O. Wilde (Dublin, 1854 -Paris, 1900)


Dublin – scholarship to study at the Magdalen College in Oxford

Relations with Walter Pater, father of Aestheticism (Art for Art’s sake). Newsdigate Prize for Ravenna.

London- Vera– “Apostle of Aestheticism”, fame for his eccentricity

Tour to the USA – Went to live in Paris (The Duchess of Padua)

1884- He married Constance Mary. (poetry/ prose).

Back to London- his fame as an eccentric, homosexual and conversationalist grew.

He wrote poetry, short stories, a novel, and criticism, but the stage to which he was made for was theatre.


In Paris – Salomé (in French) banned in the UK: no play containing biblical characters could enter the English stage – the real impediment was the argument (transforms a biblical story into a story of love offense: eros-thanatos & homosexual notes).

Other plays: Lady Windemere’s Fan, An Ideal Husband

His theatrical masterpiece: The Importance of Being

Earnest (paradox) probably the second most quoted

play in the English language.

Later life and work

Difficult relationship with the aristocrat Alfred Douglas, son of the Marquess of Queensbery launched a campaign of fury on Wilde and, in 1895, he was imprisoned for “gross indecency” and condemned to 2 years of hard labour.

De Profundis, a long letter to Douglas written from prison


In 1897 the two lovers reunited in Naples, but after a brief period they definitely separated.

In 1900, at the age of 46, dying of cerebral meningitis in a self-imposed French exile , Wilde was received into the Roman Catholic Church.


Mercy -piety, forgiveness. Selflessness.

Sacrifice– Selfless / selfish sacrifice

2 parts: Repression (of impulsive desires)

& Compensation (the reward promised for this kind of behaviour). Selfishness.

Mercy inner benevolence / Sacrifice- utilitarianism when counciously brings personal benefit.

Christ’s comment to the Pharisees: “Go learn the meaning of the words — What I want is mercy, not sacrifice

Town’s people

1st : Statue – symbol of repression.

Councilor- immoderate delight, unpractical.

Mother- protest to her child’s tears.

Passerby- falseness, misery, envy

Contrast: Charity Children – visionary innocence, no repression VS. Mathematical       master – dreams’ repression “How do you know? You have never seen one”.

2nd : No compensation, no sacrifice.

Towns’ people “little than a beggar”

Art Professor “as he is no longer beautiful, he is no longer useful.”

Town Corporation- use of metal

Swallow & Prince– do not look for future reward, there is no pragmatic sacrifice ► their compensation is gratuitous.


1st Selfish practicality

Love for the Reed- he never thinks to sacrifice his desire of travelling.

Criticism “I hope (it) has made preparations for my stay” ,“What is the use of a statue if it cannot keep the rain off?”…

2nd Sacrifice

Series of trials- each time the Prince asks him to stay one day longer (seamstress, playwright, match-girl), each time he must chose between compensation (Egypt) or sacrifice (Europe).

Europe Vs. Egypt: Puritanical sacrifices Vs. A fairy tale realm

3rd Metamorphosis – Mercy

After the Prince is blind, he voluntarily chooses to stay

Conscience of his future death.

The Happy Prince

1st Blindness-Repression

Sans Souci Palace – sorrow was not allowed to enter –  repression.

City Vs Palace: Puritanical sacrifices Vs. A fairy tale realm

2nd life as a statue- retribution

Ironically, the retribution that aimed to praise him, was what revealed the pain.

Misery realization – Gives away his jewels (not practical sacrifice but pity for the poor)

3rd Complete sacrifice

He gives his body & beauty as bread.

Gives away his aesthetic glory & the broken leaden

Heart is the culmination of aesthetic beauty.


Parallelisms between

The Happy Prince & Christ

He is twice born

His death is a merciful gift to others.
He shows/ provides the way to be happy, he is “the prince of peace”.
He is “the bread of life” literally- his gift is total (gift as food and fire)

Swallow- his disciple (his gift is partial in comparison)-  “Will you not stay with me for one night


 Selfishness of the rich

Satirises the utilitarian vision of the bourgeoisie (Town Councillor “He is as beautiful as a weathercock…only not quite so useful”) and questions the common Victorian beliefs: the link between beauty and moral integrity.
Plenty of contrasts between the bourgeois and the oppressed:

   – Palace girl – Seamstress,

   – Professor of Ornithology-Playwright

   – Old Jew – Match-girl…

Conflict of egos:
Who will be the model for
the next statue?


bee; butterfly ; fly ; mosquito ; spider ; wasp ; 

farm animals 

bull; chicken ; cow; goat ; horse ; pig; sheep 

wild animals 

bat -bear-bird-camel-crocodile-deer-elephant-girraffe-kangaroo-lion-monkey-mouse-rabbit-rat-sanke-tigger 

sea animals 

dolphin-jellyfinish -shark-whale 











ought to / ought not to 

should/ shouldn’t