Have you ever had someone you love scream over while you try to explain away something a gossipy middle-aged women told her in your drawing room? No? Me neither. In fact, if someone that claimed to love me refused to listen to a word I was saying and insisted that I was a cheating, no good sod of a human being I would honestly find myself questioning whether I knew just what the word ‘love’ meant.
That is, unfortunately, the crux which holds the main conflict of Lady Windermere’s Fan in place. The titular character (the fan shall remain blameless) goes three quarters of the play being the most self-righteous and irascible character the world has ever seen. I know Wilde needed to do this in order for there to be any plot, any intrigue, but what I cannot forgive is the intensity. Give her a temptation, a trail of doubt and misery to follow her around. Have Duchess of Berwick or Lord Darlington whispering doubts into her ear that leave her prickly, but not unreasonable. Let her journey be like Christ’s in the Wilderness and let her fall because she is human, because she is not divine.
But don’t make me hate her. Don’t make me hate the person you are telling me someone else claims to love above all else. This just makes me hate the man who would fathom to love her and that is a messy thing.
While I originally hated this play, I ended up having a conversation with a friend about it and after the some reflection I realized that I actually look on the play with no small bit of fondness. This lay solely in its last act. In this play’s ending lies enough truth, paradox, and heartache to, if not redeem, than make worthwhile the entire play.
“I find I have, and a heart doesn’t suit me, Windermere. Somehow it doesn’t go with modern dress. It makes one look old.” ― Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan