A Woman of No Importance

Oscar Wilde’s play A Woman of No Importance is a satire on English upper class morality and society’s double standards for women and men. Lord Illingworth is a bachelor and an insatiable flirt, who is widely admired for his wit, while the woman he seduced 20 years earlier has had to hide the shame of her son’s illegitimacy. Mrs Arbuthnot brought up their son Gerald alone after Lord Illingworth refused to marry her. In the first act, Gerald is offered a brilliant career opportunity by Lord Illingworth, without realising that he would be the secretary to his own father. After a confrontation between Mrs Arbuthnot and Lord Illingworth at Lady Hunstanton’s country house party, Gerald is forced to choose between his mother (who was wronged by Lord Illingworth) and a brilliant career. It is both a comedy of manners and a protest against gender inequality. A Woman of No Importance was first performed on 19 April 1893 at the Haymarket Theatre in London. The play was published in 1894.

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