Critical Writings -> Academic Journals -> Newpaper Articles & Reviews > Theatre

Articles and Reviews: Theatre

A Woman Of No Importance

By Oscar Wilde
Abbey Theatre

It is said that every writer is simply writing the same work over and over again, with varying degrees of success or failure each time, but hopefully getting better every time. If this is the case, then The Importance of Being Earnest is the apex of Oscar Wilde’s oeuvre, and everything he did before it is a rehearsal for the masterpiece. It is encouraging for any young writer to see a play like A Woman of No Importance, since it shows, when compared with Earnest, how much Wilde improved as a dramatist in two short years. While Earnest is, as Jorge Luis Borges has said, ‘ perfect it is in danger of seeming trite’, A Woman still has some clangy, noisy and over-obvious shifts of gear. Many of the characters in the first half are there to mouth epigrams in witty debates, but serve no dramatic function whatsoever. It is only after the interval that the plot really develops, and the central characters take centre stage.









It is difficult to work out the rationale behind relocating the action of the play from the then contemporary fin de siecle setting to 1912. Why not go back in time to the Regency period, or forward a couple of years to 1914, when the trenches would threaten to engulf the young hero?
These criticisms aside, it is impossible not to be amused and charmed by Wilde’s verbal dexterity and apposite wit. ‘The Book of Life begins with a man and a woman in a garden. It ends with Revelations.’ However, a couple of years later Wilde had learned how to integrate these gems into the overall thrust of a play, rather than appearing as unconnected observations, unaccommodated and seeking a home.

First published in 46A.









Critical Writings
Travel Writings