Lord Goring confronts Mrs. Cheveley about a stolen bracelet. From a 1901 collected edition of Wilde's work An Ideal Husband is an 1895 comedic stage play by Oscar Wilde which revolves around blackmail and political corruption, and touches on the themes of public and private honour. The action is set in London, in "the present", and takes place over the course of twenty fourhours. "Sooner or later," Wilde notes, "we shall all have to pay for what we do." But he adds that, "No one should be entirely judged by their past."
In the summer of 1893, Oscar Wilde began writing An Ideal Husband, and he completed it later that winter. At this point in his career he was accustomed to success, and in writing An Ideal Husband he wanted to ensure himself public fame. Hiswork began at Goring-on-Thames, after which he named the character Lord Goring, and concluded at St. James Place. He initially sent the completed play to the Garrick Theatre, where the manager rejected it, but it was soon accepted by the Haymarket Theatre, where Lewis Waller had temporarily taken control. Waller was an excellent actor and cast himself as Sir Robert Chiltern. The play gave theHaymarket the success it desperately needed. After opening on January 3, 1895, it continued for 124 performances. In April of that year, Wilde was arrested for 'gross indecency' and his name was publicly taken off the play. On April 6, soon after Wilde's arrest, the play moved to the Criterion Theatre where it ran from April 13-27. The play was published in 1899, although Wilde was not listed as theauthor. This published version differs slightly from the performed play, for Wilde added many passages and cut others. Prominent additions included written stage directions and character descriptions. Wilde was a leader in the effort to make plays accessible to the reading public.
* The Earl of Caversham, K.G.
* Lord Goring, his son. His Christian name is Arthur.
*Sir Robert Chiltern, Bart., Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs
* Vicomte De Nanjac, Attaché at the French Embassy In London
* Mr. Montford, secretary to Sir Robert
* Mason, butler to Sir Robert Chiltern
* Phipps, butler to Lord Goring
* James, footman to the Chilterns
* Harold, footman to the Chilterns
* Lady Chiltern, wife to Sir Robert Chiltern
* Lady Markby, afriend of the Chilterns'
* The Countess of Basildon, a friend of the Chilterns'
* Mrs. Marchmont, a friend of the Chilterns'
* Miss Mabel Chiltern, Sir Robert Chiltern's sister
* Mrs. Cheveley, blackmailer, Lady Chiltern's former schoolmate
An Ideal Husband opens during a dinner party at the home of Sir Robert Chiltern in London's fashionable Grosvenor Square. Sir Robert, aprestigious member of the House of Commons, and his wife, Lady Chiltern, are hosting a gathering that includes his friend Lord Goring, a dandified bachelor and close friend to the Chilterns, his sister Mabel Chiltern, and other genteel guests. During the party, Mrs. Cheveley, an enemy of Lady Chiltern's from their school days, attempts to blackmail Sir Robert into supporting a fraudulent scheme tobuild a canal in Argentina. Apparently, Mrs. Cheveley's dead mentor and lover, Baron Arnheim, convinced the young Sir Robert many years ago to sell him a Cabinet secret, a secret that suggested he buy stocks in the Suez Canal three days before the British government announced its purchase. Sir Robert made his fortune with that illicit money, and Mrs. Cheveley has the letter to prove his crime.Fearing both the ruin of career and marriage, Sir Robert submits to her demands.
When Mrs. Cheveley pointedly informs Lady Chiltern of Sir Robert's change of heart regarding the canal scheme, the morally inflexible Lady, unaware of both her husband's past and the blackmail plot, insists that Sir Robert renege on his promise. For Lady Chiltern, their marriage is predicated on her having an "ideal...