"love And Ambition Rarely Compliment One Another" In An Ideal Husband - Cheney School - Essay

1961 words - 8 pages

“Love and ambition rarely complement one another” Consider
ways in which Wilde explores love and ambition in ​An Ideal
In Wilde’s late Victorian society drama, An Ideal Husband, love and ambition are central
themes which “Wilde explorers as serious issues under the epigrammatic surface”. These
predominant themes are largely discussed by characters and are at the heart of the dramatic
action. Whilst love is linked to the private sphere, characterised by reciprocity and heartfelt
emotion and devotion, ambition is clearly associated worth self-serving achievement,
reputation and status. This play surrounding those themes is clearly bookended with the
Chilterns posing as a quintessential Victorian couple, celebrated for their success in the
private sphere of marital love and the public sphere of society and politics. However, whilst
the Chilterns marriage is ostensibly depicted as harmonious and mutually devotional,
through the acts, Robert expresses anxiety over the tensions between the pursuit of his
ambition and the loving relationship he shares with his wife. Subsequently channeling this,
Wilde reveals the inherent hierarchy of the man and the dependent woman to show the
inevitable downfall of pulls between ambition polluted by politics and love formed by
epitomised morals.
In the opening scene, the image of love and ambition are in harmony through Boucher’s
tapestry displayed in the background of their aristocratic home. However, Wilde’s dislike of
Bouchers art and the epigrammatic jibes regarding the marriage that are littered throughout
act one”nowadays people marry as often as they can...its very fashionable”, undermine this
idealised image of marital triumph. The actual name ‘The Triumph of love’ has a double
meaning also, as it could never mean ‘love will triumph but could also mean love could be
the route to filling ambition.This, forefronts Wildes setup of conflict for the audience’s
anticipation on who will conquer, either; Gertrudes moral probity and idealism or Roberts
fraudulent financial past. On one hand, Gertrude’s serious, composed and sincere character
of a “grave greek beauty”- formidable in her seriousness and moral probity ,accentuates
her potential for brutality in moral judgment, which is expressed later in act . Contradicting
this with an idealistic tone, her condescending pride in her husbands “upright nature” shows
her ambition to be the wife of a successful upstanding politician-this ambition however,
seems wholly dependant on her husbands status and actions, which feminist critics may
argue against for reasons of dependency to satisfy the status quo of a 19th century victorian
wife. Gertrude’s obsession with moral probity and sustaining “the highest principles” are
entrenched rooted in her identity which may stem from her involvement in social purity
movements like the Women's Liberal Association, something that Wilde highly criticized in
his essay ‘ The Soul of Man Under Socialism’; ”Upper class societ...

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