Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He studied at Oxford, where he was a distinguished scholar, especially in Classics. When he left university, in 1879, he headed for London in search of fame and wealth.
In 1881, Wilde was invited to make a lecture tour of the United States. He exploited this to increase his notoriety. On his return to London, he embarked on similar tours in England. He married Constance Lloyd in 1885 and his two sons, Cyril and Vivian, were born in 1885 and 1886. In the next ten years, Wilde rose to a position of fame and notoriety.
For some time he had been courting disaster, flouting conventions and consorting with young homosexuals, one of whom Was Lord Alfred Douglas, son of the Marquis of Queensbury. The Marquis publicly accused Wilde of being a sodomite.
Oscar Wilde was a dandy; he was extravagant and eccentric. He was an openly gay; so he exaggerates his way to be, as a reaction against the conventions.
In fact, in this period of moral rules, religious values, known as the Victorian puritanism, the homosexuality was considered a crime. So, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for two years in ‘’reading gaol”; as a result of his experiences, he wrote “De Profundis” and “The ballad of reading gaol”.
In “De Profundis” Wilde speaks about the conventions of society, and he admits his extravagance, but not to admit that society is right, but he wants to underline that who doesn’t follow a convention, is isolated from the society.
So, with all these conventions, the mass society, the respect for the life of others is missing. Oscar Wilde wrote also any plays, and his most famous play is “The importance of being Ernest”.
This is a comedy of equivocations. The title of this play is fundamental, because the name “Earnest” is a way to write and pronounce the word “Honest”; So, Wilde uses the tense “Being” and not “could” to un-derline the equivocation. So, Wilde almost anticipated the concept of mask and the disguise that we will find in Pirandello.
Oscar Wilde was also a writer of novels for young people, in which he puts in evidence the innocence of children. Against the corruption and deformation of society. Wilde was an esthete, but his works influ-enced also the Deacadentism. Wilde said: “I put my talent at service of my art, my genius at my life”; so we can found in Wilde the most important principle of aesthetic movement: the true role of art, “The art for art’s sake”.
Wilde’s most famous novel is “The picture of Dorian Gray”.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
"The picture of Dorian Gray" speaks about the story of Dorian, a young man who is retracted by a famous painter Basil Hallward attracted by his beauty. When Dorian sees his picture, he is impressed by the perfection of his beauty and so he expresses the desire to remain young forever. Meanwhile he lives an immoral life and all the signs of his immorality appeared on the painting which is kept hidden in a room. When he sees that his painter became horrible and transfigured he tries to destroy the painting after killing the author of the picture but he failed and when he died mysteriously, the painter return to his original perfection and all the signs appeared on Dorian's body.
This novel, expression of extreme Decadents is centered on the theme of the double. The picture represents Dorian's double side, the dark side that is the symbol of immorality, of dirty conscience and of Victorian middle class. On the other side, Dorian with his pure innocent appearance represents the Victorian bourgeois Hypocrisy. In others words Dorian's double existence reflect the contradictions of the Victorian Age and his beauty represents the importance given to external appearance.
The message contained in this book is that the excesses must be punished and the reality can’t be avoided. In fact, when Dorian tries to destroy the painting he is punished with the worst punishment: his own death. Besides the return of the picture to its original beauty soon after Dorian's death expresses Wilde's conception of Art.