Oscar Wilde, most famously remembered as an Irish playwright and poet, wrote children’s stories in the early part of his career. “The Nightingale and the Rose” was included in his first collection of fairy tales, The Happy Prince and Other Tales, first published in 1888. This story, with its dramatic effects, has been adapted in several different versions for opera and ballet pieces.
Wilde’s fairytale begins with a young male student looking forlornly out his window, dreaming of a young woman who has captured his heart. He wants to take her to a dance, but she has told him she will go with him only if he can bring her a red rose. It is the middle of winter; the young man gazes at the garden outside his window in dismay. Although there are rose bushes, none are blooming. He is dejected because there is no way he can imagine that he could acquire a red rose. He states that he has read all the philosophical books on the topic of love, so he feels he understands this emotion—at least on a rational level. He questions what good it does him to know about love if he cannot produce the one thing upon which his love depends—a red rose.
As he mutters these sentiments quietly to himself, a nightingale, a small bird found in parts of Europe that often sings at night as well as in daylight, hears the man’s lament and is affected by his love for the young girl. The nightingale believes that it has finally found a “true lover,” someone who understands the real meaning of love. The bird has sung of this young student in the past, having been attracted by his beauty. However, the bird is upset when it sees the young man at the window and notices how sorrow has affected his face. The nightingale listens as the man continues his murmurings. If only he could find a red rose, he knows the young girl of his affection would dance with him until dawn at the prince’s ball the next evening. He would be able to hold her in his arms. She would lean her head on his shoulder. However, his dream will never come true because there is no red rose to be found in the garden. The girl will, therefore, pay him no heed. Because of this, his heart will break.
Upon hearing this, the nightingale takes it upon herself to find a red rose. She flies to the first rose bush she sees and begs for a rose, but that rose bush tells her it only produces white roses. The next rose bush announces that it only makes yellow roses. The...
(The entire section is 718 words.)
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