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The Complete Plays

– tekijä: Oscar Wilde

Muut tekijät: Katso muut tekijät -osio.

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioKeskustelut
347355,995 (4.22)-
'This volume contains everything Wilde wrote in dramatic form Wilde''s masterpiece. The Importance of Being Earnest is printed here in its usual three-act form, but with an appendix containing the best material from the original four-act version. Also included are his three ''problem plays'', Lady Windermere''s Fan, A Woman of No Importance and An Ideal Husband, as well as his once-banned Salome and several other little-known but fascinating dramas. H. Montgomery Hyde, an acknowledged expert on Wilde and author of several books on him, provides an introduction to Wilde''s life and work with special attention to the composition and performance of the plays. ''Wilde is to me our only thorough playwright. He plays with everything- with wit, with philosophy, with drama, with actors and audiences, with the whole theatre'' (George Bernard Shaw)'… (lisätietoja)
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The plays included are Lady Windermere's Fan, Salome, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest. ( )
  mrsdanaalbasha | Mar 12, 2016 |
The Plays of Oscar Wilde

Wordsworth Classics, Paperback, 2002.

12mo. xxviii+444 pp. Introduction [v-xxvi] and Notes [443-4] by Anne Varty.

Wordsworth edition, 2000.
Introduction and Notes, 2002.

Contents*

Introduction

Vera; or, The Nihilists [1883, New York]
The Duchess of Padua [26 Jan 1891, New York, as Guido Ferranti]
Salomé [11 Feb 1896, Paris; first published in French, Feb 1893]
Lady Windermere’s Fan [22 Feb 1892, London]
A Woman of No Importance [19 Apr 1893, London]
An Ideal Husband [3 Jan 1895, London]
The Importance of Being Earnest [14 Feb 1895, London]
La Sainte Courtisane [unproduced, written in 1894, first published in 1908]
A Florentine Tragedy [unproduced, written in 1894]

Notes

*In square brackets: date and place of first production, and other relevant information.

========================================

The best things about this Wordsworth Classics edition are its completeness and its price. It contains three pieces, two early plays and one late fragment, that are omitted from The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays (Penguin Classics, 2000). So far as anybody but the die-hard fan of Oscar is concerned, the omission is justified. The Introduction by Anne Varty provides one or two interesting bits of general historical background, but her exceedingly superficial comments on the plays are best skipped. The Notes are simply not serious. There are exactly ten of them! I am not joking. Nine plays, 440 pages and – ten notes! But at this price one is unwise to expect more. The plays are complete[1], handsomely printed, and they speak eloquently for themselves, never mind that the number of typos is slightly greater than the number of notes.

The three new, to me, plays proved to be quite a strange trio. La Sainte Courtisane is an exercise in florid exoticism, religious conversion, seduction and sexuality, not unlike Salome, but much shorter, less verbose and more interesting. Vera is a powerful drama in four acts and a prologue set in Russia between 1795 and 1800. The historical context, full of anachronisms as Ms Varty notes with her customary superficiality, is entirely unimportant. The work could easily stand for the moral ambiguity, not to say futility, of any revolution that starts with blood and tyranny only to end with more blood and another tyranny. Politics aside, there is a prominent personal element which goes a long way to explain how sometimes individual passions have momentous historical consequences. The plot is sketchy, the language Wildely rhetorical and the characters absurdly melodramatic, so I daresay the play would look awkward on the stage today. But it makes for a compelling read. The Duchess of Padua is a five-act tragedy in blank verse, otherwise it has the same virtues and the same vices as Vera. Though the political theme about the crimes of the few against the many is mentioned, it is the personal element that is much more prominent here. It’s all about love, of course, and its power to transform people into angels or demons, as the case may be, and it contains echoes from Jesus Christ and the Gospels to Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth) and Byron (The Corsair). In short, moving and thought-provoking play, not easy to forget.

If Oscar Wilde is one of your favourite authors, by which I mean not just a name in your “Favourite Authors” list but a human being who tells you something unique with his art, this edition at this price is entirely worth getting for these three plays. I certainly didn’t regret the purchase, nor would any fellow Wilde enthusiast, I think.

Since there is nothing easier, and few things more delightful, to read than a play by Oscar Wilde, I decided to re-read the other six plays and see how different my opinions today are compared to my previous reading almost five years ago. Not much, as it turned out. I again found Lady Windermere’s Fan, like Shaw’s Pygmalion and Maugham’s The Circle, a perfect comedy: light and witty, but also serious and profound. This time I found the ending of A Woman of No Importance less appallingly sentimental and more moving, even uplifting. A slight drop in the dramatic tension of An Ideal Husband for a page or two was a new sensation, but it was still a gripping play with many dark undercurrents. All these comedies are masterpieces. The plots are on the level of soap opera, but the language and the characters – that is another story.

The other three of the “old” plays proved, again, mostly a chore. Oddly enough, the least known of them, A Florentine Tragedy, I found by far the best. This little gem in blank verse is much neglected, unjustly so. From the very first lines – “My good wife, you come slowly; were it not better / To run to meet your lord? Here, take my cloak.” – the tension is established. It never drops until the twist in the end which is one of Oscar’s boldest comments on common morality. Salomé is extravagant, tedious and mercifully short. Instead of demonstrating Oscar’s versatility, it only shows that he should have recognised his limitations better. I am sure all that moon imagery has a deep symbolic significance, but it sounds all moonshine to me. Last and least, The Importance of Being Earnest proved again to be nothing more than a cute little farce, faintly amusing and excessively trivial. “One of the great comedies in the English language”?[2] This is not even a good joke. Had it not been Oscar’s last play, which leads many romantic souls to consider it the climax of his dramatic output, it would not have been preposterously overrated but rather accepted for what it is, a trifle penned for relaxation from serious drama. Oscar didn’t know it was to be his last play. If he had, and if he could have predicted the future hype at the expense of his much greater plays, he might not have written it. Pretty much the same situation as with Shakespeare and The Tempest.

If you have the opportunity to attend a fine production in the theatre, this is of course the best experience to complement the reading of the plays. If you are unfortunate enough to live in Wildeless latitudes, you might try some movies. Quite a mixed bag they are. I daresay acting Oscar Wilde isn’t easy, and filming him is even more difficult. First, unless you are bold enough to use the uncut text, you need a very skilful screenwriter who can manage the art of adaptation without ruining the original. Then you need a great cast who can manage the elaborate dialogue without making it sound empty and mechanical. Lastly, you need an accomplished director who can avoid the static nature of the plays, but not at the expense of their delicious artificiality. Small wonder movies based on Oscar’s plays are not entirely successful.

The 1985 BBC production of Lady Windermere’s Fan has the advantage of nearly complete text and the disadvantage of filmed theatre and the worst Lord Darlington imaginable. The rest of the cast does a fairly fine job, always with that exquisite British pronunciation that so easily becomes monotonous. Much of the sparkle is missing, but the drama is powerfully conveyed. There is also the 1949 film The Fan, but the only thing it shares with Oscar’s play are several names and a few phrases. The plot resembles the original but very vaguely and the characters not at all. The dialogue is pretty and pointed; it even contains some nice Wildean imitations (“I never gamble, except with my future”, “I quite forgot Augustus; it’s so easy to”). If you manage to locate it on some old movie channel, do see this charming curiosity.

The situation with An Ideal Husband is similarly far from ideal. In the lavish 1999 version, with historical sets and costumes quite pleasing to the eye, the play is heavily abridged, re-arranged and augmented as to look as a full-scale movie, but most of the dialogue comes straight from Wilde and the characters are recognisably his. Some cuts and changes are no improvements, but I understand why they were made. The one thing I don’t understand, in this as well as many other (un)Wildean adaptations, is why the cast do their best to suck up the charm, the bite, and the passion from Oscar’s lines. Julianne Moore is a fine actress; but she misses Mrs Cheveley’s essential insolence. Rupert Everett looks like the perfect Lord Goring. Unfortunately, he doesn’t sound like one. He appropriately assumes a deadpan expression on his face, but his quiet and quite expressionless delivery of the text is a crime against Wilde. Cate Blanchett (Lady Chiltern) is slightly better than that. Jeremy Northam (Sir Robert) is far worse. The Old Hollywood is presented by a 1947 Korda production in full colour, as pretty as a postcard and as dull as Wilde in the wrong hands. The adaptation is admirably faithful to the text, but that is just about its only virtue. Recommended only for Wilde’s wildest fans.*

I hoped The Importance of Being Earnest might prove more entertaining on the screen. It didn’t. I have seen three movie versions, all of them atrociously serious. The classic 1952 version is pleasantly authentic and decently lighthearted, but not much more. Michael Redgrave (Jack) is perfectly charming, the very young and very sweet Dorothy Tutin (Cecily) has her moments, but I am not terribly impressed with the rest of the cast, including the legendary Lady Bracknell of Edith Evans. The 1986 BBC version is a straightforward adaptation, quite complete as far as the text goes (including the superfluous episode with the solicitor which Oscar cut at George Alexander’s request), but not nearly funny enough in terms of acting. Joan Plowright, however, is a less outlandish and more interesting Lady Bracknell than Edith Evans. Oliver Parker’s 2002 version is just as visually splendid and freely adapted as his take on An Ideal Husband (1999) mentioned above. It is just as successful in these respects, too (except for Cecily’s knightly fantasies, the tattoo on Gwendolen’s bottom and that intrusive solicitor). The cast is greatly distinguished and profoundly dull. The mock seriousness is far too earnest; the farcical comedy, such as it is, even more so. If Colin Firth (Jack), Rupert Everett (Algie), Reese Witherspoon (Cecily), Judy Dench (Lady Bracknell) and Tom Wilkinson (Canon Chasuble) cannot save a play, perhaps the problem lies with the play in the first place.[3]

I regret to say that I have never seen a film version, much less a stage production, of A Woman of No Importance. It would be a riveting spectacle. Or would it?

*P.S. Since I wrote the above I came across the 1969 “BBC Play of the Month” adaptation of An Ideal Husband. It is absolutely superb. For once, the charmingly artificial comedy on the surface and the shattering tragedy that lurks beneath are captured to perfection. The play is considerably cut, most badly in the end where Robert’s renunciation of public life is left in the air and Lady Chiltern’s lie remains unexposed, but the spirit and the characters are on the whole beautifully preserved. It is the cast that makes this film very much worth searching for.[4] The very young and impossibly handsome Jeremy Brett is the perfect Lord Goring, striking an ideal balance between farce and drama. Keith Mitchell (aka Captain Cook) conveys like no one else Sir Robert’s charm, a quality without which he never would have risen to his position. Margaret Leighton is a Mrs Cheveley for the ages; she manages to invest this harpy with grace, depth and even pathos (the scene with Lord Goring in Act III). Dinah Sheridan (Lady Chiltern) and Susan Hampshire (Mabel) have nothing to be ashamed of in their performances, either. The acting in this movie makes the one in the 1999 version look positively amateurish.

______________________________________________
[1] This doesn’t necessarily mean that the plays are the same as in other editions. As Richard Allen Cave has made clear with painful – I mean, painstaking – thoroughness, there are considerable editorial problems with Wilde’s plays. For example, Lady Bracknell’s famous line “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” becomes in this edition simply “Both?... That seems like carelessness.” (p. 376). For Mr Cave’s explanation, see The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays, Penguin Classics [2000], p. 424.
[2] The author of this delightful nonsense is Mr Cave himself, ibid., p. 419.
[3] W. H. Auden reportedly called the play a “verbal opera”. I wonder if he meant it as a compliment. Verbal opera is, of course, a contradiction in terms. No opera remains alive because of its libretto. Auden’s remark may have been a polite way to dismiss the play as empty juggling with words – which indeed it is. Bernard Shaw was of the same opinion:
It amused me, of course; but unless comedy touches me as well as amuses me, it leaves me with a sense of having wasted my evening. I go to the theatre to be moved to laughter, not to be tickled or bustled into it; and that is why, though I laugh as much as anybody at a farcical comedy, I am out of spirits before the end of the second act, and out of temper before the end of the third, my miserable mechanical laughter intensifying these symptoms at every outburst. If the public ever becomes intelligent enough to know when it is really enjoying itself and when it is not, there will be an end of farcical comedy.
[4] It is available in Oscar Wilde Collection (2 DVD) together with the BBC versions of Earnest (1986) and Lady Windermere (1985) mentioned above, plus a fascinating adaptation of Dorian Gray with Peter Firth (Dorian), John Gielgud (Lord Henry) and Jeremy Brett (Basil). ( )
1 ääni Waldstein | Nov 16, 2015 |
What can I say, I just love the plays of Oscar Wilde. 'Vera or the Nihilists' does remind me of 'Romeo and Juliet' in some way.
  dionne | May 29, 2006 |
näyttää 3/3
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» Lisää muita tekijöitä (2 mahdollista)

Tekijän nimiRooliTekijän tyyppiKoskeeko teosta?Tila
Wilde, Oscarensisijainen tekijäkaikki painoksetvahvistettu
Guthrie, TyroneJohdantomuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Varty, AnneJohdantomuu tekijäeräät painoksetvahvistettu
Sinun täytyy kirjautua sisään voidaksesi muokata Yhteistä tietoa
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Viittaukset tähän teokseen muissa lähteissä.

Englanninkielinen Wikipedia

-

'This volume contains everything Wilde wrote in dramatic form Wilde''s masterpiece. The Importance of Being Earnest is printed here in its usual three-act form, but with an appendix containing the best material from the original four-act version. Also included are his three ''problem plays'', Lady Windermere''s Fan, A Woman of No Importance and An Ideal Husband, as well as his once-banned Salome and several other little-known but fascinating dramas. H. Montgomery Hyde, an acknowledged expert on Wilde and author of several books on him, provides an introduction to Wilde''s life and work with special attention to the composition and performance of the plays. ''Wilde is to me our only thorough playwright. He plays with everything- with wit, with philosophy, with drama, with actors and audiences, with the whole theatre'' (George Bernard Shaw)'

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