An Ideal Husband

compare and contrast the different notions of love proffed by the characters

the aspects of each character's love for the other

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One could draw an obvious contrast between the ideas of love presented by Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern and in particular by isolating their confrontation at the end Act II. In this scene, both Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern assume melodramatic voices—their speech suddenly characterized by exclamations, apostrophes, and lyrical entreaties—that mirror the conventional dialogue of the Victorian popular stage. Accordingly, their melodramatic dialogue serves as vehicle for a similarly generic discussion of love that reaffirms the social values of the Victorian stage. Tellingly this discussion describes love in explicitly gendered terms. As a woman, Lady Chiltern loves Sir Robert as an ideal husband, a man worthy of worship for the example he sets privately and publicly. In contrast, Sir Robert describes a masculine love that allows for or is predicated on human imperfection. Human require a love that can cure their wounds and forgive their sins, rather than exalt them as moral exemplum. Once again, in terms of the play's moral thematics, one might group their rousing confrontation with the characters, plotlines, and other elements that mirror the mechanics of the popular theater in contrast with those that might undermine these theatrical conventions.