Places: Lady Windermere’s Fan

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1893

First produced: 1892

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Comedy of manners

Time of work: Nineteenth century

Places DiscussedWindermere house

Windermere Lady Windermere’s Fanhouse. Home of Lord and Lady Windermere in the real and fashionable Carlton House Terrace adjacent to St. James’s Park in central London that serves as the setting for three of the play’s four acts. The play opens and closes in the morning room, one of the grand rooms used for entertaining by the Windermeres, who are important members of British society. As with all the aristocracy of the time, they have servants; only one butler, one maid, and a nonspeaking footman appear in the play, but at least another six or eight servants might be expected. The morning room should be large and immaculately decorated, containing more furniture than the few items specified for plot purposes. Among the pieces of furniture specified in the play’s stage directions are a bureau, in which Lady Windermere finds a bank book of her husband’s that contains apparently incriminating evidence; a table used by Lady Windermere to arrange flowers; a sofa used for seating; and a small table on which tea is served. French windows open onto a terrace, to which an impressionable daughter is sent to view the sunset so that she will not hear gossip about Mrs. Erlynne.

The house’s drawing room is equally grand, adjacent to the ballroom, where during the play’s second act a ball is held and a band is playing. A door leads onto the terrace. Because of crowds of guests, no furniture is specified, though some chairs and sofas around the walls might be expected. Wilde mentions only flowers and potted palms, which are typical of late Victorian era decor.

Lord Darlington’s rooms

Lord Darlington’s rooms. Home of the bachelor Lord Darlington, who has long loved Lady Windermere and tried to persuade her to leave her husband. In keeping with his station, Darlington’s apartment should be a suite of rooms forming all or part of a floor of a large terraced house. Act 3 of the play is set in his sitting and entertaining room. Wilde’s stage directions mention a sofa–where the fan of the title is accidently left–and three tables set with writing materials, alcohol, and cigars–all items typical for a man of his status.

BibliographyBrooks, Cleanth, and Robert B. Heilman. Understanding Drama: Twelve Plays. New York: Holt, 1945. An indispensable act-by-act analysis that points to problems in characterization and motivation, and measures Lady Windermere’s Fan against defined genres. Eloquently establishes the myopia of bringing predetermined standards to art.Cohen, Philip K. The Moral Vision of Oscar Wilde. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1978. The chapter on the comedies includes ten pages that read Lady Windermere’s Fan in terms of the shift from Old Testament to New Testament values.Davidson, David. “The Importance of Being Ernst: Lubitsch and Lady Windermere’s Fan.” Literature/Film Quarterly 11, no. 2 (1983): 120-131. Highlights the unique potentialities and limitations of film in handling Lady Windermere’s Fan.Powell, Kerry. Oscar Wilde and the Theater of the 1890’s. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Sets Wilde’s work within its theatrical and social contexts. The chapter devoted to Lady Windermere’s Fan provides the basis for comparisons made throughout the book.Small, Ian, ed. Introduction to Lady Windermere’s Fan, by Oscar Wilde. New York: Norton, 1980. Explicates the differences in existing versions of the text. Discusses the role of deceit in both play and culture, drawing on contemporary etiquette handbooks to illustrate the protocols of London society.
Categories: Places