Places Discussed

Windermere house

Windermere house. Home of Lord and Lady Windermere in the real and fashionable Carlton House Terrace adjacent to St. James’s Park in central London that serves as the setting for three of the play’s four acts. The play opens and closes in the morning room, one of the grand rooms used for entertaining by the Windermeres, who are important members of British society. As with all the aristocracy of the time, they have servants; only one butler, one maid, and a nonspeaking footman appear in the play, but at least another six or eight servants might be expected. The morning room should be large and immaculately decorated, containing more furniture than the few items specified for plot purposes. Among the pieces of furniture specified in the play’s stage directions are a bureau, in which Lady Windermere finds a bank book of her husband’s that contains apparently incriminating evidence; a table used by Lady Windermere to arrange flowers; a sofa used for seating; and a small table on which tea is served. French windows open onto a terrace, to which an impressionable daughter is sent to view the sunset so that she will not hear gossip about Mrs. Erlynne.

The house’s drawing room is equally grand, adjacent to the ballroom, where during the play’s second act a ball is held and a band is playing. A door leads onto the terrace. Because of crowds of guests, no furniture is specified, though some chairs and sofas around the walls might be expected. Wilde mentions only flowers and potted palms, which are typical of late Victorian era decor.

Lord Darlington’s rooms

Lord Darlington’s rooms. Home of the bachelor Lord Darlington, who has long loved Lady Windermere and tried to persuade her to leave her husband. In keeping with his station, Darlington’s apartment should be a suite of rooms forming all or part of a floor of a large terraced house. Act 3 of the play is set in his sitting and entertaining room. Wilde’s stage directions mention a sofa—where the fan of the title is accidently left—and three tables set with writing materials, alcohol, and cigars—all items typical for a man of his status.

Historical Context

Aestheticism Movement
The late nineteenth century ‘‘art-for-art’s-sake’’ movement was promulgated by Walter Pater...

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Literary Style

Screen Scene
A screen scene is a scene in which an actor hides behind a drape or furniture and overhears the other...

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Compare and Contrast

Victorian London: Industrialization leads to a migration from the country to towns and cities as thousands of workers toil in British...

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Topics for Further Study

Explore and discuss the role of wit in Lady Windemere’s Fan. Is it necessary to the play’s meaning? Why or why not?

Is Mrs....

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Media Adaptations

Lady Windemere’s Fan has been adapted in two silent films: a 1917 version by Ideal Film, and a 1925 Warner Brothers production called...

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What Do I Read Next?

Richard Sheridan’s The School for Scandal (1777) is a comedy of manners concerning a wife who nearly betrays her older husband....

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Bibliography and Further Reading

Beckson, Karl, ed. Oscar Wilde: The Critical Heritage, Alfred A. Knopf, 1970, 434 p.

Wilde, Oscar....

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Brooks, Cleanth, and Robert B. Heilman. Understanding Drama: Twelve Plays. New York: Holt, 1945. An indispensable act-by-act analysis that points to problems in characterization and motivation, and measures Lady Windermere’s Fan against defined genres. Eloquently establishes the myopia of bringing predetermined standards to art.

Cohen, Philip K. The Moral Vision of Oscar Wilde. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1978. The chapter on the comedies includes ten pages that read Lady Windermere’s Fan in terms of the shift from Old Testament to New Testament values.


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