar Wilde’s Comedies (An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest) (Tomas Bata University, 2010) p. 13 http://dspace.k.utb.cz web.
  4. Arthur Symons, The Symbolist Movement in Literature. (New York: E.P. Dutton and Co., 1958) p. 70 quoted in Nancy Thuleen, “Wilde and the Symbolist Movement in Literature” Salomé: A Wildean symbolist drama. (1995) http://www.nthuleen.com web.
  5. Oscar Wilde, Salomé (Oscar Wilde online, the works and life of Oscar Wilde: 2007-2013) http://www.wilde-online.info/ web.
  6. Nancy Thuleen, “Symbolist and Decadent Moments in Salome” (Fourth paragraph) web.
  7. Nancy Thuleen, “Symbolist and Decadent Moments in Salome” (Fifth paragraph) web.
  8. Joseph Donahue, “Salome and the Wildean Art of Symbolist Theatre,” (Modern Drama 37, Spring 1994), p. 90, quoted in Nancy Thuleen, “Symbolist and Decadent Moments in Salome”  (Sixth paragraph) web.
  9. Lucie Hornychová, “Victorian age, Victorianism” Social Criticism in Oscar Wilde’s Comedies (An Ideal Husband, The Importance of Being Earnest) (Tomas Bata University, 2010) p. 21 http://dspace.k.utb.cz web.
  10. Lucie Hornychová, p. 22
  11. Lucie Hornychová, p. 22,23
  12. Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband, (The literary page: 2003-2012) http://www.literaturepage.com/  web.
  13. “New Testament: Mark”, (Holy Bible: Old and New Testaments, Tophi Books, London, 1994) p. 20 print.
  14. Oscar Wilde, Salome, (J. J. Little & Ives Company, New York, 1935) p. 92 print.
  15. Pilar Hidalgo et al. Historia crítica del teatro inglés (Alcoi: Editorial Marfil, 1988) p. 204 print.
  16. “Anatomy of the dandy” (Dandysm.net: 2008) http://www.dandyism.net/ (First paragraph) web.
  17. Antonio Raúl de Toro Santos, Algunas notas entorno a la función del dandy en las comedias de Oscar Wilde (Colegio Universitario de La Coruña: 2012) p. 40 print.
  18. Oscar Wilde, A Woman Of No Importance, , (The literary page: 2003-2012) http://www.literaturepage.com/  web.
  19. Terence Dawson “The Wildean Dandy, Comedy, and The Picture of Dorian Gray” The Victorian Web (National University of Singapore: 2000) (First paragraph) http://www.victorianweb.org web.
  20. Frank Deis, “Five Act Play” (New Brunswick/Piscataway Computing Services: 2013) web.
  21. Francisca Domingo del Campo, Una propuesta para el comentario de textos dramáticos (Servicio de Publicaciones, Universidad Complutense de Madrid: 2002) p. 112,113 print.
  22. Louis E. Catron, “Why do you find no stage directions in classical plays but many in modern plays?” Stage Directions for Directors and Actors http://lecatr.people.wm.edu/ web.
  23. Louis E. Catron, “ Two categories of stage directions” Stage Directions for Directors and Actors http://lecatr.people.wm.edu/ web.
  24. Louis E. Catron, “Why do you find no stage directions in classical plays but many in modern plays?” (Fourth paragraph)
  25. Louis E. Catron, “Why do you find no stage directions in classical plays but many in modern plays?” (Fifth paragraph)
  26. Louis E. Catron, “Why do you find no stage directions in classical plays but many in modern plays?” (Sixth paragraph)
  27. Louis E. Catron, “Why do you find no stage directions in classical plays but many in modern plays?” (Seven paragraph)
  28. Louis E. Catron, “Why do you find no stage directions in classical plays but many in modern plays?” (Eight paragraph)
  29. Nilsen Don L.F. and Nilsen Alleen Pace, Oscar Wilde’s
    Wildely Paradoxical Language Play.
    P. 3, Powerpoint.
  30. Nilsen Don L.F. and Nilsen Alleen Pace, p. 4
  31. “Quotes” Official Website of Oscar Wilde, n.d. n.p. web. http://www.cmgww.com/historic/wilde/index.php
  32. Nilsen Don L.F. and Nilsen Alleen Pace, p. 20
  33. Anne Margaret Daniel, “Wilde the wirter” Palgrave advances in Oscar Wilde studies, ed. Frederick S. Roden. (Great Britain: PALGRAVE MACMILLAN 2004) p. 36

13 Conclusion

19 maig, 2013

“My dear, delightful company.  I have just watched your performance and I wanted you to know that it reminds me of a play I once wrote”32 Said Mr. Wilde after seeing one of his plays represented on stage. Thus, we know that Wilde was a good dramatist and directors could easily perform his plays.

He lived in a delightful society to the upper class, the Victorian era, as we said before it was an epoch of cultural changes, social changes, political and imperial changes, and as usually, also artistic changes. Why is this important? Because Wilde’s way of doing drama, as we saw, is closely related to the society and statecraft. He takes the society and does with it something enjoyable for the audience, something “ironic but true”

There is, in An ideal husband, a description of Lady Cheveley that is really curious, maybe Wilde could be identified with this description, it is:

“[…] A work of art, on the whole, but showing the influence of too many schools” (Act I, p. 4)12

This is the way Wilde describes Lady Cheveley when she and Lady Markby joins the stage the first time. Why I said we could identifie Mr. Wilde with it? Due to the influence that many schools and many persons had on him. He was influenced by aestheticism and Walter Peter, also by the decadent movement which started in French and Theodore William Graf Wratislaw, he treated, as we have seen when analyzing Salomé individually, that he dealt with Symbolism, inspired by Greek playwrights. For three different plays, Wilde is dealing with three different literary movements, and also society drama, femme fatale, comedy of manners, satiric comedy, farce comedy, dandysm and so on.

Parallel with Victorianism, also appeared the idea of commercial drama, a kind of drama written to be represented on stage. The three plays that we were dealing with could be a clear example of comercial theatre. Anyway, Salomé, the first of the three plays that we’re analyzing, was censured by being too sensitive, too sensual, too exaggerated, and, that’s exactly what Wilde wanted to reflect in his adaptation of the myth, excess, so, he decided to write it in French, and in just one act to give more expressiveness to the play. The other two plays, A woman of no importance and An ideal husband were also comercial theatre, but they were not censured and both succeed on stage. As we know, in the Victorian era there were a lot of rivalry so, that’s a clear evidence that Wilde was and still is condirered a great dramatist.

As we said, he succeed, but he didn’t wrote his plays following the usual structure since the Greeks of five parts, the most common structure and the easiest to perform and to understand by the audience, but he wrote his plays in one, four, and four acts, indistinctively. Although Wilde was bounded to adapt his plays to the public interest, he did it through his own ideas, not seeking for success at any rate.

Another feature that caught my atention when i read the plays the first time, was the women huge importance in most of Wilde’s plays. As in the three plays we have dealt with as in others, for example in Lady Windemere’s Fan the main characters of the plays are woman. Maybe, as it was homosexual, he felt identified more with women than with men, but, it had an advantage, he knew women, as well as he knew men, and that is reflected through the use of the figures of dandies. Figure that he also used to express himself through them, as we have argumented.

Then, the stage directions issue, as we argued, classical playwrights didn’t write many stage directions because they found it totally useless, and after reading the five arguments of Louis E. Catron, maybe, they were useless. This way, Wilde wrote Salomé, according to an ancient myth and an adaptation to another Greek playwright, he wrote many stage directions, in contradistinction to how many stage directions it may had in its Salomé origins. Later on, he wrote A woman of no importance with quite stage directions, and after this, and after he realized the success it had, he wrote An ideal husband with many stage directions, as if it was more a movie script than a Wildean play.

Finally, and no less important, we have also talked about entries and exits of characters, we saw how Wilde used it not as a simple feature of drama structure, but as a part of the plot, they are part of the play as the plot is, and they could even modify the story as we proved in An ideal husband , when Sir Robert Chiltern found Lady Cheveley in Lord Goring house.

About Wilde’s language, it’s an artificial language, as it has to be when writing comedy of manners, Wilde portrays a polite society in which not everybody seems to be friendly, and, through dandies, as we have already said, he shows us paradoxical visions of life. Related to language, and words, Anne Margaret gift us with this quote:

“Oscar Wilde did everything there is to be done with words. He spoke them, his contemporaries tell us, like no one else. He wrote plays in which the dialogue mirrored his own spoken ability and agility, plays that have remained popular and perpetually performed – even during the years of what everyone at the time, including Wilde, referred to as his “downfall” and disgrace”. 33

Summing up, Wilde was an example of dramatist that nowadays writers should take into account if they want to success, as Oscar Wilde, on stage.

How do I think that theatre will evolve? Since Oscar Wilde,  the late XIX century, technology has evolved so fast, today everything is contorled by technology. Even though today there are many dramatists, as Fermín Cabal, or Pablo Iglesias Simón, that write plays in printed paper, there are some other initiatives that gives us the possibility to see a theatrical piece online in a virtual world, I’m talking about the so called “Second Life” initiative, through which we can attend the opera, theatre, cinema, bars, etc, online.

Otherwise, there will be always something behind every theatrical piece, that is, dramaturgy, as a method to do theatre.


12 See also

19 maig, 2013

Interesting sources when approaching Mr. Wilde.

http://www.shawfest.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Shaw_Festival_Study_Guide_An_Ideal_Husband.pdf – A study review    done by some directors that participated in the Shaw Festival(The theatre season, 2010). They talk about how was the experience to repreoduce An Ideal Husband on stage.

http://site.ebrary.com/lib/universvaln/docDetail.action?docID=10622422 – Some interviews that Matthew Hofer and Gary Scharnhorst did to Oscar Wilde when he was in America.

http://www.oscarwildecollection.com/ – A web-page in which you have available all the plays, novels, poems, eassays… that Wilde wrote when he was alive.

http://www.ucc.ie/celt/wilde.html – A detailed chonology of Oscar Wilde since 1854 to 1900.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/wilde_oscar.shtml – Bibliography of Oscar Wilde in the BBC History web-page.

http://www.victorianweb.org/gender/salome.html – The Victorian Web, about Salomé‘s myth and Oscar Wilde adaptation.

11 Quoting Oscar Wilde

19 maig, 2013

This apart, in which we will provide some citations of Oscar Wilde of each play we are dealing with. This quotations are of a high interest because they remain famous in the XXI century whilst they were written in the XIX, if they remains through time passing, that means that they (the quotations) are good enough. As Wilde was a good dramatist, he left us lots of quotations, some of them widely known all around the world.

Besides, Wilde used to wrote these kind of “reflections” in all his plays, that’s a pattern he took into account when writing, a dramaturgy feature.

  1. “You must not find symbols in everything you see. It makes life impossible.” (Salomé)31
  2. “The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.”  (Salomé) 31
  3. “Neither at things, nor at people should one look. Only in mirrors should one look, for mirrors do but show us masks.”  (Salomé) 31
  4. “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.” (An ideal husband) 31
  5. “I don’t know that women are always rewarded for being charming. I think they are usually punished for it!” (An ideal husband) 31
  6. “Life is never fair…And perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.” (An ideal husband) 31
  7. “A kiss may ruin a human life.” (A woman of no importance) 31
  8. “One should always be in love. That is the reason one should never marry.” (A woman of no importance) 31
  9. “The Book of Life begins with a man and woman in a garden. It ends with Revelations.” (A woman of no importance) 31


He did write and said really philosophical and clever phrases in his life, in many interviews, letters, and talking with friends, he wasn’t a genius only when writing plays.

Here you have a video in which Carl Manchester shows some of those phrases.31

Oscar Wilde phrases and philosofies for the use of young (Youtube source)

This aspect, language is essential when talking about Oscar Wilde way of writing plays.

Some critics have dealt this topic, and the most common conclusion is that Wilde’s language “paradoxically makes virtue a vice and desanctified society’s accepted standards, eliminating society’s mediating role; consequently, the individual is left free to develop and to adhere to his own or her own standards”29

Wilde said once, “humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin.  If the caveman had known how to laugh, history would have been different”. 30 That’s why Wilde talk about serious things in appropriate ways, in comic ways, as we can observe in A woman of no importance when Lord Illingworth and Sir Kelvil talk to each other about the house of commons, and we notice it again in An ideal husband when Lady Cheveley and Sir Robert Chiltern talk about statecraft. We can’t say the same about Salomé’s play, it’s totally different of any kind of drama that Wilde practiced, anyway, the way Herod kills Iokanaan is a little absurd and stupid too. Such an important topic like life or death is treated as a game. It’s something as, “I will kill Iokanaan if you dance for me”.

Here you are a speech about Sir Robert Chiltern and Mrs. Cheveley talking about statecrafting in an humorous way.

Sir Robert Chiltern: A political life is a noble career!

Mrs Cheveley: Sometimes. And sometimes it is a clever game, Sir Robert. And sometimes it is a great nuisance. (Act I, p. 9)12

Now, notice how Lord Illingworth, the dandie who we have been talking about, has his own opinions, and standards, about everything, he is not a common man, he is the man, or at least, this is how Wilde portrays him through his dialogues.

Kelvil: Do you take no side then in modern politics, Lord Illingworth?

Lord Illingworth: One should never take sides in anything, Mr. Kelvil. Taking sides is the beginning of sincerity, and earnestness follows shortly afterwards, and the human being becomes a bore. However, the House of Commons really does very little harm. You can’t make people good by Act of Parliament, – that is something. (Act I, p. 10)18

Remember what we have said before, “through dandies, Oscar Wilde expresses his own ideas”. The idea of the dandy with own standards about anything, was really attractive to Wilde, because it was a way to introduce whatever idea without breaking the structure of the plays.

In Salomé’s one, the language isn’t a matter of relevance since it’s an adaptation in which Wilde tried to more emphasize the action and the whole meaning than the formal aspects of the play, like language.

An element that we should study when dealing the structure of any play is the entries and exits of the characters of that play. When, in a previous work, we dealt this point in another play, A woman of no importance, (Click here), we decided to divide entries and exits of characters according its function, it is, taking into account if these entries modified the plot or the dialogue, if they were spontaneous or artificial and why Wilde decided to introduce each Character in each determined moment of the play.

As usually, we’ll start the analysis for the first of our plays, according to when they were published.

In Salomé, there are only two moments in the whole play when characters join or leave the scene.  And they both, are artificial entries.

The page od Herodias: Do not look at her. I pray you not to look at her.

The young Syrian: She is like a dove that has strayed . . . . She is like a narcissus trembling in the wind . . . . She is like a silver flower.

(Enter Salome)

Salome: I will not stay. I cannot stay. Why does the Tetrarch look at me all the while with his mole’s eyes under his shaking eyelids? It is strange that the husband of my mother looks at me like that I know not what it means. Of a truth I know it too well. (Act I, p. 3)5

Wilde, artificially, decided to introduce Salome at this moment, to refresh the scene, to start the conflict. Salomé wasn’t expected to come out to the terrace, so, that’s a kind of rebel decision that will carry problems.

Second Soldier: You are right; we must hide the body. The Tetrarch must not see it.

Frist Soldier: The Tetrarch will not come to this place. He never comes on the terrace. He is too much afraid of the prophet.

(Enter Herod, Herodias, and all the Court). (Act I, p. 8)5

Again, another artificial entry, just when they say, “the tetrarch will not come to this place”, then the Tetrarch and all the court join the scene and evolve the conflict until the disaster is inevitable, as Wilde, cleverly anticipated through looking at the moon.


Again, we see how different is Salomé, to the other plays of Oscar Wilde that we’re analyzing, just two entries, and no exit, unlike in A woman of no importance and An ideal husband in which we notice around thirty character movements. Anyway, in An ideal husband and A woman of no importance, entries and exits are not used for the same purpose by Wilde. In An ideal husband, despite many of the entries are artificial too, these entries or exits of characters are used to create situations of conflict or tension, unpleasant situations.

Sir Robert Chiltern: Stand back. My life is at stake. And I don’t care who is there. I will know who it is to whom I have told my secret and my shame. (Enters room).

[…] Sir Robert Chiltern: What explanation have you to give me for the presence of that woman here?

[…]Mrs. Cheveley:  (With a mock curtsey) Good evening, Lord Goring! (Act III, p. 74,75)12

That moment was such a terrible moment of tension, and conflict, introduced by the entry of Sir Robert Chiltern to the guest’s room where Lady Cheveley was.

On the other hand, just the first time that Lacy Cheveley joines the scene, in the first act, we can notice also tension and disagreement with the presence of such woman in Lady Chiltern’s house. Why do we know it? Because, as you should know after reading the play, Lord Goring and Lady Cheveley, and Lady Chiltern and Lady Cheveley have met before many times, however, their relationship didn’t end so nice. That’s why there is some tension between these characters when one or another joins the scene.

About stage directions, I found extremely interesting what Louis E. Catron argues in a point whose title is: “Why do you find no stage directions in classical plays but many in modern plays?”. It’s interesting to us, because he’s comparing stage directions of ancient dramatists as Aristophanes or Thespis and the modern authors of the XIX century, century in which Oscar Wilde wrote his plays.22

(We will classify, according to Louis E. Catron, stage directions into: Actor directions, related to the actors, and stage directors, related to the scenery and other features).23

He provides us 5 ideas about why do we find more stage directions now than before, I will summarize it focusing on the most important to our paper.

  1. Classical playwrights as Aristophanes and Thespis ,that we have mentioned before, were present when the director was producing their plays. So they could directly express their volition without writing it.24 This concrete argument, in Mr. Wilde case wouldn’t be so reliable, mainly because, in producing the three plays that we’re analyzing, Wilde was present as one director more.
  2. Early playwrights knew that their works won’t never be published, that’s why they didn’t consider necessary to write down stage directions, in contrast, modern authors are widely published, so they need to write stage directions as a connection between the author and the readers and the author and the director.25 All in all, we are talking again about commercialization of drama. Nowadays, this commercialization is having effects on today’s drama, as you can read in an article in the “New York Post” about the Tony Awards ceremony.
  3. Classical plays were represented on bald stages, without any decoration or scenery. A playwright as Wilde, that pay much attention to the scenery, as we could see when we studied A woman of no importance and stage directions, can’t omit stage directions, she must use it, and so he does.26 He, gradually, introduces more and more stage directions, for instance, in An ideal husband ,written in 1895, he wrote a huge description of a character, at least the main characters, when they joined the stage, in contrast to what he wrote in A woman of no importance, written in 1893.
    1. a.      (Sir Robert Chiltern: enters. A man of forty, but looking somewhat younger. Clean-shaven, with finely-cut features, dark-haired and dark-eyed. A personality of mark. Not popular – few personalities are. But intensely admired by the few, and deeply respected by the many. The note of his manner is that of perfect distinction, with a slight touch of pride. One feels that he is conscious of the success he has made in life. A nervous temperament, with a tired look. The firmly-chiselled mouth and chin contrast strikingly with the romantic expression in the deep-set eyes. The variance is suggestive of an almost complete separation of passion and intellect, as though thought and emotion were each isolated in its own sphere through some violence of will-power. There is nervousness in the nostrils, and in the pale, thin, pointed hands. It would be inaccurate to call him picturesque. Picturesqueness cannot survive the House of Commons. But Vandyck would have liked to have painted his head.) (Act I, p. 6)12
    2. b.      (Enter Lord Illingworth) (Act I, p. 8)18

It’s incredible, how Wilde does a huge explanation of the most important character, the first time they join the scene, of An ideal husband, and how he does not even explain anything about Lord Illingworth in his previous play, A woman of no importance

4.      In modern culture, dialogues have become more and more artificial, without any kind of self-expression. It’s necessary to use actor directions to introduce emotional features of the characters.27

5.      The last idea he provides us is, “Fifth–and most importantly–today’s playwrights include stage directions because they are deeply influenced by new concepts of the human condition as explained by revolutionary thinkers such as Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud.  Darwin stressed the importance of environmental influences, a concept that playwrights adapted by describing the atmosphere of the characters’ living conditions, vitally important influences on action and characters”.28

So, regarding Oscar Wilde’s dramaturgy, he didn’t need to write lots of stage directions in Salomé’s play because it is an adaptation of an ancient writing, then he wrote not many, but enough stage directions in A woman of no importance, and after realizing the success of this play, he wrote An ideal husband with lots of stage directions in order to easily perform it in the Royal Haymarket Theatre.