(by Oscar Wilde)
A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
‘A Woman of no Importance” is a play in four acts by Oscar Wilde. It was printed by
Collins in 1971. ‘Complete works of Oscar Wilde’ with an introduction by Vyvyan
Holland, pages 431-481.
He’s a man of high distinction who aims at diplomacy. He’s rich and intelligent.
Lord Illingworth thinks that nowadays long romances don’t exist because women have
become too brilliant. His real name is George Harford.
She’s an old lady who became a widow long time ago. Jane Hunstanton is easygoing
kind and generous. She’s kind to everybody and doesn’t really like to make class
distinctions and consequently she’ll be criticised by Lady Caroline.
She’s a quite foolish and superficial woman. Lady Stutfield speaks in a really boring
way; she repeats ‘very very’ before every adjective she says and her conversations are
She’s an uneducated but arrogant woman. Lady Caroline is married to Sir John
Pontefract to whom she treats as a child. She’s overbearing and snob and therefore she
criticises Lady Hunstanton parties where sometimes middle-class and upper-class get
mixed. She says that Jane is a little lax about the people she invites to he parties.
Mrs Allonby is very well born; she is a niece of Lord Lancaster. Mrs Allonby is a
separated woman. She doesn’t like Hester Worsley, the American young lady. She
seems to be more intelligent than Lady Stutfield and Lady Caroline.
Miss Hester Worsley:
She is from America. Hester is rich and is the first time she has stayed at an English
country house. Hester is Lady Hunstanton’s guest. Miss Hester is in love with Gerald
Arbuthnot. She’s a young, sincere, generous and critical woman.
She’s a middle aged woman who has suffered a lot in life. She never got married
because her son’s father abandoned them. That man spoilt her youth and ruined her life
(based on p.456). She’s always felt out of social life: “I live so much out of the world
and see so few people” (page 451). Her son Gerald is everything to her.
Sir John Pontefract:
He’s married to Lady Caroline. Sir John is a quiet and obedient man who seems to be
absolutely dominated by his wife.
Lord Alfred Rufford:
We only know that he’s a man from the upper-class, that he has lots of debts and that he
doesn’t care about them.
He’s a chivalrous and polite man. He’s married and has eight children. He’s a
respectable Member of Parliament.
The Ven. Archdeacon Dauberny, D.D:
He’s also known as Doctor Dauberny. He has an extremely feeble woman who never
goes to parties.
He’s a promising young man. Lord Illingworth has offered him an irrefusable job as his
personal secretary. He is a bit credulous but a good and hardworking man. Gerald is in
love with Hester.
Farquhar: butler, Francis: footman, Alice: maid.
Jane Hunstanton is giving a party in her country house. Gerald, a young man tells her
and everybody that Lord Illingworth has offered him a wonderful job. Then, Lady
Hunstanton decides to invite Gerald’s mother to the party in order to introduce her to
Lord Illingworth. Meanwhile, Hester Worsley who is Lady Hunstanton’s American
guest, starts criticising English Society in the presence of the most classist Ladies of the
When Mrs Atbuthnot is introduced to her son’s boss she finds out that he is George
Harford, the man who brought shame to her life by refusing to marry her and not
accepting their son. Hence she refuses to allow Gerald to work for him but she conceals
her real feelings. Illingworth becomes very fond of the boy so he intends to take
advantage of the mother’s love which will probably make her keep the secret of his
fatherhood and deplorable behaviour.Finally she confesses the truth to Gerald,
consequently the young man ends up refusing the job.
Time, space and other aspects of the play
The play is set in Lady Hunstanton’s country residence, in Hunstanton Chase (first act
in front of the terrace, second act in the drawing room and third act in its Picture
Gallery) and in Mrs.Arbuthnot sitting room at Wrockley( forth act). So we could say
that the space is rural but sophisticated, multiple and both opened and closed.
The play takes place within twenty-four hours and there are some ellipses of time, the
author has decided to skip the dinner (it separates act 1 from act 2) and the night (which
separates act 3 from act 4).
The play is written in prose and in a colloquial and simple but always polite language.
There are some word-games and metaphors such as:“The button has come off your
foil”(page 443). This would be an expensive play to produce because of the numerous
characters and sophisticated sceneries required. It doesn’t show technical problems.
The conversations in this play are excessively trivial and most of the characters,
especially the women, seem to be exchanging commonplaces all the time. From my
point of view, there were only three interesting characters in the play: Hester Worsley,
Lady Hunstanton(her host) and Lord Illingworth. They had intelligence, humanity or
personality and in my opinion they’re the best of the play. The plot isn’t surprising at all
and therefore fails to catch the reader’s attention.
I still think that Oscar Wilde is a magnificent playwright but this play isn’t as good as
‘The Importance of being Earnest’.