Oscar Wilde was an Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist, poet, and critic. He is considered one of the greatest playwrights of the Victorian Era.
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills was born on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland to Sir William Wilde and Jane Wilde. His father was a well-known doctor and founded St. Mark’s Ophthalmic Hospital to treat the city’s poor. Oscar was home-schooled by a German teacher and a French nurse until the age of nine. He was fluent in both languages by the time he was ten.
At the age of eleven, he went to Portora Royal School. Wilde started taking an interest in all things Greek. He won several prizes as he was good at academics.
After he graduated he went to Trinity College, Dublin (1871-1874). There, he not only excelled in studies but also composed Greek verse. He received the Berkeley Gold Medal for Greek and the Demyship scholarship for further studies at Magdalen College in Oxford.
In 1874, he went to Oxford. There, he won the Newdigate Prize for his poem Ravenna. His four years at Oxford were fruitful for his writing career. He was involved in the Aesthetic movement and became an advocate for the ‘Art of Art’s Sake’ perspective.
In 1879, he moved to London to start his literary career. He published his first collection called Poems in 1880. He privately printed his first play Vera in 1883. He received mixed reviews for this work.
The next year, he traveled to New York City. He have lecture in the United States and Canada and delivered hundreds of lectures in just nine months. His tours were successful and he earned enough money to spend three months in Paris. He finished writing his play the Duchess of Padua While There.
Wilde accepted the position of an Editor at Lady’s World Magazine in 1885. He expanded the magazine to include women’s view points on art, music, literature and modern life, instead of merely focusing on what they wear. He openly supported women’s rights and wanted the society to take them seriously.
In 1888, he wrote The Happy Prince and Other Tales. It was a collection of fairy-tales written for his two sons. In 1889, he penned an essay called the Decay of Lying which contained characters named after his sons, Vivian and Cyril.
In 1891, he wrote his first and only novel, a hit for that matter, The Picture of Dorian Gray. While was condemned for its lack of morality when it was first released. Wilde, in one of the most sensational prefaces ever, defended his work with the argument of aestheticism.
Wilde’s first successful play was called Lady Windermere’s Fan, released in 1892. He worked on some of the most successful comedies soon after, like A Woman of No Importance (1893), The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) and An Ideal Husband (1895), which revolved around the themes of blackmail and political corruption. These plays were all highly praised by audiences and critics alike. The success of his plays strongly established Wilde as a playwright.
During 1895, Wilde was at the height of his theatrical success. But in the same year he was arrested on the grounds of homosexual misconduct. Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor. He faced a very hard time while he was in jail.
Wilde got rejected by his friends, his books sales went down, his plays were shut down, and his belongings were sold off at an auction at low prices. But he never stopped writing. He write De Profundis (fully published in 1905), a dramatic monologue, as a letter to a friend and a formal defense. In 1897, he published The Ballad of Reading Goal.
Oscar Wilde married Constance Lloyd, daughter of a wealthy adviser of the Queen in 1884. The couple had two sons.
He spent most of his life in Europe. He lived in cheap hotels and enjoyed real success as a writer only in the last decade of his relatively short life. Wilde was best recognized for his last play The Importance of Being Earnest, a comedy that plays with double identities.
He died on November 30, 1900, at the age of 46 in a hotel in Paris. Sadly it was only after his death that he was widely known for his literary accomplishments and his witty and imaginative works.