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A house party is in full swing at Lady Hunstanton's country home when it is announced that Gerald Arbuthnot has been appointed secretary to the sophisticated witty Lord Illingworth Gerald's mother stands in the way of his appointment but fears to tell him why for who will believe Lord Illingworth to be a man of no importance

10 thoughts on “A Woman of No Importance

  1. says:

    “One should never trust a woman who tells one her real age A woman who would tell one that would tell one anything” “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody even one’s own relations”“To get into the best society nowadays one has either to feed people amuse people or shock people that is all”“We in the House of Lords are never in touch with public opinion That makes us a civilised body”Even if you have never come across these particular quotations before you might be likely to guess correctly at their author Oscar Wilde excelled in writing light and witty drawing room satires plays containing line after line such as these However his 1893 play A Woman of No Importance is a curious mix of this type he wrote so well and a serious and bitter condemnation of social s which we would readily expect from his contemporary fellow Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw Both authors lived partly during the Victorian era when women had very few rights compared with men and this is often highlighted in the plays of George Bernard Shaw but not so often in Oscar Wilde’s With this play Oscar Wilde too has decided to explore some of the double standards of the end of the nineteenth centuryHowever at the start of A Woman of No Importance this is not yet apparent We are on familiar territory the drawing rooms and gardens of the rich and powerful where Lord Ladies and occasionally members of the clergy meet to socialise and gossip about their contemporariesWe are ready for drolleries and sizzling satire we are ready for Oscar Wilde’s wickedly unkind put downs and we are not disappointed “The happiness of a married man depends on the people he has not married”“Men marry because they are tired women because they are curious Both are disappointed”“Talk to every woman as if you loved her and to every man as if he bored you and at the end of your first season you will have the reputation of possessing the most perfect social tact” “My dear young lady there was a great deal of truth I dare say in what you said and you looked very pretty while you said it which is much important” The First Act is set on the terrace at Hunstanton Chase As the play opens we meet Lady Caroline Pontefract on the garden terrace A party is being held and the privileged upper class guests are exchanging social gossip and small talk Lady Caroline Pontefract enthusiastically holds forth giving her opinion on everyone and everything in her social milieu We become aware very quickly that not only is she wealthy and a member of the aristocracy but that she holds everyone else in disdain and enjoys holding court and displaying her power to her own advantage Lady Caroline Pontefract along with Lady Jane Hunstanton is ostensibly welcoming Hester Worsley a wealthy young American who is visiting England for the first time but in fact she is using all her effort to criticise and make those around her feel as small and worthless as possible She is certainly providing many amusing lines for the audience to appreciate However the play is not really about her One of the people Lady Caroline denigrates is a young clerk called Gerald Arbuthnot but young Hester Worsley objects defending him This young American woman is remarkably direct and confident compared with the English young ladies of her time and class The audience sits up We believe her straightforwardness and as a consequence are interested to see this young man for ourselvesRight on cue Gerald Arbuthnot eagerly bursts in to inform the party that he has been made Lord Illingworth’s secretary Lord Illingworth we learn is a powerful politician This is exciting news for Gerald affording him many prospects as being Lord Illingworth’s secretary would potentially be his first step to a financially and politically successful life Lady Hunstanton unlike Lady Caroline is pleased for Gerald and sends a letter through her footman inviting his mother to join their party at the estate Mrs Arbuthnot is highly regarded and has a great reputation in the community The two young people Gerald and Hester leave the scene to go for a walkLady Hunstanton and Lady Stutfield have been prompted by events to discuss Lord Illingworth’s ambitions to be a foreign ambassador and they go on to gossip and criticise his immorality towards women when Lord Illingworth himself proceeds to enter the terrace The ladies quickly switch their focus thanking him for hiring Gerald Arbuthnot but Lord Illingworth mysteriously says that he had had a personal interest in hiring the young man We quickly deduce from his behaviour that Lord Illingworth is unscrupulous and unprincipled He is exceedingly flirtatious and cruel using his power much in the way that Lady Caroline uses hers He excels at witty bon mots and is one of Oscar Wilde’s most watchable anti heroes There is an enjoyable lengthy scene between Lord Illingworth and a Mrs Allonby an equally quick witted woman who defies his overwhelming vanity In his outrageous arrogance and flirtatiousness Lord Illingworth claims he has such power over women that he has never met a woman who could resist his advances Mrs Allonby therefore challenges him to make Hester Worsley whom we have learned by now is eighteen and a Puritan fall in love with him The First Act ends with a letter being received from Mrs Arbuthnot to say that she will arrive at the party after dinner Lord Illingworth sees the reply by letter from Mrs Arbuthnot lying on the table and clearly recognises the handwriting Evidently appalled his reaction prompts Mrs Allonby to ask curiously who she is whereupon he dismissively replies “A woman of no importance”The Second Act is set in the drawing room of the Hunstanton estate Hester Worsley has been holding her own against the opinionated ladies in the party They clearly find her honesty amusing and naïve and according to their personalities are either trying to be kind and direct her towards the accepted English way to behave in society or maliciously mocking her Hester is gradually disliking these ladies and and becoming very contemptuous of their dissembling The play is changing in tone and we are aware that it is becoming far serious We are rapidly losing the wit of the drawing room comedy When Gerald’s mother Mrs Arbuthnot enters we learn an extraordinary and unexpected fact view spoilerGerald is the illegitimate child of Mrs Arbuthnot and Lord Illingworth who had once been known as George Harford As George Harford Lord Illingworth had refused to marry the woman carrying his child He had offered to provide financial security for the baby who of course is Gerald Arbuthnot but Mrs Arbuthnot despises him for his refusal to marry her and thereby forcing her to cope with the scandal of being a single mother hide spoiler

  2. says:

    It was really hard for me to get into this play Not sure if it's because of the pandemic but initially I found that there were too many bit characters to keep track of Realized after getting into the play and focusing on the play that the many characters weren't really that important Oh they did add to the play to show how snobby they were but really the main characters Miss Hestor Worsley Mrs Arbuthnot Lord Illingworth and Gerald Arbuthnot are the playVery enjoyable Four stars

  3. says:

    I absolutely love this play So compelling witty and nuanced I love the social criticism and the ending Such a great play

  4. says:

    Men marry because they are tired women because they are curious Both are disappointedYou should never try to understand them Women are  pictures Men are problems If you want to know what a woman really means ­ which by the way is always a dangerous thing to do ­ look at her don't listen to herElaborated Review soon

  5. says:

    I loved this play but my favourite is still The Importance Of Being Earnest This play had a wide cast of characters that allowed for social commentary It created some witty conversations to include an American woman I loved the ending Definitely recommend

  6. says:

    Stabbing Toys “ I believe he said her family was too large Or was it her feet? I forget which I regret it very much“ “I assure you dear that the country has not that effect at all Why it was from Melthorpe which is only two miles from here that Lady Belton eloped with Lord Fethersdale I remember the occurrence perfectly Poor Lord Belton died three days afterwards of joy or gout I forget which We had a large party staying here at the time so we were all very much interested in the whole affair”“One should never take sides in anything Mr Kelvil Taking sides is the beginning of sincerity and earnestness follows shortly afterwards and the human being becomes a bore”“Quite so It is the problem of slavery And we are trying to solve it by amusing the slaves”“— Do you really really think Lady Caroline that one should believe evil of every one?— I think it is much safer to do so Lady Stutfield Until of course people are found out to be good But that requires a great deal of investigation nowadays”“ — How very very charming those gold tipped cigarettes of yours are Lord Alfred— They are awfully expensive I can only afford them when I’m in debt— It must be terribly terribly distressing to be in debt— One must have some occupation nowadays If I hadn’t my debts I shouldn’t have anything to think about All the chaps I know are in debt— But don’t the people to whom you owe the money give you a great great deal of annoyance?— Oh no they write I don’t”Words are toys by the pen of Oscar Wilde Toys that he commonly uses to stab stab? did I say stab? Sorry I meant play of course 😜 the English high society 😊PS Oscar Wilde is the one and only gay I marry in dreams That of course is the best excuse I found for remaining single 😜

  7. says:

    Mini reviewI'll keep this review short because I have a really long list of quotesThis one was a little sad but it was ironically really hilarious too It involves family drama scandal an arrogant jerk responsible for all the conflict in the play etc I enjoyed this play from beginning to end As you may expect from Oscar Wilde it was witty and cynical through and throughHowever I do have one complaint Some repetitions of quotes For example there was one that made fun of marriage and I'm pretty there was a really similar if not the same to that one in another of the plays I read before this one Maybe this would have not been easy to notice if I hadn't read so many of his plays in a rowStill I enjoyed this immensely especially the ending which I will not spoil but it made me feel so so so happy and grateful that karma exists100% recommendedList of quotesLADY STUTFIELD Ah The world was made for men and not for womenMRS ALLONBY Oh don’t say that Lady Stutfield We have a much better time than they have There are far things forbidden to us than are forbidden to themIt is perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely trueLADY CAROLINE You believe good of every one Jane It is a great faultLADY STUTFIELD Do you really really think Lady Caroline that one should believe evil of every one?LADY CAROLINE I think it is much safer to do so Lady Stutfield Until of course people are found out to be good But that requires a great deal of investigation nowadaysMRS ALLONBY What a thoroughly bad man you must beLORD ILLINGWORTH What do you call a bad man?MRS ALLONBY The sort of man who admires innocenceLORD ILLINGWORTH And a bad woman?MRS ALLONBY Oh the sort of woman a man never gets tired ofLORD ILLINGWORTH I never intend to grow old The soul is born old but grows young That is the comedy of lifeMRS ALLONBY And the body is born young and grows old That is life’s tragedyOne can survive everything nowadays except death and live down anything except a good reputationI don’t think that we should ever be spoken of as other people’s property All men are married women’s property That is the only true definition of what married women’s property really is But we don’t belong to any oneWhen one is in love one begins by deceiving oneself And one ends by deceiving others That is what the world calls a romanceThe only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a futureI am disgraced he is not That is all It is the usual history of a man and a woman as it usually happens as it always happens And the ending is the ordinary ending The woman suffers The man goes freeHow could I swear to love the man I loathe to honour him who wrought you dishonour to obey him who in his mastery made me to sin?PS Just as a side note most of those quotes were said by Lord Illingworth the cynic of the play and the causer of mischievances

  8. says:

    This is an 1893 play by Oscar Wilde that had a fair amount of success although it's not regarded as one his best It's a satire on upper class English society and of course the best thing about it is Wilde's brilliant wit It starts out a little slow but finishes with a flourish although act IV is somewhat melodramatic 35 stars but I rounded up because I'm fond of Oscar Wilde

  9. says:

    MRS ALLONBY The one advantage of playing with fire Lady Caroline is that one never gets even singed It is the people who don't know how to play with it who get burned upMRS ALLONBY What a througly bad man you must beLORD ILLINGWORTH What do you call a bad man?MRS ALLONBY The sort of man who admires innocenceMRS ALLONBY Men always want to be a woman's first love That is their clumsy vanity We women have a subtle instinct about things What we like is to be a man's last romanceHESTER You love the beauty that you can see and touch and handle the beauty that you can destroy and do destroy but of the unseen beauty of life of the unsee beauty of a higher life you konw nothing You lost life's secret LORD ILLINGWORTH You should never try to understand them Women are pictures Men are problems If you want to know what a woman really means wich by the way is always a dangerous thing to do look at her don't listen to her MRS ARBUTHNOT Don't be deceived George Children begin by loving their parents After a time they judge them Rarely if ever do they forgive them

  10. says:

    A Woman of No ImportanceLORD ILLINGWORTH It is perfectly monstrous the way people go about nowadays saying things against one behind one's back that are absolutely and entirely trueA Woman of No Importance is a play by Oscar Wilde which premiered on 19 April 1893 in London It is one of Oscar's society plays which satirizes the English upper class society The conversations are all about gossip and small talk and most of the characters are shallow and viewless At the beginning of the play Lady Caroline denounces Hester's enthusiasm for Gerald Arbuthnot until Gerald himself enters to proclaim that Lord Illingworth a powerful flirtatious male political figure intends to employ him as his private secretary Then Gerald is regarded as a good match after all The ladies of the company constantly discuss rumours about Lord Illingworth – his aim for being a foreign ambassador his social life and amoral qualities toward women And as soon as he enters the room the sole focus is on him Everything he has to say opposes the norm and excites the company the only one who remains undeceived by him is Mrs Arbuthnot who had been unfortunate enough to meet him in her youth I was quite surprised to discover that this is quite the feminist play Oscar tackles the issue of double standards in the Victorian Era and that men were forgiven for their indiscretions far readily than women and women were condemned for moral failings During a discussion of sinful women Mrs Arbuthnot contrasts Lady Hunstanton's later opinion by saying that ruining a woman's life is unforgivable Further I really appreciated Hester's voice of reason in the play HESTER Don't have one law for men and another for women And till you count what is a shame in a woman to be infamy in a man you will always be unjust It was also really uplifting to see that whilst in the beginning of the play Mrs Arbuthnot was being referred to as a woman of no importance this was contrasted by her describing Lord Illingworth as a man of no importance by the end of the play indicating that he has no longer power over her in any way and that she didn't give two shits about him whatsoever Additionally it's always nice to see women of the 19th century being strong enough to decline a marriage proposal and having the necessary confidence in their own capability to lead a happy life on their own Surprisingly in addition to the male dandy who is present in every society play by Oscar there is a female dandy in A Woman of No Importance – Mrs Allonby She is a flirtatious woman who has a bit of a reputation for controversy She is not the stereotypical female character and is equal to Lord Illingworth in her witticism and cynical statements MRS ALLONBY The only advantage of playing with fire Lady Caroline is that one never gets singed It is the people who don't know how to play with it who get burned up And probably my favorite scene in the entire play in which Hester and Mrs Allonby discuss London dinner parties MRS ALLONBY I adore them The clever people never listen and the stupid people never talkHESteR I think the stupid people talk a great dealMRS ALLONBY Ah I never listen Another recurring theme is innocence Innocence is presented in the character of Hester She is an American girl who is foreign to the beliefs of the British aristocracy and their uptight morals and etiquette Hester is often taken aback by their views and finds them far too materialistic and judgemental However the same can be said vice versa The company sees Hester as naive and assumes that she has a hidden agenda in spreading her Puritan views I was really surprised by the ending of the play drawing from my experience of reading other plays by Oscar I thought that the dandy would come out on the top but instead we had a triumph of family and feminism Oscar didn't shy away from destroying his dandy – Illingworth came to regret his mode of life and had to recognize that he was at fault whereas the Puritan and the Feminist in the play had something valuable to say The humour in A Woman of No Importance was much subtle than in The Importance of Being Earnest but brilliant nonetheless The fact that all characters had such annoying and exaggerated quirks added a lot to my enjoyment of the satirical aspect of the play For instance Lady Caroline's blatant ignorance – she constantly and shamelessly refers to Mr Kelvil as Mr Kettle – or the fact that she is quite the overbearing wife and as soon as her husband is out of sight quickly retrieves him and lectures him on everything Another example for the satire in the play is Lady Studfield's stupid repetition of words on every occasion very very interesting very very wicked etc – it supports the fact that she is a woman who has no mind of her own and just goes along with the things the important people in the room are sayingOverall I really enjoyed A Woman of No Importance and highly appreciated that it was a much deeper and meaningful play I applaud Oscar for his advocacy for gender equality