edited by Ian Small
A Woman of No Importance fuses comedy of manners with high melodrama, a serious protest against Victorian gender inequality ornately framed with perfect witticisms.
At Lady Hunstanton’s country house party, the quips are dazzling and the company is impeccably sophisticated – but beneath the laconic wit of society’s elite is brewing a turbulent drama of social double standards and sexual hypocrisy.
Gerald Arbuthnot is a young gentleman on the make, with an American heiress and the post of secretary to the brilliant but dissolute Lord Illingworth within his reach. But it is discovered that Lord Illingworth is Gerald's father, who seduced and abandoned his mother twenty years earlier. Horrified to find her son singing the praises of her seducer, Mrs Arbuthnot refuses to allow Gerald to continue in his service, and Gerald must choose between his wronged mother and a glittering career.
Wilde’s society comedy was first staged at the Haymarket theatre in London in 1893.