Oscar Wilde is known to be the main representative of decadent art in Great Britain in the end of the 19th century. The 19th century marked a great decline in English drama. It retreated from real life. The audiences demanded light sentimental plays or comic operas with simple themes. Then audiences became more exacting and began to appreciate the brilliant dialogues in the plays of Oscar Wilde. Oscar Wilde is known as the author from Ireland of light comedies and fairy tales in the second half of the 19th century, in the Victorian period. He was popular for his brilliant, witty dialogues, by means of which he criticized Victorian society. Although he wrote only one novel, his plays, poems, and short stories have made him a legend in the literary world.
Wilde´s life went through different phases. In the 1870´s he went to Magdalen College in Oxford, when his writing career started. At Magdalen College, Wilde became particularly well known for his role in the aesthetic and decadent movements. He created The Cult of Art for Art´s Sake, which proclaimed the importance of form over content. After college he continued writing poems and moved to London. Thanks to his conversational powers, he soon became well-known in the London Society.
He published his first book, simply called “Poems”. Although he was criticized for not being original when writing his poems, especially Ravenna, he became more popular.
In the 1880´s he travelled to the U.S. to lecture. After that, the successful period of his life started. He married Constance Lloyd and afterwards she gave birth to two boys. That´s why during that time, O. Wilde wrote many stories for children in melancholic and poetic styles much like H. C. Andersen, including “The Happy Prince” and “The Canterville Ghost”. Wilde´s fairy tales resemble folk fairy tales with all the features: the using of typical expressions, such as numerals (3, 7, 9), animals or things gaining human features (the ability of speaking or feeling), human behavior.
All of his poems and stories made him famous, but the plays he wrote after 1890 made him a legend.
In the early 1890´s, Wilde wrote four comedies: “Lady Windermere´s Fan”, “A Woman of No Importance”, “An Ideal Husband”, and “The Importance of Being Ernest” – his masterpiece. Three of his plays were being performed in three different theatres in London at once (this is proof of his being very famous). His plays were performed on the stages of different countries in the world and his fairy tales are read by children even today.
People always admired his conversational skills and wit which are reflected especially in his plays. They are based on easy-going witty dialogues full of different puns. For example in his masterpiece (Ernest): Ernest is a name but at the same time it´s an adjective which means bright and witty.
His only novel was called “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, which was based on Wilde´s own vanity. In 1893 he also wrote a play in French called “Salomé”. The British government said it was indecent and would not publish it, but France published it. His life changed forever in 1895, when his friend Lord Douglas’ father (the Marquess) started telling people in public that Wilde was homosexual. Wilde sued the Marquess, but lost the trial. Then Wilde went to prison for 2 years. He wrote “The Ballad of Reading Goal” there, which was about life in prison. After leaving from prison he never turned to England. He lived in Paris and changed his name to Sebastian Melmoth. Oscar Wilde died suddenly in Paris in November of 1900, poor and disgraced.