Lady Olivia Basildon
Lady Basildon and her close friend Mrs. Marchmont are the first speakers in Wilde’s play, setting the tone with their witty banter. ‘‘They are types,’’ Wilde’s stage notes say, ‘‘of exquisite fragility,’’ and they are female dandies. Lady Basildon and her friend affect a world-weary attitude, pretending to find the fashionable London parties they go to terribly boring. As Lady Basildon says of a different party the two are planning to attend: ‘‘Horribly tedious! Never know why I go. Never know why I go anywhere.’’ The duo’s worldly sophistication and wit undoubtedly flattered a portion of his audience whom Wilde hoped would enjoy his play, namely fashionable society women.
See Earl of Caversham
Mrs. Cheveley, the villain of Wilde’s play, enters the society of the Chilterns and Lord Goring determined either to get her own way or to destroy those who will not help her achieve her ends. She comes to London from Vienna, where she has been living for some time, to blackmail Sir Robert Chiltern. She knows Chiltern’s terrible, scandalous secret and has concrete evidence of his transgression (a letter he wrote). She informs Chiltern that she will expose his sinful past unless he praises a South American canal scheme instead of condemning it for the stock market swindle it is as he plans to do in a parliamentary speech. Mrs....
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