"An Ideal Husband" by Oscar Wilde

Essay by darrenHigh School, 12th grade September 2003

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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...