In An Ideal Husband (underined), Oscar Wilde alludes to masterpieces and artists in order to portray the characters to the audience and foreshadow themes and events. The "Triumph of Love" at the opening and closing of the play not only allows for interrogation of whether love will really "triumph" in the end or not but it answers that question by foreshadowing that love does prevail at the conclusion. Furthermore, Wilde embeds how "Vandyck would have liked to paint [Sir Robert Chiltern's] head," which depicts to the audience that Sir Robert is a very picturesque, nearly perfect individual. This image of "an ideal...to the world," is destroyed later on in the play. Similarly, Wilde highlights Lord Caversham's seriousness and straight forward, unphased personality when compared to "a portrait by Lawrence" who painted images of people who had a very serious expression. The playwright paints a picture of the characters through the allusions to artwork and artists to later on erase that perception drawn out in the minds of the audience.
Interestingly, after reviewing my annotations, I noticed that Act I closes again with the "Triumph of Love" in the stage directions. Wilde includes "(the servant puts out the lights...the only light...from the chandelier...illumines the tapestry" to contrast Lady Chiltern's profession to Sir Robert: "I will love you always, because you will always be worthy of love" with the audience's insight that he has a shady past. Wilde's dimming of the theater's lights parallel Sir Robert's command to "Put out the lights!" and hide his dark deeds.
This page is intended to be a resource for our AICE Lit students. Our hope is that it will be a forum to share resources and have discourse pertaining to the research paper and our class readings!