‘what a charming, wicked creature! I like him so much. I’m quite delighted he’s gone!’ (Duchess of Berwick)
Displays the hypocrisy of the upper class and character paradox. Characters with this trait are generally horrid and untrustworthy. Throughout, characters contradict themselves in order to maintain social relations. The Duchess also appear to admit she enjoys the ‘wicked’ nature of Lord Darlington.
‘you allow of no exception?’ (Lord Darlington)
‘none’ (Lady Windermere)
‘I don’t think now that people can be divided into the good and the bad’ (Lady Windermere)
In the exposition of the play Lady Windermere is obedient to her puritan values and believes no mistake should go unpunished. This is in opposition to her views in the denouement of the play.
‘there are moments when one has to choose between living one’s own life, fully, entirely, completely-or dragging out some false, shallow, degrading existence that the world in its hypocrisy demands’ (Lord Darlington)
Darlington juxtaposes real life with the hypocritical life of the upper class. He criticises that if Lady Windermere were to stay with a man who is unfaithful, Society would find this acceptable, yet that it would be considered shameful for her to leave. Society ‘demands’ appearance to be maintained. The antithetical tricolons reflect the choice of Lady Windermere.
‘whenever people agree with me, I always feel I must be wrong’ (Cecil Graham)
Graham believes himself to be intellectually above the majority because as soon as his ideas are agreed, he changes his mind. The paradoxical epigram is reflective of the high opinions most characters have of themselves.
‘Darlington is not a villain, but a man who really believes that Windermere is treating his wife badly, and wishes to save her’ (Oscar Wilde)
Wilde’s response to a director casting Darlington as a villain in the 1893 New York production.
‘I will have no one in my house about whom there is any scandal’ (Lady Windermere)
Lady Windermere lives in an illusion of the standards of the upper class. Most people at the party are immoral reflecting Lady Windermere’s naivety.
‘hiding her feelings with a trivial laugh’ (Stage directions)
Mrs Erlynne possesses emotions for her daughter yet is reluctant to reveal them. Although Mrs Erlynne is depicted as a cruel, selfish character, her final act uncovers her good side and evokes sympathy from the audience. Her choice is to live with the pain of being apart from her daughter to spare her from losing her values, upheld by the false image of her mother.
‘why should I interfere with her illusions? I find it hard enough to keep my own’ (Mrs Erlynne)
Mrs Erlynne agrees that illusions should be maintained and decides not to ruin Lady Windermere’s perfect image of her mother.
‘nowadays people seem to look on life as a speculation. It is not a speculation. It is a sacrament. Its ideal is Love. Its purification is sacrifice’ (Lady Windermere)
Summarises Lady Windermere’s views on life in the exposition.
‘dreadfully dull’ (Dumby)
Hypocrisy holds together society. Dumby agrees with Mrs Stutfield the season has been ‘delightful’, but almost instantly changes his opinion to agree with the Duchess of Berwick that the season has been ‘dreadfully dull.’
‘I can resist everything except temptation’ (Lord Darlington)
Darlington personifies the struggle between being good and being bad. The epigram reflects Darlington’s witty nature and his secret intentions to be with Lady Windermere.
‘You must stay with your child’
‘may be calling you now’ (Mrs Erlynne)
Mrs Erlynne uses everything she can to make Lady Windermere return to her husband. Emotional blackmail is used particularly effectively and Lady Windermere agrees to be taken home after the monologue given by her mother.
‘It is he who has broken the bond of marriage – not I. I only break its bondage’ (Lady Windermere)
Epigrammatic language reflects Lady Windermere’s change of heart and internal struggle. She feels Lord Windermere has betrayed their love and that she is only ending the formality of marriage.
‘all other women in the world become absolutely meaningless to one. Love changes one – I am changed’ (Lord Darlington)
Darlington is a romantic at heart. He has true love for Lady Windermere and is hurt by her rejection.
‘ideals are dangerous things. Realities are better. They wound, but they’re better’ (Mrs Erlynne)
‘if I lost my ideals, I should lose everything’ (Lady Windermere)
Mrs Erlynne considers telling Lady Windermere the truth about her self but decides against it after realising the importance of Lady Windermere’s ideals. The two character are juxtaposed in the conversation. Mrs Erlynne lives in reality whereas Lady Windermere relies on her ideal.
‘we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’ (Darlington)
Reflects Darlington’s difficult position of loving a married woman.
‘my dear nieces’
‘it’s those horrid nieces of mine–the Saville girls–they’re always talking scandal’ (Duchess of Berwick)
At the beginning of the play the Duchess tells Lady Windermere her ‘dear nieces’ have seen Lord Darlington take a room with Mrs Erlynne. Her opinion of Mrs Erlynne is reverted by the denouement but the Duchess retains a negative view of one thing or another at all times.
‘If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad it doesn’t. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism’ (Darlington)
Darlington understands the hypocrisy of Society. Characters who pretend to be good are believed to be good.
‘The game of marriage’ (Darlington)
Darlington attempts to persuade Lady Windermere against her husband and her marriage in Act 1 by devaluing marriage and presenting her with hypothetical situations.
‘That horrid woman’ (Berwick)
‘A divorced woman, going about under an assumed name, a bad woman preying upon life’ (Lord Windermere)
Other characters views of Mrs Erlynne. Always said while she is not present.
‘He (Duke of Berwick) was so extremely susceptible’ (Berwick)
The Duchess of Berwick accepts that her husband is attracted to other women and possibly cheats on her occasionally. Berwick suggests to Lady Windermere to ignore her husbands actions and take him away for a while.
‘All men are monsters’ (Berwick)
‘Oh, all of them, my dear, all of them, without any exception’ (Berwick)
‘I remember it’s a boy. I’m so sorry’ (Berwick)
Berwick has the view that all men are bad at heart. She goes to the extent of expressing sympathy that Lady Windermere’s child is a boy.
‘You could save her’ (Lord Windermere)
Windermere is an honest man and attempts to help Mrs Erlynne regain her position in society.
‘The suggestion is monstrous’ (Lord Windermere)
Windermere expresses real shock that his wife believes he may be having an affair.
‘Arthur, she (Mrs Erlynne) has explained everything’ (Lord Augustus)
Wilde creates tension at the end of Act 4 through Lord Augustus’s announcement. This is reflective of the melodramatic nature of the play.
‘Mrs Erlynne enters very beautifully dressed and very dignified’ (Stage directions)
From the gossip and scandal surrounding Mrs Erlynne the audience expects a terrible scandalous woman to enter when her name is called. However, this expectation is defeated and Mrs Erlynne appears ‘dignified.’
‘I think life too complex a thing to be settled by these hard and fast rules’ (Darlington)
Darlington and Lady Windermere have opposing views to morality in the exposition.