A Woman of No Importance (Annotated)

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Arbuthnot retains a strong bitterness toward Illingworth, yet also begs him to leave her son alone, expressing that after twenty years of being a mother, Gerald is all she has. She refuses to allow Gerald to stay with his father, but Illingworth questions how she will force Gerald to do what she wants.

He tells Mrs. Arbuthnot that Gerald should be able to choose his own future. Gerald then enters, and Lord Illingworth assures him and his mother that Gerald has the highest qualities that the man had hoped for in a secretary. Illingworth demands any other reason for Mrs. Arbuthnot to protest against Gerald's opportunity. Unwilling to reveal her son's true heritage, Mrs. Arbuthnot says that she has no other reason. Gerald speaks of his admiration and protective attitude toward his mother, expressing that she is a great woman and wondering why she has never told him of his father.

Lord Illingworth agrees that his mother is a great woman, but he further explains that great women have certain limitations that inhibit the desires of young men. Leading the conversation into a cynical talk about society and marriage, Lord Illingworth says that he has never been married and that Gerald will have a new life under his wing. Soon the other guests enter, and Lord Illingworth entertains them with his invigorating views on a variety of subjects, such as comedy and tragedy, savages, and world society.

Everything Lord Illingworth has to say opposes the norm and excites his company, leaving Mrs. Arbuthnot room to say that she would be sorry to hold his views. During a discussion of sinful women, she also opposes Lady Hunstanton's later opinion by saying that ruining a woman's life is unforgivable. Allonby leave to look at the moon.

Gerald attempts to follow, but his mother protests and ask him to take her home. Gerald says that he must first say goodbye to Lord Illingworth and also reveals that he will be going to India with him at the end of the month. Arbuthnot is then left alone with Hester, and they resume the previous conversation about women. Arbuthnot is disgusted by Hester's view that the sins of parents are suffered by their children. Recognizing that Mrs. Arbuthnot is waiting for her son to return, Hester decides to fetch Gerald. Gerald soon returns alone, however, and he becomes frustrated with his mother's continued disapproval for what he sees as an opportunity to earn his mother's respect and the love of Hester.

Remembering Hester's views, Mrs. Arbuthnot decides to tell her son the truth about his origin and her past life with Lord Illingworth, but she does so in the third person, being sure to describe the despair that betrayed women face. Gerald remains unmoved, however, so Mrs. Arbuthnot withdraws her objections. Hester then enters the room in anguish and flings herself into Gerald's arms, exclaiming that Lord Illingworth has "horribly insulted" her.

He has apparently tried to kiss her. Gerald almost attacks Illingworth in a rage when his mother stops him the only way she knows how: by telling him that Lord Illingworth is his father.

With this revelation, Gerald takes his mother home, and Hester leaves on her own. Act IV opens with Gerald writing a letter in his mother's sitting room, the contents of which will ask his father to marry Mrs. Lady Hunstanton and Mrs. Allonby are shown in, intending to visit Mrs.

The two comment on her apparent good taste and soon leave when the maid tells them that Mrs. Arbuthnot has a headache and will not be able to see anyone. Gerald says that he has given up on being his father's secretary, and he has sent for Lord Illingworth to come to his mother's estate at 4 o'clock to ask for her hand in marriage. Arbuthnot enters, Gerald tells her all that he has done and that he will not be his father's secretary.

A Woman of No Importance Summary

Arbuthnot exclaims that his father must not enter her house, and the two argue over her marrying Gerald's father. Gerald claims that the marriage is her duty, while Mrs. Arbuthnot retains her integrity, saying that she will not make a mockery of marriage by marrying a man she despises. She also tells of how she devoted herself to the dishonor of being a single mother and has given her life to take care of her son.

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Hester overhears this conversation and runs to Mrs. Hester says she has realized that the law of God is love and offers to use her wealth to take care of the man she loves and the mother she never had. After ensuring that Mrs.

Arbuthnot must live with them, Gerald and Hester leave to sit in the garden. The maid announces the arrival of Lord Illingworth, who forces himself past the doorway and into the house. He approaches Mrs.


Arbuthnot, telling her that he has resolved to provide financial security and some property for Gerald. Arbuthnot merely shows him Gerald and Hester in the garden and tells Lord Illingworth that she no longer needs help from anyone but her son and his lover. Illingworth then sees Gerald's unsealed letter and reads it.

A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde - Free Ebook

Lord Illingworth claims that while it would mean giving up his dream as a foreign ambassador, he is willing to marry Mrs. Arbuthnot to be with his son. Arbuthnot refuses to marry him and tells Lord Illingworth that she hates him, adding that her hate for Illingworth and love for Gerald sharpen each other. She also assures Lord Illingworth that it was Hester who made Gerald despise him.

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Lord Illingworth then admits his defeat with the cold notion that Mrs. Arbuthnot was merely his plaything for an affair, calling her his mistress. Arbuthnot then slaps him with his own glove before he can call Gerald his bastard. Lord Illingworth, dazed and insulted, gathers himself and leaves after a final glance at his son. Arbuthnot falls onto the sofa sobbing. When Gerald and Hester enter, she cries out for Gerald, calling him her boy, and then asks Hester if she would have her as a mother.

Hester assures her that she would.

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Gerald sees his father's glove on the floor, and when he asks who has visited, Mrs. Arbuthnot simply replies, "A man of no importance. James Theatre. Wilde was initially quite reluctant since the character Tree would take was not the sort of part he associated with the actor: Wilde went so far as to describe Lord Illingworth as himself. This appears to have made Tree all the more determined and thus Wilde wrote the play while staying at a farmhouse near Felbrigg in Norfolk — with Lord Alfred Douglas — while his wife and sons stayed at Babbacombe Cliff near Torquay.

The play opened on 19 April The first performance was a great success, though Wilde, while taking his bow as the author, was booed, apparently because of a line stating "England lies like a leper in purple" — which was later removed. The Prince of Wales attended the second performance and told Wilde not to alter a single line.

The tour was cancelled.

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