Discuss the theme of relationships/marriage in the play.

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In Lady Windermere fan,  marriage is perceived from more than one perspective.  Lady Windermere and Lord Windermere are a young, aristocratic and rich couple who presumably married for love and not for the sake of securing rank, fortunes, or social standing. The typical Victorian marriage was expected to be superficial, if not beneficial for all parties involved. Yet, women would still be considered second class citizens and men took the lead in most everything.

As far as traditionalism, we see from the Duchess of Berwick that Lord Windermere had been giving money to a certain Mrs. Erlynne. The Duchess conveys this information to Lady Windermere and warns her how this is a very typical condition of men, that men often tire of their wives immediately after marriage, and that just by going abroad she can just help him "distract" from the mistress.

On the other hand, Lord Windermere (who was not Mrs Erlynne's lover but rather was buying her a position in society- Mrs. Erlynne was secretly Lady Windermere's mother), was very specific in that his wife had no business being jealous, checking his finances for his money, and he demanded that she not only accepted Mrs. Erlynne, but that she also invites her to other visits. Even against her will, Lady Windermere did as she was told, and grudgingly went to seek the attentions of her admirer, Lord Darlington, to get back at Lord Windermere.

Finally, from Mrs Erlynne's perspective we see the typical woman who needs to acquire money (this time, by blackmailing Windermere into disclosing herself to her daughter, his wife) to be worthy of marrying an aristocrat and save her reputation- after all, just by acquiring the rank would make her past magically disappear.

Therefore, the views of marriage in Lady Windermere fan are stereotypical of a Victorian, superficial and shallow marriage which an be weakened by the machinations of society at any given time.

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