Oscar Wilde was deeply contradictory: a popular Irish dandy and renowned wit who took London and America by storm, and a bankrupt, reviled convict, a victim of British moral hypocrisy. He became famous in London by charming his way into fashionable circles (long before he was a playwright) and toured America to lecture on Aestheticism. He married and had two children, but fell in love with a young lord and began a life of extravagant hedonism, danger and debt. A celebrity with a stupendous income, he was knocked from his pedestal at the peak of his fame, was sent to prison for two years to live under torturous conditions, and died within three years of his release, destitute and alone. An Ideal Husband premiered on January 3, 1895 (the same year as The Importance of Being Earnest). It was during the original run of Husband that Wilde was arrested for “acts of gross indecency.” Upon conviction, his name was removed from the playbill. The production was extremely popular but after Wilde’s incarceration his plays ceased, for a time, to be performed. As a celebrity who was secretly homosexual, Wilde lived out a conflict between his private identity and his public self. In An Ideal Husband, Sir Robert Chiltern suffers deeply from harboring his own shocking secret. The play is about corruption, the politics of gender, and the power of forgiveness. Sir Robert Chiltern says, “It is not the perfect, but the imperfect, who have need of love. It is when we are wounded by our own hands, or by the hands of others, that love should come to cure us – else what use is love at all?” Wilde suggests that no one can be incorruptible; that circumstances force one’s hand. Easy indeed to be without moral blemish if one has never been faced with the pain of poverty or hunger. Can those who have been thus challenged be judged for anything they might do to extricate themselves from a dire situation? I will leave you with words of wisdom from Lord Goring, the character Wilde clearly based on himself: “All I know is that life cannot be understood without much charity, cannot be lived without much charity. It is love that is the true explanation of this world, whatever may be the explanation of the next.” And of course, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Gigi Bermingham