An Ideal Husband Synopsis :
A tender love story, a serpentine villainess, a glittering setting in London society, and a showering of Wildean witticism are only a few of the reasons why this play has enjoyed hugely successful revivals in London, in New York, and on the silver screen. This 1895 drama is eerily prescient, as it examines the plight of a promising politician, desperate to hide a secret in his past. With empathy and wit, Oscar Wilde explores the pitfalls of holding public figures to higher standards than the rest of us.
Performed by L.A. Theatre Works, 2006 — Length: 1 hr and 39 mins
Narrated by: Rosalind Ayres, Jacqueline Bisset, Paul Gutrecht, Martin Jarvis, Robert Machray, Miriam Margolyes, Alfred Molina, Jim Norton, Yeardley Smith
Most of Oscar Wilde’s well-known titles, such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan which I’ve previously adored, are actually plays and so ideally consumed in the dramatic format. So I was excited to find my library had an audiobook copy of An Ideal Husband performed by the LA Theatre company, and some very talented actors in the cast too.
Nothing is so dangerous as being too modern. One is apt to grow old-fashioned quite suddenly.”
This, one of countless wonderful quotes found in this play, typically rings true – but the writings of Oscar Wilde are one notable exception to that rule. An Ideal Husband originally premiered at London’s Haymarket Theatre in January 1895 and that initial run lasted 124 performances. Once again I was struck by how fresh Oscar Wilde’s dialogue sounds (compared to that in many other works from that time) and just how relevant the subject matter (political corruption) is today.
Robert, how could you have sold yourself for money?
I did not sell myself for money. I bought success at a great price. That is all.”
I have a soft spot for comedies-of-manners, and few are quite so cutting as Oscar Wilde’s.
Oh, I love London Society! It has immensely improved. It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what Society should be.”
You have to remember, in the 1890s it was only those in Society that attended the theatre.
Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear. Just as vulgarity is simply the conduct of other people.
And falsehoods the truths of other people.
Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society is oneself.
To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.”
And he took great delight in lampooning that which set members of that Society apart from the common man, whether material possessions or personal conduct.
But as with all timeless sarcasm, many of the quips in An Ideal Husband embody elements of truth.
It is always worth while asking a question, though it is not always worth while answering one. Questions are never indiscreet. Answers sometimes are.”
If you enjoy revelling in literary quotes and social satires packaged up in comedic farce, don’t be put off by this play’s title. I recommend setting aside time for An Ideal Husband. And to end, my favourite of this play’s many famous quotes:
Never a truer word has been spoken.
* I also cannot recommend more highly Wilde’s short story The Canterville Ghost.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
Genre: Classic, Drama, Humour, Literature, Audio
About the Author, Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, his plays, and the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death.