Oscar Wilde Biographie Essay, Research Paper
Wilde, Oscar (Fingal O’Flahertie Wills)
b. , Oct. 16, 1854, Dublin, Ire.
d. Nov. 30, 1900, Paris, Fr.
Irish wit, poet, and dramatist whose reputation grounds on his comic
masterpieces Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being
Earnest (1895). He was a spokesman for the late 19th-century Aesthetic
movement in England, which advocated art for art’s sake; and he had to suffer from
celebrated civil and criminal suits which involving his homosexuality and caused his
ending in imprisonment (1895-97).
Wilde was born of professional and literary parents. Wilde was the second son of Sir William
Wilde,who was Ireland’s leading ear and eye surgeon(Augenchirurg), who also published
books on archaeology, folklore, and the satirist Jonathan Swift; his mother( Lady Jane Francesca Wilde)can be described as an ambitious and revolutionary poet and an authority on Celtic myth and folklore.She was a prominent figure in Dublin literary society.
He had a brother, his name was William, who was one year older than Oscar and a sister, who was
three years younger and she died, when she was 10 years old after a bad illness. The
family was quite well-off.
Wilde attended the Portora Royal School,Enniskillen(1864-/71)and his favourite subjects were poetry and the classics.
Wilde excelled as a student of classical literature. His successive scholarships at Trinity College, Dublin (1871-74), and Magdalen College, Oxford (1874-78) induced them to award him with a degree with honours.By means of his long poem, Ravenna, he won the coveted(heftig begehrt)Newdigate Prize in 1878.This implied a huge progress for him because he became well-known, not only as a classical scholar, a poseur and a wit but also as a poet.
Since 1879,after his studies in Dublin and Oxford, he settled in London.There he soon became famous for his brilliant conversation and his flamboyant manner of dress and behaviour.At a time when most Victorian men wore sober wool suits and stiff white shirts Wilde often appeared in extravagant dress with velvet coat edged with braid, kneebreeches, silk stockings , a soft loose shirt with a wide collar, and a large, flowing ,richly colored tie.
Wilde was deeply impressed by the teachings
of the English writers John Ruskin and Walter Pater on the central importance of art in life. Walter Pater was an English critic, essayist, and humanist whose advocacy of “art for art’s sake” became a cardinal
doctrine of the movement known as Aestheticism.This writer began what is usually known as the “aesthetic movement” by replacing the older Victorian insistence on the moral purpose of art by celebrating the value of Art for Art’s sake.
Especially Walter Pater’s stress on the aesthetic intensity by which life should be lived exerted special influence on Oskar. Like
many in his generation, Wilde was determined to follow Pater’s urging “to burn always with [a]
hard, gemlike flame.” But Wilde also delighted in affecting an aesthetic pose; this, combined
with rooms at Oxford decorated with objets d’art, resulted in his famous remark: “Oh, would
that I could live up to my blue china!”
In the early 1880s, when Aestheticism was the rage and despair of literary London, Wilde
established himself in social and artistic circles by his wit and flamboyance. Soon the periodical
Punch made him the satiric object of its antagonism to the Aesthetes for what was considered their unmasculine devotion to art; and in their comic opera Patience, Gilbert and Sullivan based
the character Bunthorne, a “fleshly poet,” partly on Wilde. Wishing to reinforce the association,
Wilde published, at his own expense, Poems (1881), which echoed, too faithfully, his
discipleship(J ngerschaft,Anh ngerschaft) to the poets Algernon Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and John Keats.
Eager for further acclaim, Wilde agreed to lecture(Vortrag,Vorlesung) in the United States and Canada in 1882, announcing on his arrival in New York City that he had “nothing to declare but his genius.” Despite widespread hostility in the press to his languid(tr ge,schlaff,ersch pft) poses(Position, Haltung)and aesthetic costume of velvet jacket, knee breeches, and black silk stockings, Wilde for 12 months exhorted the Americans to love beauty and art; then he returned to Great Britain to lecture on his impressions of America.
In 1884 Wilde married Constance Lloyd,the daughter of a prominent Irish barrister; two children,
Cyril and Vyvyan, were born, in 1885 and 1886. Also in 1886 he met Robert Ross, a 17 year old man, who became Oscar+s lover, but also a good friend.
Meanwhile, Wilde was a reviewer for the Pall Mall Gazette and then became editor of Woman’s World (1887-89). During this period of apprenticeship as a writer, he published” The Happy Prince and Other Tales” (1888), which reveals his gift for romantic allegory(Sinnbild,Gleichnis) in the form of the fairy tale.
In the final decade of his life, Wilde wrote and published nearly all of his major work. In his
only novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (published in Lippincott’s Magazine, 1890, and in book
form, revised and expanded by six chapters, 1891), Wilde combined the supernatural elements
of the Gothic novel with the unspeakable sins of French decadent(verfallene,entartete) fiction. Critics charged immorality despite Dorian’s self-destruction; Wilde, however, insisted on the amoral( ohne moralisch Wertung) nature of art regardless of an apparently moral ending.” Intentions” (1891), consisting of previously published essays, restated(neu formulieren,wiederholt feststellen) his aesthetic attitude toward art by borrowing ideas from the French poets Th ophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire and the American painter James McNeill Whistler. In the same year, two volumes of stories and fairy tales also appeared, testifying to his extraordinary creative inventiveness:” Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, ,and Other Stories” and”A House of Pomegranates.”
But Wilde’s greatest success were his society comedies. Within the conventions of the French
“well-made play” (with its social intrigues and artificial devices to resolve conflict), he employed
his paradoxical, epigrammatic wit to create a form of comedy new to the 19th-century English
theatre. His first success,” Lady Windermere’s Fan”(1892), demonstrated that this wit could revitalize(neu beleben) the rusty(rostige) machinery of French drama.With this comedy Wilde’s career as a succesful dramatist began( he had his breakthrough with the play “Lady Windermere+s Fan”).In
the same year, rehearsals of his macabre play” Salom “(tragedy), written in French and designed, as he said, to make his audience shudder (bef rchten,schaudern,besorgt sein)by its depiction of unnatural passion, were halted by the censor because it contained biblical characters. It was published in 1893, and an English translation appeared in 1894 with Aubrey Beardsley’s celebrated illustrations.
A second society comedy,” A Woman of No Importance” (produced 1893), convinced the critic
William Archer that Wilde’s plays “must be taken on the very highest plane of modern English
drama.” In rapid succession, Wilde’s final plays, “An Ideal Husband” and “The Importance of Being
Earnest”, were produced early in 1895. In the latter, his greatest achievement, the conventional
elements of farce(Posse,Theater,Schwank) are transformed into satiric epigrams,seemingly trivial but mercilessly(unbarmherzig,grausam,schonungslos) exposing Victorian hypocrisies(Heuchelei,Scheinheiligkeit).With this new kind of writing he was delighted and successful in mocking Victorian opinions and ideas about the moral seriousness of great art.The plot of “The Importance of Being Earnest” is brilliantly constructed, but it is also composed of events of the most improbable and trivial signifiance.Wilde’s dazzingly witty ,perfectly polished dialogue is the real substance of this play.The ingenious(geistreich) and witty dialogue glosses the social conventions of the Victorian period.
Wilde primarily pokes fun at conventional Victorian seriousness( one of the most important values of the Victorian period) by fitting solemn(feierlich,w rdige,formell) moral language to frivolous(wertlos,geringf gig,leichtfertig) and ridiculous action.Through the abundance of his histories , poems ,and essays, he distinguished himself as the most famous champion of the “art for art’s sake” creed.
In many of his works, exposure of a secret sin or indiscretion and consequent disgrace(Schande,Ungnade) is a central design. If life imitated art(not art imitates life;but life imitates art!), as Wilde insisted in his essay “The Decay of Lying” (1889), he was himself approximating(ann hern) the pattern in his reckless pursuit of pleasure. In addition, his close friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas, whom he had met in 1891, infuriated the Marquess of Queensberry, Douglas’ father. This passionate relationship signifies Oscar’s decline.Oscar and Alfred seemed to be inseparable.Especially ,Alfred’s father was unable to cope with this relationship.Accused, finally, by the Marquess of being a sodomite(one day the marquess sent a message to his son: ,,Oscar Wilde, posing as Sodomite”) , Wilde, urged(gedr ngt,gen tigt) by Douglas, sued(klagen f r,verklagen wegen, flehen um) for criminal libel(Schm hschrift,Verleumdung,Beleidigung).
Wilde’s case collapsed, however, when the evidence turned against him, and he dropped the suit.As a matter of fact he becames the accused person in this trial instead of the Marquess. Urged to flee to France by his friends, Wilde refused, unable to believe that his world was at an end.
In this trial he was accused of being homosexual and he was accused of abusing younger boys.
Wilde testified(aussagen,bezeugen) brilliantly, but the jury failed to reach a verdict. In the retrial he was
found guilty and sentenced(Urteil f llen ber ,verurteilen zu), in May 1895, to two years of hard labour(Zuchthaus). Most of his sentence was served at Reading Gaol, where he wrote a long letter to Douglas
(published in 1905 in a drastically cut version as “De Profundis”) filled with recrimination(Gegenbeschuldigung) against the younger man for encouraging him in dissipation(Verschwendung,Aufl sung)and distracting him from his work.
In May 1897 Wilde was released, a bankrupt, and immediately went to France, hoping
to reestablish himself as a writer.After the release he adopted the name of “Sebastian Melmoth”. In 1899 Constance( his wife had already changed her name into”Holland ” for the purpose of being safe)died after an operation and that is why he had no chance to see his children again. His only remaining work, however, was “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” (1898), revealing his concern for inhumane prison conditions. Despite constant money problems and excessive consumption of alcohol he maintained, as George Bernard Shaw said, “an unconquerable gaiety of soul” that sustained him, and he was visited by such loyal friends as Max Beerbohm and Robert Ross, later his literary executor; he was also reunited with Douglas. Three years after his release he suddenly died of acute meningitis brought on by an ear infection. In his semiconscious final moments, he was received into the Roman Catholicchurch, which he had long admired.
(Qellen:ENCYCLOP+DIA BRITANNICA,MEYERS ENZYKLOP-DISCHES LEXIKON,JUGENDLEXIKON,AESTHETICISM AND VICTORIAN PERIOD)
Sein Untergang begann, als ihm im Jahre 1891 der 21j hrige Student Lord Alfred Douglas
(kurz ,,Bosie”) vorgestellt wurde. Der Dichter und der Student waren sofort Feuer und
Flamme f reinander. Schon in Wilde+s eigener Studienzeit pflegte er nicht unbedingt
platonische Bekanntschaften zu seinen Kollegen. Die beiden wurden in Londons
Gesellschaft immer gemeinsam angetroffen, sie schienen untrennbar voneinander zu sein.
Der Vater des Studenten, der Marquess of Queensberry, fand an dieser Beziehung
lebhaften Anstox. Der Marquess gab jegliche Beziehung zu seinem Sohn auf. Weiter drohte
er Wilde, ihn zu verpr geln, sollte er je wieder seinen Sohn treffen. Er liex eines Tages
Wilde eine Nachricht zukommen, die folgenden Text enthielt: ,,Oscar Wilde, posing as
Sodomite”. Sodomie wird, nach einer Stelle im Alten Testament, als die ,,wiedernat rliche
Bet tigung mit den Angeh rigen des gleichen Geschlechts” definiert. Doch es war keine
Beleidigung in dem Sinne, da der Marquess nur von ,,posierend als Sodomit” sprach.
Trotzdem strengte Wilde einen Prozex an, der jedoch bald den Kl ger zum Angeklagten
machte. Es wurden Namen und Adressen von Jugendlichen gefunden, die alle aus der
unteren sozialen Schicht kamen und alle Kontakt zu Wilde hatten. Die erste
Hauptverhandlung war am 3. April 1895. Die beklagte Seite muxte nun Beweise liefern, die
die Beschuldigung des Marquess untermauerten. Man beschuldigte Wilde des Mixbrauches
junger M nner. Es wurden mehrere Briefe vorgelesen, die Oscar Wilde an seinen ,,Bosie”
schrieb. Sie wurden vom Gericht als nicht anst xig eingestuft. Die Anw lte des Marquess
konnten Wilde nicht schaden, das tat er selbst als er unter Eid aus Eitelkeit bei seinem
Alter log. Dieser kleine Fehler schadete seiner Glaubw rdigkeit immens. Es folgte eine lange
Diskussion ber die Ansichten des Dichters ber Literatur und Moral. Seine Aussage, dax
Literatur und Moral nichts miteinander zu tun hatten, ersch tterten die Ansichten des
gegnerischen Anwaltes. Doch Wilde konnte auch hier wieder berzeugen. Doch am
n chsten Verhandlungstag, als Wilde wieder im Zeugenstand war, fielen viele Namen von
Jugendlichen, mit denen sich Wilde abgegeben hatte. Langsam kristallisierte sich heraus,
dax an diesem ehrenwerten Mann nichts ehrenwertes war. Aus dem noch vor kurzem so
lebenslustigem Dichter wurde ein gebrochener Mann. Am n chsten Tage sollten Zeugen
vorgef hrt werden, doch Wilde zog seine Anklage zu zur ck. Es half nichts. Noch am
selben Tag wurde er verhaftet mit der Beschuldigung der widernat rlichen Unzucht. Die
gesamte Bev lkerung Londons war nun gegen ihn.
Es kam zu einer Panikstimmung. Leute, die gut gekleidet waren, oder einfach nur gew hlt
sprachen, muxten f rchten, ,,Oscar” geschimpft zu werden. Wilde+s S hne, 10 und 9
Jahre alt, wurden aus der Schule genommen, um eine Ansteckung der Mitsch ler zu
vermeiden. Die zweite Hauptverhandlng war im April 1895 und dauerte 5 Tage an. Es
wurden diesmal Zeugen vorgef hrt, die Wilde jedoch als Erpresser beschuldigte. Die
Geschworenen waren sich beim Urteilsspruch nicht einig, daher muxte die Verhandlung im
Mai wiederholt werden. Diesmal mit einer Dauer von 6 Tagen. Wilde wurde zur
H chststrafe, 2 Jahren harter Zwangsarbeit, verurteilt. Im Gef ngnis, dem Reading Caol,
erlebte er eine schlimme Zeit. Er durfte nicht mit Mitgefangenen reden und wurde wegen
kleinster Vergehen bestraft. Erst sp ter besserte sich die Lage f r ihn. Am 19. Mai 1897
wurde er entlassen und reiste sofort nach Frankreich ab. Dort lebte er forthin unter dem
Namen Sebastian Melmoth. Sein gesamter Besitz wurde verkauft. Seine Frau sah er nie
wieder, denn sie hatte sich unter dem Namen ,,Holland” bereits woanders niedergelassen.
Sein genialer Schaffensdrang war gebrochen. Er verfiel dem Alkohol und starb schliexlich
an cerebraler Meningitis. Er bekam ein Armenbegr bnis und erst viele Jahre. Viele Jahre
sp ter bekam er ein eigenes Grab.