What are the generic characteristics of Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde?
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Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan is a comedy of manners in four acts. It is Oscar Wilde's first play and it was performed for the first time in 1892.
The genre of comedy of manners is a product of the Restoration period in England (this is a period during which England went back to having a monarchy in the 17th century).
The following characteristics are evident from this type of work:
a) An upper-class setting such as it is in the case of the Windermeres.
b) A tendency to ridicule the upper-class men or upper-class women who consider themselves better than the rest (The Duchess of Berwick being portrayed as a dominant gossip girl, Lord Goring's father portrayed as feeble, Agatha portrayed as meek)
c) Clever dialogue- This is Wilde's signature style, where he offers a repertoire of epigrams and paradoxes using as his mouthpiece the charming dandy, Lord Goring.
d) The exploration of dynamics and relationships between men and women- This is the most salient characteristic of Wilde's play and is seen clearly not only between Lord and Lady Windermere, but between Mr. Hopper and Agatha, The Duke and Duchess of Berwick (she openly talks about their dysfunctional relationship), Lord Augustus Lorton and Mrs. Erlynne, and even Lady Plymdale and Mr. Dumby.
These four traits compose the backbone of the comedy of manners. This is Wilde's favorite genre and a most successful conduit to give the best of his witticisms.
In many ways, Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde is a drawing room comedy, i.e. a witty play set in the drawing rooms and ball rooms of the houses of the upper middle class and the rich. It has the upper class characters engaging in complex extra-marital relationships, the witty repartee, the hidden/mistaken identity themes, significant prop, people hiding behind doors and curtains and many of the other characteristic features of the earlier genre of Restoration comedy or the French pièce bien faite of Scribe and Sardou. Because it occurs in polite society with characters who are very concerned with social appearances, it is sometimes also referred to as a "comedy of manners".
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