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An Ideal Husband

An Ideal Husband
Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

An Ideal Husband

THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY

THE EARL OF CAVERSHAM, K.G.

VISCOUNT GORING, his Son

SIR ROBERT CHILTERN, Bart., Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs

VICOMTE DE NANJAC, Attaché at the French Embassy in London

MR. MONTFORD

MASON, Butler to Sir Robert Chiltern

PHIPPS, Lord Goring’s Servant

JAMES }

HAROLD} Footmen

LADY CHILTERN

LADY MARKBY

THE COUNTESS OF BASILDON

MRS. MARCHMONT

MISS MABEL CHILTERN, Sir Robert Chiltern’s Sister

MRS. CHEVELEY

THE SCENES OF THE PLAY

Act I. The Octagon Room in Sir Robert Chiltern’s House in Grosvenor Square.

Act II. Morning-room in Sir Robert Chiltern’s House.

Act III. The Library of Lord Goring’s House in Curzon Street.

Act IV. Same as Act II.

Time: The Present

Place: London.

The action of the play is completed within twenty-four hours.

FIRST ACT

SCENE

The octagon room at Sir Robert Chiltern’s house in Grosvenor Square.

[The room is brilliantly lighted and full of guests. At the top of the staircase standslady chiltern, a woman of grave Greek beauty, about twenty-seven years of age. She receives the guests as they come up. Over the well of the staircase hangs a great chandelier with wax lights, which illumine a large eighteenth-century French tapestry – representing the Triumph of Love, from a design by Boucher – that is stretched on the staircase wall. On the right is the entrance to the music-room. The sound of a string quartette is faintly heard. The entrance on the left leads to other reception-rooms. mrs. marchmontandlady basildon, two very pretty women, are seated together on a Louis Seize sofa. They are types of exquisite fragility. Their affectation of manner has a delicate charm. Watteau would have loved to paint them.]

mrs. marchmont. Going on to the Hartlocks’ to-night, Margaret?

lady basildon. I suppose so. Are you?

mrs. marchmont. Yes. Horribly tedious parties they give, don’t they?

lady basildon. Horribly tedious! Never know why I go. Never know why I go anywhere.

mrs. marchmont. I come here to be educated.

lady basildon. Ah! I hate being educated!

mrs. marchmont. So do I. It puts one almost on a level with the commercial classes, doesn’t it? But dear Gertrude Chiltern is always telling me that I should have some serious purpose in life. So I come here to try to find one.

lady basildon. [Looking round through her lorgnette.] I don’t see anybody here to-night whom one could possibly call a serious purpose. The man who took me in to dinner talked to me about his wife the whole time.

mrs. marchmont. How very trivial of him!

lady basildon. Terribly trivial! What did your man talk about?

mrs. marchmont. About myself.

lady basildon. [Languidly.] And were you interested?

mrs. marchmont. [Shaking her head.] Not in the smallest degree.

lady basildon. What martyrs we are, dear Margaret!

mrs. marchmont. [Rising.] And how well it becomes us, Olivia!

[They rise and go towards the music-room. Thevicomte de nanjac, a young attaché known for his neckties and his Anglomania, approaches with a low bow, and enters into conversation.]

mason. [Announcing guests from the top of the staircase.] Mr. and Lady Jane Barford. Lord Caversham.

[Enterlord caversham, an old gentleman of seventy, wearing the riband and star of the Garter. A fine Whig type. Rather like a portrait by Lawrence.]

lord caversham. Good evening, Lady Chiltern! Has my good-for-nothing young son been here?