What is the significance of the opening scene in Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde?    

The opening act of Lady Windermere's Fan establishes the setting and the major characters. It also subtly misdirects the audience to view Lady Windermere as a good woman who is being wronged by her husband. This dramatic cliché is subverted later in the play.

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Lady Windermere's Fan was Oscar Wilde's fourth play but his first dramatic success. His first three plays had been melodramatic tragedies, so the light social comedy was a major departure for him. The first act of the play establishes the setting, at the heart of fashionable London society, and introduces the four most important characters, Lord and Lady Windermere, Lord Darlington, and Mrs. Erlynne. Although only the first three of these characters actually appear on stage, Mrs. Erlynne is alluded to, and her position as a woman of mystery in an ambiguous situation is established.

Beyond this establishment of setting and characters which one might expect in act 1 of any play, the first act of Lady Windermere's Fan subtly misdirects the audience, laying the foundations of the dramatic surprise that is to occur later. The play's subtitle is A Play About a Good Woman . Lady Windermere's fastidious Puritanism in rebuking Lord Darlington in act 1 leads the audience to assume that she is the good...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 981 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 4, 2020
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