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Compare the female characters in Wilde's An Ideal Husband and in William Congreve's...

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msaaly | eNoter

Posted May 4, 2013 at 9:55 PM via web

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Compare the female characters in Wilde's An Ideal Husband and in William Congreve's Love for Love.

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currerbell | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted May 5, 2013 at 4:21 PM (Answer #1)

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In An Ideal Husband, Wilde describes his characters, Lady Basildon and her best friend, Mrs. Marchmont, as ladies  "of exquisite fragility." They are the female version of the nineteenth century "dandy." A dandy was a man who "who places particular importance upon physical appearance, refined language, and leisurely hobbies, pursued with the appearance of nonchalance in a cult of Self." 

The character Mrs. Chevely is a scheming, conniving woman who will blackmail Sir Robert if he refuses to promote a project which he had planned to denounce in Parliament.  

Contrasting Wilde's female dandies in Congreve's Love for Love is the character of Angelica, a character who is outspoken and witty. Angelica is intelligent and suspicious of men. Her goal is to "unmask" the pretensions men put on as they pretend to be living up to the Victorian ideal for men, which, among other things, included loyalty and honor, two facets Angelica finds sorely lacking. 

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