An Ideal Husband

Masculine and Feminine Identity in An Ideal Husband 12th Grade

Identity is fluid. Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband (first performed 1895), affirms this concept. The play asserts the notion that we, as humans, carve our own identity through conscious decision. In doing so, Wilde interrogates the idea of identity rigidity – that human beings are born with certain characteristics, that these are static, and create our character. Wilde also interrogates Victorian notions of gender identity. He uproots traditional concepts surrounding masculinity, and disparages the development of the ‘new woman’ during the late 19th century. He deconstructs Victorian idealised notions of the wife and husband, forwarding a new, imperfect identity for both.

Wilde, disputing Victorian notions of latent identity, depicts identity as mutable; shaped by human decision. This is evident through an examination of the characterisation of Lord Goring – the dandified bachelor of An Ideal Husband. He is said to be ‘clever’, ‘but he would not like to be thought so’, as well as ‘a flawless dandy, he would be annoyed if he were considered romantic’. These directives showing him as actively aware of how others perceive him, implying that he attempts to shape this perception. Lord Goring repeatedly downplays his intelligence,...

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