Oscar Wilde: biography, features, works

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Oscar Wilde was born on October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland. He later moved to London and became one of the most famous writers in the English language, mainly due to his plays. However, his best known work worldwide is the novel The portrait of Dorian Gray.

Associated with aestheticism, an artistic movement that values ​​beauty, in opposition to realistic and naturalist aesthetics, his works defend hedonism. However, in 1895, the author was sentenced to two years in prison for being homosexual, before dying, in poverty, on November 30, 1900, in France.

read more: Lord Byron — English poet who marked the 19th century with his extremely pessimistic writing

Topics in this article

  • 1 - Summary about Oscar Wilde
  • 2 - Biography of Oscar Wilde
  • 3 - Works by Oscar Wilde
  • 4 - The portrait of Dorian Gray
  • 5 - Characteristics of Oscar Wilde's work
  • 6 - Quotes by Oscar Wilde

Summary about Oscar Wilde

  • Irish writer Oscar Wilde was born in 1854 and died in 1900.

  • The author wrote poems, short stories, plays and a novel.

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  • He was part of Aestheticism, a movement opposing realism and naturalism.

  • Irony and hedonism are the main characteristics of his works.

  • His most famous book is the novel The portrait of Dorian Gray.

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Oscar Wilde Biography

Oscar Wilde born October 16, 1854, in Dublin, Ireland. He was the son of a poet and a surgeon. Later, the young writer became a top student at Trinity College Dublin and Magdalen College Oxford. In 1878, he won the Newdigate Prize for his poem “Ravenna”.

The following year, the writer moved to London. He published his first book — poems — in 1881. As early as 1882, he made a tour of the United States, where he gave lectures. Later, in 1884, he married the writer Constance Lloyd (1858-1898), with whom he had two children.

Between 1887 and 1889 he was the editor of the women's fashion magazine The Woman's World. He left the magazine to devote himself to writing his one and only famous novel: The portrait of Dorian Gray. Around this time, he began a friendship and romantic relationship with journalist Robert Ross (1869-1918). However, which gave status from artist to writer were his plays. Because of them, he experienced fame and success.

In 1891, the playwright met the young Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945), known by the nickname Bosie, with whom he began a romantic relationship. Two years later, the two spent a summer together in the village of Goring-on-Thames. But the Marquis of Queensberry (1844-1900), Bosie's father, did not look favorably on the relationship between his son and the writer, and tried, in vain, to get the boy to end the relationship.

Everything got complicated when Wilde decided to sue the Marquis for defamation in 1895. At the trial, his sex life was exposed, and the writer was arrested and tried because of his homosexuality, considered a crime at the time. Sentenced to two years of hard labor, in 1895 he was sent to Reading Prison.

In 1897, when he was released from prison, he wrote the poem "The Ballad of Reading Prison", which he signed with the indication of the place where his cell was: C.3.3. In this way, readers were unaware that the poem was by Wilde. In the last years of his life, poor and using the false name of Sebastian Melmoth, he died in the presence of his friend Robert Ross.

Works by Oscar Wilde

  • “Ravenna” (1878) — poetry

  • poems (1881) — poetry

  • The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888) — short stories

  • The Crime of Lord Arthur Savile and Other Stories (1891) — short stories

  • the house of pomegranates (1891) — short stories

  • intentions (1891) — essays

  • The portrait of Dorian Gray (1891) — novel

  • The soul of man under socialism (1891) — essay

  • Salome (1891) — theater

  • Lady Windermere's Fan (1892) — theater

  • an unimportant woman (1893) — theater

  • From deep (1897) — epistle

  • an ideal husband (1898) — theater

  • The importance of being prudent (1898) — theater

  • The Ballad of Reading Jail (1898) — poetry

Read too:William Shakespeare — the best-known English playwright and poet

The portrait of Dorian Gray

Cover of the book “The portrait of Dorian Gray”, by Oscar Wilde, published by Companhia das Letras.[1]
Cover of the book “The portrait of Dorian Gray”, by Oscar Wilde, published by Companhia das Letras.[1]

Oscar Wilde begins the preface to the work with the phrase: “The artist is the creator of beautiful things”.|1| Afterwards, he makes brief comments about the art and the artist. This because O romance is centered on a work of art, that is, the portrait of Dorian Gray. Then, the narrator begins to narrate the story and shows the studio of Basil Hallward.

He is before the “full-length portrait of a young man of extraordinary beauty”, that is, Dorian Gray. Then Basil introduces the boy to Lord Henry, who reflects on the fleetingness of beauty and advises Dorian to always be “on the lookout for new sensations”. After that, Basil finishes and signs the board.

Faced with the beautiful image, Dorian is distressed by the awareness that, one day, he will be “old, horrible, hideous”. However, he says, “this portrait will always remain young”, expressing a desire to remain young as the portrait ages. From then on, the friendship between Dorian and the young lord grows.

Dorian Gray falls in love with actress Sibyl Vane, who also falls in love with the boy. However, Dorian's love ends when he concludes that the girl is just a "third-rate artist, with a pretty face". Yet, faced with her suicide, he is horrified.

From there, Dorian surrenders to all passions. Years go by, and he does not age, but he notices the aging of the man in the portrait, a work he keeps in a “closed room upstairs”. On “the eve of his thirty-eighth birthday,” he decides to show Basil the portrait, which reflects the corrupt soul of the owner, so that the “rotting of a corpse in a damp grave was not so terrible".

Then "an insufferable feeling of hatred for Basil Hallward took possession of him, as if it had been suggested by the picture on the screen, whispered in his ear by those sardonic lips." Then Dorian Gray murders the painter. So, at the end of the story, tormented by the truth imprinted on the portrait, Dorian sees only one way out, the destruction of the work.

In this philosophical novel by Oscar Wilde, the fiction is used to reflect on art, hedonism, morality, fragility of life and beauty. In this way, it is built on the idea of ​​sin and punishment, but it also defends the power of art, which is beautiful, supreme and, perhaps, eternal.

Features of Oscar Wilde's work

Oscar Wilde was a Victorian-era writer associated with aestheticism, who valued beauty, therefore opposed to rrealism and to noauralism. So, according to the author, art must be innovative and lead to pleasure. In addition, his works, in general, have the following characteristics:

  • comic or ironic aspect;

  • sensory elements;

  • hedonism;

  • reflection on fugacity;

  • social and moral conscience;

  • use of paradoxes;

  • descriptivism;

  • decadentism;

  • defense of individualism;

  • and the following themes:

    • sin and punishment;

    • remorse;

    • love and sacrifice;

    • matter versus spirit;

    • lust;

    • violence;

    • social snobbery;

    • loss of innocence.

Read too: Victor Hugo – exponent author of French Romanticism

Oscar Wilde quotes

Next, we are going to read some quotes by Oscar Wilde, taken from his works The portrait of Dorian Gray, Lady Windermere's Fan and an ideal husband:

“The real mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”

“Craziness is the only thing you never regret.”

“Love is overcoming yourself.”

"A man cannot be too careful in choosing his enemies."

“There are two tragedies in this life: one is not getting what you want, the other is getting it.”

“When the gods want to punish us, they answer our prayers.”


|1| Translation by Lígia Junqueira

image credits

[1] Publisher Company of Letters (reproduction)

By Warley Souza
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