"Lady Windermere's Fan", Paperback

"Lady Windermere's Fan" Paperback

Edited by Ian Small

Part of the New Mermaids series

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


'My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people's' Lady Windermere has a happy marriage - or, at least, that's what she believes until one of London society's gossips, the Duchess of Berwick, arrives with her daughter to voice her suspicions about an affair Lord Windermere appears to be having.

It's not just the Duchess who has evidence, however.

Windermere's private bank book shows that he's been giving large sums of money to a 'Mrs Erlynne' - on frequent occasions - and he himself even admits to seeing much of the woman.

To add insult to injury, Windermere insists that Mrs Erlynne is invited to the ball that is being held for Lady Windermere's birthday.

Employing the witty dialogue, social satire and outrageous paradox for which he is still remembered, Wilde's play shows us the destructiveness of gossip and superficial judgement, examines the ambiguous sexual morality and gender politics at the heart of the British ruling class, while simultaneously challenging our perceptions of what constitutes a 'good woman'.

This student edition contains a fully annotated version of the playtext. The introduction includes an account of Wilde's life and a detailed analysis of Lady Windermere's Fan as well as its stage history.

Ian Small is Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham.

He is the author of a number of critical studies on Wilde and has edited several of Wilde's works, including a scholarly edition of Wilde's second society comedy, A Woman of No Importance, also published in the New Mermaids series.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 144 pages, c 5 photographs/line drawings
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Plays, playscripts
  • ISBN: 9780713666670



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3.5*** <br/><br/>Lady Margaret Windermere has just come of age and is planning a birthday ball. A bachelor friend, Lord Darlington comes to call and she shows him the fan her husband has given her. The Duchess of Berwick arrives and tells Lady Windermere about the gossip that Lord Windermere is seeing a Mrs Erlynne on the side, and giving her large sums of money. Lady Windermere defends her husband against such malicious rumors, but as soon as the Duchess departs, Lady W searches her husband’s desk and finds a bank book with evidence that he HAS been supporting “that” woman!<br/><br/>Of course, this only sets up the series of misunderstandings, innuendo, rumor, coincidences and awkward situations to come. <br/><br/>Wilde was a master at writing this genre of play: a comedy of manners. The dialogue is witty and acerbic. The situations may be somewhat over-the-top, but they rely on the strict societal rules of Victorian England, when a married woman might receive a gentleman friend in her home, but would be publicly shamed and ruined if she was known to call on that same gentleman in his apartment. Neither would a divorced woman be received in any proper household.<br/><br/>I’ve had the pleasure to see this play performed on the stage and it was a complete delight. Reading it definitely suffers in comparison to the full experience of watching it, though I had my memories of the performance to think on. Much as I love Oscar Wilde’s plays, I don’t think this is his best effort. I much prefer <b>An Ideal Husband</b> (which has a very similar plot twist) or <b>The Importance of Being Earnest</b>. Still, if you have a chance to see one of Wilde’s plays performed, don’t pass up the opportunity.<br/>

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