Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He studied at Oxford and he became a disciple of Walter Pater, the theorist of Aestheticism in England, accepting the theory of “Art for Art’s Sake”. After Oxford he settled in London where he became famous for his extraordinary wit and his dress as a dandy.
In 1881 he edited Poems and he was engaged for a tour in the USA. On coming back to Europe he married Constance Lloyd. His works:
- Short stories: The Canterville Ghost, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, The Happy Prince and other tales;
- Novel: The Picture of Dorian Gray;
- Plays: Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No Importance, The Importance of Being Earnest.
In 1891 he had a homosexual affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, called Bosie, and for that he was sent to prison where he wrote De Profundis, a long letter to Bosie. When he was released his wife refused to see him so he went into exile in France. He died in 1900 and his last work was The Ballad of Reading Gaol.
Wilde lived in the double role of rebel and dandy. The dandy is a bourgeois artist, who, in spite of his obvious unconventionality, remains a member of his class. The wildean dandy is an aristocrat whose elegance is a symbol of the superiority of his spirit.
The Pictures Of Dorian Gray is set in London at the end of 19th century. Dorian Gray, a young man whose beauty fascinates a painter, Basil Hallward, who paints his portrait. While the young man’s desires are satisfied, including that of eternal youth, the signs of age, experience and evil appear on the portrait. Dorian lives only for pleasure, making use of everybody and letting people die because of his insensitivity. When the painter sees the corrupted image of the portrait, Dorian kills him. Later Dorian wants to free himself of the portrait, witness to his spiritual corruption, and stabs it, but he kills himself. The picture returns to its original purity.