Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, a member of English society, and married to the honest and respectable Lady Chiltern, Sir Robert Chiltern is the hero of the play. Early in his public career Chiltern sold state secrets to Baron Arnheim, from which he became quite rich. The past comes back to haunt him when Mrs. Cheveley arrives at his home and blackmails him with evidence of his wrongdoing. Chiltern, who is powerfully dependent on his ill-gotten wealth, struggles between succumbing to Mrs. Cheveley's blackmail and living and honest life. Fortunately, he is saved from disgrace through a variety of happenstance occurrences, and in fact discovers an even greater happiness in his marriage and government work than he had known before his status and professional career were threatened.
Lord Goring is a very clever and dashing man who lives a life of simple luxury and avoids professional pursuits. He is always impeccably dressed in the most up to date fashion, and demonstrates substantial intelligence and a penchant for acute analysis of human behavior. Ironically, he also prides himself on rejecting the expectations of society. A close friend of Sir Robert Chiltern, Goring wisely counsels him after Mrs. Cheveley, whom Goring was once engaged to, reveals her blackmail scheme. He also works to heal the wounds between Lady Chiltern and her husband and to destroy Mrs. Cheveley's evil scheme. Lord Goring is quite successful in these endeavors and in fact proves to be a hero of the play. In the final scenes of the play, he proposes to Mabel Chiltern, who accepts him.
Lady Gertrude Chiltern
Sir Robert Chiltern's extremely beautiful twenty-seven year old wife, champion of the Higher Education of women, a member of the Woman's Liberal Association, and a moral, upstanding citizen. Lady Chiltern also attended school with Mrs. Cheveley, and knows her to be dishonest and unkind. Lady Chiltern expects perfection from her husband, which makes it difficult for her to understand that he might have mistakes in his past. However, she loves her husband dearly and finally accepts that every man is somehow flawed.
Mrs. Cheveley, who attended school with Lady Chiltern, is dishonest, selfish, and manipulative. The villain of the play, she arrives at the Chiltern's party and blackmails Robert Chiltern with a dishonest letter he wrote early in his public career that reveals state secrets for monetary gain. Mrs. Cheveley revels in wielding power over others and tells Sir Chiltern that in order to prevent her from publishing the letter, he must support her current financial scheme, the Argentinean Canal. Later, Lord Goring tricks her into admitting theft and successfully foils her scheme to destroy Robert Chiltern and his marriage.
Sir Robert Chiltern's sister. Mabel constantly teases Lord Goring and flirts with him throughout the play. She complains often that Tommy Trafford proposes to her in a most unpleasant manner. In the final scenes of the play, Lord Goring proposes to her and she accepts his hand.
Lord Goring's father, Caversham prides himself on dignity and honor. Caversham constantly belittles his dandy of a son publicly and privately, accusing him of an idle life and urging him to begin a professional career and marry.
Mrs. Marchmont's primary companion at the Chiltern party, she is a frequent complainer. The two women discuss a variety of "current" social issues, are highly superficial, and act as very basic, decorative characters in the plot.
Lady Basildon's primary companion at the Chiltern party. The two women discuss a variety of "current" social issues, are highly superficial, and act as very basic, decorative characters in the plot.
A pleasant woman who is friends with Mrs. Cheveley and brings her to the Chiltern home. Lady Markby is very traditional in her views, rejecting higher education for women and longing for more simple days where women simply wished for the attention of a husband.
Lord Goring's butler, Phipps represents the "dominance of form". He is known for his complete reticence, making him the "ideal butler".
Vicomte de Nanjac
A guest at the Chiltern's party, the Vicomte talks with many of the women. He asks Mabel to dance with him, recognizes Mrs. Cheveley from knowing her in Berlin five years previous, and excessively, almost comically, compliments the English language.
A secretary to Sir Robert Chiltern, also described as a dandy.
Sir Robert Chiltern's Butler, he announces all guests at the Chiltern home.
A footman for Sir Robert Chiltern
An Ideal Husband Questions and Answers
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The play opens at a party at Sir Robert Chiltern's house in Grosvenor Square, London. The party exemplifies much of the play's tendency towards quick and witty conversation. The Chiltern home is regal and their guests are impeccably dressed. Much...