Living the Life of Oscar Wilde – Play Seekers

Oscar Wilde is an Irish writer and playwright known. He was born in Dublin, Ireland on October 16, 1854. Oscar Wilde’s parents were successful Anglo-Irish intellectuals who took great interest in their son’s education. Wilde learned German and French when he was very young. He studied and read the classics and has proven himself to be a great classicist when he entered the university at the Trinity College in Dublin, then at Oxford University in England. While in the university, he became involved with the then rising philosophy of aestheticism – an intellectual and art movement that emphasized more on aesthetic values that socio-political themes for the arts and humanities. After graduating, Wilde moved to London and joined fashionable social circles. Aside from his contribution to literature and the theatre, Oscar Wilde is also best remembered for his flamboyant personality, supreme wit, and the unfortunate incident of being tried and imprisoned for homosexuality. In spite of this, his plays and novels are considered as masterpieces of British literature in the late Victorian period.

Theatrical Career

Oscar Wilde entered the theatre scene in February 1892 with the opening of Lady Windermere’s Fan, his first play. The play received enormous popularity and critical acclaim and encouraged Wilde to adopt playwriting as his primary literary form. Over the following years, he wrote several notable plays such as A Woman of No Importance, The Importance of Being Earnest,etc. His plays were written in the tradition of comedies of manners which are witty and highly satirical, but he also inserted dark and serious themes beneath the surface of his plays.

Lady Windermere’s Fan (Modern time recreation)

French-Inspired Plays and Literary Works

Aside from Oscar Wilde’s inclination to the philosophical and artistic movement of aestheticism, a lot of his plays and literary works have been rooted or influenced by France and French literature. Foremost among this is his 1891 one-act play Salomé which was written in French and performed in Paris in 1896. The plot of the play was based on the Biblical story of Salome, stepdaughter of King Herod, who by the urging of her mother, Herodias, asked for the head of Saint John as a reward for her dance to the seven veils. 

Other notable works by Oscar Wilde such as his Gothic novel The Picture of Dorian Gray is filled with elements of decadent French literature. The story of an impressionable, vain, and handsome young man, the book provides a social commentary on the culture of excess and artificiality evident during Victorian England. The play Lady Windermere’s Fan is written after the rules of a French “well-made” play. This is evident in Lady Windermere’s intricate plot, building suspense, climactic scene, and satisfying resolution at the end of the play.

Latter Life in France

After the infamous trial that Oscar Wilde suffered in England for crimes related to his homosexuality, he crossed the English channel in 1897. During this time, Wilde has lost the majority of his fortune, and his wealth has been steadily deteriorating. He settled in Normandy, while during summer time he visited Dieppe and Berneval-le-Grand. It was during these visits that he wrote his last literary work called “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.” After that, he returned to Paris to attempt to revive his literary career. Unfortunately, he died on November 30, 1900, at a young age of 46 in a room at the Hotel d’Alsace.