In an ever-changing world, Oscar Wilde’s words never lose their meaning and significance. His stories are not only timeless 19th century classics, but also moving, comical and full of hidden teachings for life. The Irish playwright is known for his concise but powerful quotes, many featuring in his plays – such as “we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”, spoken by Lord Darlington in Lady Windermere’s Fan, Wilde’s first play.
In his ingenious way, he strives to inspire the audience to be passionate and ambitious in life in order to achieve their aims. The play is a tale of betrayal, love and passion. The main character, Lady Windermere’s husband, cheats on her with her long-lost mother. A comical, yet oddly uncomfortable storyline.
Wilde’s play, A Woman of No Importance, is currently playing in London. While it promises to be successful, however, it has been heavily criticised in the past, with reviews pronouncing it a dull play surrounding the life of the upper class with little excitement. In contrast, other plays were received with great praise.
The Importance of Being Earnest is one example: a light-hearted comedy of a man using a fake identity in order to escape his social duties. The play was said to be one of his best, whilst he was starting to enjoy the benefits of fame and fortune. One cannot write about Wilde without mentioning his novels and other works, The Picture of Dorian Gray being the most recognised. The philosophical novel follows the life of Dorian Gray: a wealthy man who keeps a portrait of himself which grows older whilst he himself stays young. It illustrates how arrogance and self-obsession can destroy one’s life and govern one’s morals. A personal favourite feature of the novel is the poem at the beginning in which the voice of the poem suggests that art has no purpose but to be beautiful in itself. Nonetheless, the novel was greatly criticised when it was first published in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine for too many detailed sexual references.
Oscar Wilde’s 50,000 word infamous letter, ‘De Profundis’, was written to his male partner, Lord Alfred Douglas. The letter was written while Wilde was in prison for ‘gross misconduct’ in public with a gay man. Although Douglas wasn’t able to receive the letter, it is a powerful and devastating account of Wilde’s time in prison. He explains his suicidal thoughts, and how he had lost all hope for freedom at this point. It seems astonishing that an innocent man was given such a cruel and unfair punishment, along with three years of exile for the so-called ‘crime’.
For me, Oscar Wilde is a writer whose legacy rests upon his talent for telling stories in a moving way, whilst inspiring the reader or audience to make the most out of life. Wilde’s plays and other works effortlessly captivate the reader or audience today, whisking us into his 19th century world with him, something that gives his plays posterity.
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