Please join me in August when we read two plays prior to the live productions in August and September! We will be reading Oscar Wilde's "Lady Windemere's Fan" and William Shakespeare's "A Winter's Tale."
Lady Windermere's Fan, A Play About a Good Woman is a four-act comedy by Oscar Wilde, first produced 22 February 1892 at the St James's Theatre in London. The play was first published in 1893. Like many of Wilde's comedies, it bitingly satirizes the morals of Victorian society, particularly marriage.
The story concerns Lady Windermere, who discovers that her husband may be having an affair with another woman. She confronts her husband but he instead invites the other woman, Mrs Erlynne, to his wife's birthday ball. Angered by her husband's unfaithfulness, Lady Windermere leaves her husband for another lover. After discovering what has transpired, Mrs Erlynne follows Lady Windermere and attempts to persuade her to return to her husband and in the course of this, Mrs Erlynne is discovered in a compromising position. She sacrifices herself and her reputation in order to save Lady Windermere's marriage as Mrs Erlynne is Lady Windermere’s mother, who abandoned her family twenty years before the time the play is set. Mrs. Erlynne was originated by Marion Terry, and Lady Windermere by Winifred Emery. The best-known line of the play sums up the central theme:
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.—Lord Darlington
By the summer of 1891 Wilde had already written three plays, Vera; or, The Nihilists and The Duchess of Padua had found little success, and Salome had been censored. Unperturbed, he turned from tragedy to comedy and decided to write another play. He went to the Lake District in the north of England, staying with a friend and later meeting Robert Ross there. Numerous characters in the play appear to draw their names from the north of England: Lady Windermere from the lake and nearby town Windermere, the Duchess of Berwick from Berwick-upon-Tweed, Lord Darlington from Darlington (though Wilde had used "Windermere" earlier in Lord Arthur Saville's Crime). Wilde, at the prodding of Sir George Alexander, the actor manager of St James's Theatre, began writing the play. By October the play was finished and he offered it to Alexander. Alexander liked the play, and offered him an advance of £1,000 for it. Wilde, impressed by his confidence, opted to take a percentage instead, from which he would earn £7,000 in the first year alone (worth £564,100 today).
Alexander was a meticulous manager and he and Wilde began exhaustive revisions and rehearsals of the play. Both were talented artists with strong ideas about their art. Wilde, for instance, emphasized attention to aesthetic minutiae rather than realism; he resisted Alexander's suggested broad stage movements, quipping that "Details are of no importance in life, but in art details are vital". These continued after the opening night, when at the suggestion of both friends and Alexander, Wilde made changes to reveal Mrs Erylnne's relationship with Lady Windermere gradually throughout the play, rather than reserving the secret for the final act. Despite these artistic differences, both were professional and their collaboration was a fruitful one.
There exists an extant manuscript of the play and it is held in the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at the University of California in Los Angeles.
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams, his only novel: The Picture of Dorian Gray, his plays and the circumstances of his imprisonment which was followed by his early death.
The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies, some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances. Some critics consider it to be one of Shakespeare's "problem plays", because the first three acts are filled with intense psychological drama, while the last two acts are comedic and supply a happy ending.
Nevertheless, the play has been intermittently popular, revived in productions in various forms and adaptations by some of the leading theatre practitioners in Shakespearean performance history, beginning after a long interval with David Garrick in his adaptation called Florizel and Perdita (first performed in 1754 and published in 1756). The Winter's Tale was revived again in the 19th century, when the third "pastoral" act was widely popular. In the second half of the 20th century The Winter's Tale in its entirety, and drawn largely from the First Folio text, was often performed, with varying degrees of success.
William Shakespeare (April 1564 – April 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, two epitaphs on a man named John Combe, one epitaph on Elias James, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.
Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, sexuality, religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.
Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the 16th century. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.
Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare, published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare's. It was prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Shakespeare is hailed, presciently, as "not of an age, but for all time."
Shakespeare was a respected poet and playwright in his own day, but his reputation did not rise to its present heights until the 19th century. The Romantics, in particular, acclaimed Shakespeare's genius, and the Victorians worshipped Shakespeare with a reverence that George Bernard Shaw called "bardolatry". In the 20th century, his work was repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.