An Ideal Husband

An Exploration of Differing Conceptions of Love and Friendship in An Ideal Husband

Love and friendship were major themes for Society Drama during the 1890s. An established ‘stock storyline’ of the period was that of domestic life affected by a predicament, concluding in the reassertion of common ideas: fidelity, duty, forgiveness, etc. Although An Ideal Husband adopts these motifs, it also parodies them through the exaggerated conceptions of love and friendship each character represents. The play therefore accomplishes an exploration of differing conceptions through the assorted types of love the characters embody. The stage directions upon introducing the characters initiate this idea. For example, Lady Chiltern is a ‘grave Greek beauty’ , highlighting her serious nature and foreboding her strict ideals regarding loving her husband. On the other hand, Lord Goring is a ‘flawless dandy’, linking his ‘type’ with the freer ideas of beauty, style and art – more representative of Wilde’s own view on life and love. The stark contrast between each character allows Wilde to explore their individual conceptions of love and highlight the advantages and flaws of each accordingly.

Lady Chiltern’s conception of love appears to alter Wilde’s message within the play. Her notion of love in the beginning is overtly feminine...

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