Plays by Oscar Wilde

video Lady Windermere’s Fan (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

With its author's trademark wit, social satire and outrageous paradox, Wilde’s play shows us the destructiveness of gossip and superficial judgement, and examines the ambiguous sexual morality and gender politics at the heart of the British ruling class. Lady Windermere has a happy marriage – or, at least, that’s what she believes – until one of London’s society gossips, the Duchess of Berwick, arrives with her daughter to voice her suspicions about an affair. Wilde’s exploration of adultery results in a sparkling, satirical critique of society, and of the hypocrisy that lurks behind the etiquette and perfect epigrams.

Credits:

Director: Tony Smith; Producer: Louis Marks; Playwright: Oscar Wilde; Designer: Don Taylor (1936-2003); Costume Designer: Phoebe de Gaye; Introduced by: Stephanie Turner; Script Editor: David Snodin. Cast: Ian Burford: Parker, John Clive: Mr Dumby, Gloria Connell: Mrs Cowper-Cowper, Kenneth Cranham: Lord Darlington, Diana Fairfax: Lady Jedburgh, Sara Kestelman: Duchess of Berwick Mary Kurowski: Rosalie, Robert Lang: Lord Augustus Lorton, Veronica Lang: Lady Plymdale, Helena Little: Lady Windermere Vivien Lloyd: Lady Stutfield, Geoff Morrell: Mr Hopper, Amanda Royle: Lady Agatha Carlisle, James Saxon: Cecil Graham, Stephanie Turner: Mrs Erlynne, Tim Woodward: Lord Windermere

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

video Lady Windermere's Fan (Classic Spring)

Classic Spring Theatre Company
Type: Video

The day of Lady Windermere’s birthday party, and all is perfectly in order. Until her friend Lord Darlington plants a seed of suspicion. Is her husband having an affair? And will the other woman really attend the party? First performed in 1892, Lady Windermere’s Fan explores the ambiguity of upper class morality and the fragile position of women in the late Victorian era. It has always proved one of Wilde’s most popular and witty plays.

La Sainte Courtisane

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Myrrhina, a courtisane, seeks out a hermit who she has heard is beautiful; she hopes to tempt him from his righteous path into a life of earthly love. However, on beholding the cross for the first time, she finds herself instead converting to a life of virtue, while he, who indeed has fallen for her beauty, hopes to take her away as his lover.

Of the play, the critic H. Montgomery Hyde wrote: 'in some ways it is not unlike Salomé and though written in English Wilde may have had it in mind for the French theatre. The paradox of a female sinner converting a righteous male rarely fails to attract an audience and has been used by many other writers notably Somerset Maugham.'

Written in 1894, La Sainte Courtisane exists only as a fragment and was never completed. Here, a line of dots in the text indicates where a new fragment begins.

audio Salome

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

A dark tale of hubris, lust, and self-destruction … as told by a man who famously fell prey to those same impulses in his own life. Oscar Wilde wrote his original interpretation of the Biblical story of Salomé in French, and the play was so controversial that no theatre in England would produce it for nearly four decades.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast production starring:

Rosalind Ayres as Herodias

James Marsters as Iokanaan

Andre Sogliuzzo as The Young Syrian and others

Kate Steele as Salomé

John Vickery as Herod

Matthew Wolf as Page of Herodias and others

(DIGITAL ONLY: Director Michael Hackett and Wilde scholar Dr. David Rodes discuss Salomé’s history and where it fits stylistically in Wilde’s canon.)

Music by Djivan Gasparyan and Lian Ensemble. Directed by Michael Hackett. Recorded by L.A. Theatre Works before a live audience.

Featuring: Rosalind Ayres, James Marsters, Andre Sogliuzzo, Kate Steele, John Vickery, Matthew Wolf

Salomé

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Salomé is a short, but bewitching tragedy based on the biblical story of King Herod in the New Testament. Telling a tale of lustful desire and power, the language of the play is saturated and verbose, and the imagery, decadent and lush. The sequences of seduction and passion are consistently offset by the grotesque, most evident in the sudden suicide of the Young Syrian, and the presentation of Jokanaan’s severed head on a silver shield. Overall, the play represents the aestheticism of Symbolist drama, while also critiquing the literary movement in its jarring turn of events. It mixes the physicality of human experience with the voice of prophetic transcendence, elevating the artistry of the drama while allowing it to remain accessible to realists.

Wilde wrote Salomé in French in 1891 while residing in Paris, where it also debuted in early 1896. It was later adapted into an operatic version by Richard Strauss, which was enormously successful in Germany. The play was translated into English in 1894; despite the Lord Chamberlain’s ban dating from the Reformation that forbade the representation of biblical characters onstage, it was given five private performances in London between the years of 1905 and 1931. Besides being performed fairly extensively in recent times, Salomé has inspired a multitude of contemporary plays, songs, and films.

Vera, or The Nihilists

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Vera, or the Nihilists is an early play by Oscar Wilde. Written in 1880, some twelve years before his first major theatrical success with Lady Windermere's Fan, it is a tragic melodrama which takes as its heroine a fictionalized version of Vera Zasulich, a Russian revolutionary in the pre-Bolshevik era; a 'Nihilist' as Dostoyevsky and Turgenev would have called her.

In Wilde's play, Zasulich is exhorted by her imprisoned brother to join the Nihilist movement in Moscow. There she rises up the ranks to become one of the movement's top assassins. She falls in love with a fellow revolutioanry, the brilliant Alexis, who in time will reveal a secret identity so unexpected that will test to the last Vera's love and commitment to her ideals.

Vera, or the Nihilists was originally programmed to premiere in Britain, to be produced by actor-manager, Dion Boucicault. Instead, political tensions were such in Britain at the time that Wilde decided to defer production. Instead, it premiered in New York in 1883, moving on to Detroit for a modest run.

A Woman of No Importance

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

A Woman of No Importance fuses comedy of manners with high melodrama, a serious protest against Victorian gender inequality ornately framed with perfect witticisms.

At Lady Hunstanton’s country house party, the quips are dazzling and the company is impeccably sophisticated – but beneath the laconic wit of society’s elite is brewing a turbulent drama of social double standards and sexual hypocrisy.

Gerald Arbuthnot is a young gentleman on the make, with an American heiress and the post of secretary to the brilliant but dissolute Lord Illingworth within his reach. But it is discovered that Lord Illingworth is Gerald's father, who seduced and abandoned his mother twenty years earlier. Horrified to find her son singing the praises of her seducer, Mrs Arbuthnot refuses to allow Gerald to continue in his service, and Gerald must choose between his wronged mother and a glittering career.

Wilde’s society comedy was first staged at the Haymarket theatre in London in 1893.

audio A Woman of No Importance

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Devilishly attractive Lord Illingworth is notorious for his skill as a seducer. But he is still invited to all the “best” houses while his female conquests must hide their shame in seclusion. In this devastating comedy, Wilde uses his celebrated wit to expose English society’s narrow view of everything from sexual mores to Americans.

Includes an interview with Oscar Wilde's only grandchild Merlin Holland, who is also a noted biographer and editor of Wilde's works. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Martin Jarvis as Lord Illingworth Peter Dennis as Sir John Pontefract Jim Norton as Mr. Kelvil, M.P. Robert Machray as The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny, D.D. Paul Gutrecht as Gerald Arbuthnot Miriam Margolyes as Lady Hunstanton Jane Carr as Lady Caroline Pontefract Judy Geeson as Lady Stutfield Cherie Lunghi as Mrs. Allonby and Alice Samantha Mathis as Miss Hester Worsley Rosalind Ayres as Mrs. Arbuthnot. Adapted by Martin Jarvis. Directed by Michael Hackett. Recorded before a live audience.

Featuring: Rosalind Ayres, Jane Carr, Peter Dennis, Judy Geeson, Paul Gutrecht, Martin Jarvis, Cherie Lunghi, Robert Machray, Miriam Margolyes, Samantha Mathis, Jim Norton

video A Woman of No Importance (Classic Spring)

Classic Spring Theatre Company
Type: Video

An earnest young American woman, a louche English lord, and an innocent young chap join a house party of fin de siècle fools and grotesques. Nearby a woman lives, cradling a long buried secret. Wilde’s marriage of glittering wit and Ibsenite drama create a vivid new theatrical voice.

Picture of Oscar Wilde

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (b. Dublin, 1854) was an Irish playwright, who wrote one of the best loved comedies in the English language - The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). A leading wit and conversationalist in London society, his career was destroyed at its height when he was imprisoned for homosexual offences.

Wilde was born in Dublin and educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and Magdalen College, Oxford. Settling in London, he became famous for his extravagant dress, long hair, and paradoxical views on art, literature, and morality. His first play, Vera (1880), a tragedy about Russian nihilists, was produced in New York to poor reviews. Success in the theatre came with the elegant drawing-room comedy Lady Windermere's Fan. A Woman of No Importance (1893) was another success. Other works for the theatre were An Ideal Husband (1895) and the biblical Salomé (1896), written in French for Sarah Bernhardt.

Wilde flaunted his homosexual affairs, including his ill-fated liaison with Lord Alfred Douglas. Following a celebrated trial in 1895 he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labour. The sentence led to public humiliation, poor health, and bankruptcy. On his release in 1897 he left for France and remained in exile there until his death in 1900.