edited by Ian Small
With its author's trademark wit, social satire and outrageous paradox, Wilde’s play shows us the destructiveness of gossip and superficial judgement, and examines the ambiguous sexual morality and gender politics at the heart of the British ruling class.
Lady Windermere has a happy marriage – or, at least, that’s what she believes – until one of London’s society gossips, the Duchess of Berwick, arrives with her daughter to voice her suspicions about an affair Lord Windermere appears to be having. It’s not just the Duchess who has evidence, however. Windermere’s private bank book shows that he’s been giving large sums of money to a ‘Mrs Erlynne’ – on frequent occasions – and he himself even admits to seeing much of the woman. To add insult to injury, Windermere insists that Mrs Erlynne be invited to the ball that is being held for Lady Windermere’s birthday.
Wilde’s exploration of adultery results in a sparkling, satirical critique of society, and of the hypocrisy that lurks behind the etiquette and perfect epigrams.
Lady Windermere’s Fan was first staged in 1892 at the St James Theatre, London.