OSCAR WILDE VITAOscar Wilde was born in 1854 in Dublin.
At Oxford Wilde became Walter Pater’s favourite disciple.
He had an intense social life and he was one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London.
His first printed book was a collection of fairy tales, and then he wrote his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, which contains his aesthetic creed.
Success came with the witty and brilliant comedies in the Sheridan tradition. Among these the most popular was The Importance of Being Earnest.
In 1895 Wilde’s popularity reached its height, but his challenge to Victorian moralism, particularly his close relationship with Alfred Douglas was fatal to him. Alfred’s father accused Wilde of homosexual practices and the writer was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour. This terrible experience broke him completely and when he was released from prison he had become poor and unknown.
Two works were the results of the experience of prison: De profundis, a confession in form of letter to Alfred, and The Ballad of Reading Gaol, the dramatic story of an outcast.
Wilde is an artist for whom life and art are the same thing, according to the aesthetical ideals.
His aestheticism clashed with the didacticism of Victorian novels. Indeed for him the artist is the creator of beautiful things. The work of art must not have a purpose or a moral. For this he will criticize Charles Dickens through the figure of Miss Prism, who wrote a novel in 3 books, like the works of Dickens, which end with a happy ending, clear reference and criticism to the moralism of Dickens.
Nevertheless there is a moral in Dorian Gray: the triumph of art over life.
OSCAR WILDE OPERE
The picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian Gray is an upper class young man of extraordinary beauty. A painter, Basil Hallward, is so impressed by his look that he decides to paint a portrait of him. Once it is finished he shows it to Dorian, who seen for the first time his own beauty, and understands that the beauty of the portrait will last forever, while he will grow hold. Under the influence of Lord Henry, Basil’s friend, who believes that youth is the supreme values, Dorian expresses a wish: he is willing to give his soul to stay young forever and let the portrait get old instead of him. Experiences and vices appear on the portrait, while the face of Dorian remains innocent and pure. The painter discovers Dorian’s secret and he is killed by the young man. Dorian continues his life of crime and depravation; the picture has become so repulsive and disgusting that Dorian, in a moment of repentance, tries to destroy it, but in doing so he kills himself. At the very moment of death the portrait returns to its original purity and Dorian turns into a withered, wrinkled and loathsome man.
The picture of Dorian Gray is the work which best expresses Wilde’s aesthetic creed.
Indeed the preface of this work is considered the manifesto of the Aesthetic movement.
The Aesthetes reject the idea that art must be didactic, and advocate the principal of “art for art’s sake”. They were fascinated by the contrast art-life, asserting the superiority of art.
The final stabbing of the picture and subsequent inversion of the “role” can be read as
- The triumph of art over life, because in the end is the picture that survives in the glory of its beauty
- The impossibility of a life of only excess: Dorian was punished for his sins.
The horrible, corrupting picture could be seen as a symbol of the immorality and bad conscience of the Victorian middle class.
Dorian Gray can be read as a version of Faust, presenting a man who loses his soul in return for 24 years of pleasure.
Lord Henry’s cynical attitude is in keeping with the devil’s role in Dr Faust.
OSCAR WILDE OPERE: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
The protagonist of the play are John Worthing and his friend Algernon or Algy.
Jack is the guardian of a young girl, Cecily, the granddaughter of Mr. Thomas Cardew, Jack's adoptive father.
Since Jack must maintain a high level of morality to set an example, he needs an excuse to get into town. He has invented a younger brother named Ernest who lives in Albany, and whose problems frequently require Jack's attendance. Algernon confesses that he has invented an invalid in the country, Bunbury, for when he needs to get out of town.
Jack wants to propose to Gwendolen, Algernon’s cousin, but is hampered by her mother because he is an orphan.