Lady Windermere’s Fan is another of Wilde’s dramatic masterpieces circumscribed by conventions – the presence of formidable dowagers, English tea rituals and endless rounds of small and early dances and luncheons, suggesting both the comfort and the emptiness of such routines. This glittering comedy of masks and manners displays many of Wilde’s successful dramatic techniques and dilemmas.
For my A-level students, I like to examine with them the dramatic devices, techniques and the aesthetic considerations not to mention framing the play with critical theories and Oscar’s views about life . In addition the implication of Wilde as a late Victorian and his modernist impulse in his works will be imparted to my students which will be put to good use in appreciating and analyzing Lady Windermere’s Fan.
The Duchess of Malfi is a challenging text to read, made richer by the many possible ways to look at the text. While on the one hand, it engages in the discursive construction of women and the notion of women as a female ruler, on the other, it undertakes the examination of morality and corruption and the sense that value and meaning depend on the individual’s ability to rise above a corrupt and corrupting society by living according to his own principles, regardless of consequence.
Is it a political play? A revenge play? Or can it be read allegorically? Whichever way we choose to look at it, Historicism is needed to help us understand the play and the many issues it raises.