The theatre played the very important role in Wilde's life. English drama was reborn near the end of the Victorian age. From the late 1700-s to the late 1800-s, almost no important dramas were produced in England. But by 1900-s a number of playwrights have revived the English theatre both with witty comedies and with realistic dramas about social problems of the time.
Many critics said that Wilde was perhaps less then a mature poet, but a good critic, and a splendid playwright. Oscar Wilde held particularly to his reputation as a dramatist, and this with some reasons. At the time successes, William Archer, the influential and enlightened critic, had placed him apart and above other contemporary authors; and Wilde believed himself to be unquestionably the equal of Ibsen, the famous Norwegian dramatist. When Wilde turned to the theatre, he concerned himself with a social class, which had not yet been presented on stage. Arthur Pinero, the glittering English dramatist, had achieved notoriety with place drawn from middle-class life and a large number of others were producing popular dramas.
With the perfect sense of the theatre, Oscar Wilde took his characters from high society; he set his elegant marionettes in motion with such mastery that his comedies can be regarded as the wittiest that have been written in a very long time.
When his career was so sadly and so tragically interrupted, Oscar Wilde had given the theatre his real works of art.
Wilde's first dramatic works appeared in the beginning of the eighties. His early tragedies "Vera; or the Nihilists" (1880) and "The Duchess of Padua" (1883), imitative and artistically weak, had no stable success on the stage. Then there were published his brilliant novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and the critical essays "The Intentions". In these books there were reflected the basic principles of Wilde's aesthetics.
Oscar Wilde denied the traditional criterions of the bourgeois ethics. He thought that the only moral value was the ideal of beauty in nature and in person. However, he said that beauty was not the reflection of realistic life in the people's minds, but contrary, it was just the product of artist's imagination. That is why he confirmed that art was existing independent of the life and was developing according to its own laws. He was known as a poet of graceful diction.
Oscar Wilde has contributed his most important works to the theatre: "Lady Windermere's Fan" (1892), "A Woman of No Importance" (1893), "An Ideal Husband" (1895), "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895) and "Salome" (1893).
Of the first four which had a success without precedent, it must be said that they are constructed with extraordinary skill; they are interesting for their settings, pathetic without evoking tears, witty to the point of excess, and written in a pure literary language. In these plays, Wilde brings together the social intrigues and the witticism. "Salome", which was not presented in London and which "Theatre De L'Oeuvre" mounted deplorably in Paris, is especially a marvellous poem, which has nothing in common with the modern pieces of the author.
These first four plays are what one could call society plays, picture of fashionable life in which au unmistakable air of reality is happily wedded to playful satire. The greatest merit is their dialogue. In other words, Oscar Wilde did not dive very deeply below the surface of human nature. But found to a certain extent rightly, that there is more on the surface of life then is seen by the eyes of most people. He believed as much in veneer as in deep untarnishable colour. And as in the drama veneer is likely to please while depth of colour is often productive of dullness, he preferred to concentrate his acumen of the language rather then on the underline humanity of his place. In this he proved he knew himself for lightness of touch, not to say a certain flippancy, was a paramount feature of his gifted nature; and when he was all gaiety, sardonism, and persiflage, as in "The Importance of Being Earnest", he was the happiest. The Aristophanic vein1 sparkled in it, and it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that this last English play of the unfortunate author was the wittiest comedy of the nineteenth century.
Wilde was spoken of as an aspiring dramatist long before any peers sighed by his name was acted. In the theatre the writing of society comedies, within the framework of a well-made play, was to provide him with his most stunning successes.
The first of these, "Lady Windermere's Fan", opened on 20 February 1892, to generally enthusiastic reviews, though to some critics Wilde's paradoxical wit seemed a facile, easily constructed device.
Of the critical reviews, the most enthusiastic was by A.B.Walkley, one of the most respected and influential drama critics of his day, who found the play and its "brilliant talk" entirely successful. "Black and White", a literary critical review, thought that the play, despite the obvious formula of the well-made play was very amusing, and the "Westminster Review", another critical journal, opened its review with the observation that "Mr. Oscar Wilde is nothing unless brilliant and witty"2. Both of these journals questioned whether "Lady Windermere's Fan" was a play or a series of brilliant paradoxes and epigrams, but concluded that if someone was interested in plays he should go at once to see it.
O.Wilde's plays were written in a light satirical vein, cultured and refined, and in good taste. His characters served as the mouths to enunciate the author's exquisitely funny remarks on society. The remarks of the cynical young men about life, love and society and the garrulous Duchess of Berwick, may show a keen appreciation of the vices of the upper-class society.
Surely a good moral woman, such as Lady Windermere is made out to be, would not desert her husband because of the mere gossip of a scandal-mongering old lady. Lord Windermere also would never have allowed matters to come to a crisis without taking his wife into confidence and explaining to her a little sooner his relationship with Mrs. Erlynne. But this is not Mr. Wilde's idea. He was anxious to express to the world his reflections on things in general, to lash the pretty vices of people of fashion, and did not, in