For the 2021 Back to the Classics Category - choose a classic play I had planned to go with Macbeth by William Shakespeare. But with the year drawing to a close I didn't feel I had enough time to give Macbeth the attention it deserves. Maybe next year.
So if not Shakespeare what play to choose for this year's challenge? I was considering a number of options and then a few weeks ago I clicked open Book Bub, a daily book service I subscribe to and saw Lady Windermere's Fan (1893) by Oscar Wilde, an author I have been meaning to read and here was my opportunity.
And I have to say, I enjoyed Lady Windermere's Fan a good deal. It's a witty comedy set in late Victorian England among the British upper classes. And when the play begins we are introduced to Lady Margaret Windermere who is in her drawing room getting ready for the evening's birthday festivities. It is Lady Windermere's 21st birthday and she is showing her guest Lord Darlington the beautiful fan her husband Lord Arthur Windermere has given her. Lady Windermere and Lord Darlington soon get to talking about life and it's clear they see the world differently. Lady Windermere is much more prim and proper:
Lady Windermere "You look on me as being behind the age - Well, I am! I should be sorry to be on the same level as an age like this
Lord Darlington: "Do you think seriously that women who have committed what the world calls a fault should never be forgiven?
Lady Windermere: "I think they should never be forgiven".
Lord Darlington: "I think life too complex to be settled by these hard and fast rules".
After Lord Darlington departs the Dutchess of Berwick arrives. The Dutchess is also a friend of Lady Windermere but an insincere friend who loves nothing more than to spread rumor and gossip. She seems to get a particular kick out of letting the injured party know what is being said about them. And she has news for Lady Windermere.
Lady Windermere's husband has been seen as of late visiting the home of Mrs. Erlynn a woman with a scandalous reputation who arrived in London six months ago without much money and now has a lovely townhouse, a carriage and visits from Lord Windermere at least three or four times a week. No this can't be true, Lady Windermere tells the Dutchess. Her huband would never do such a thing but later Lady Windermere finds her husband's bank book listing the money he has been giving to Mrs Erlynn.
She confronts Lord Windermere. He denies vehemently that there is anything going on between him and Mrs. Erlynn. His explanation is that Mrs. Erlynn is a woman who made a mistake years ago and is now trying to get back into society and deserves that chance. He asks his wife to invite Mrs. Erlynn to her birthday party. Lady Windermere is adamant. No way this scandalous woman is setting foot in her home. Lord Windermere pleads with his wife to be reasonable and then tells her that he will extend an invitation to Mrs. Erlynn if she won't. Lady Windemere tells her husband that when Mrs Erlynn arrives she will be horrid to her in front of all their guests.
And then we come to the night of the party and I can't go any further regarding what happens without spoiling the play. Those who have read Lady Windermere's Fan will know what I mean. Suffice it to say that it will upend everything Lady Windermere thought she understood about good women and bad women and how they are not distinct and totally separate categories. Life to quote Lord Darlingon is much too complex.
As to why the play is titled Lady Windermere's Fan and not simply Lady Windermere. I will say that the fan has an important role in this story. This is a play with wit and sparkle but there is alot of heart here and the ending is quite satisfying. I would really love to see a live production