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Oscar Wilde was already one of the best known literary figures in Britain when he was persuaded to turn his extraordinary talents to the theatre. Between 1891 and 1895 he produced a sequence of distinctive plays which spearheded the dramatic renaissance of the 1890s and retain their power today. The social comedies, Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, and An Ideal Husband, offer a moving as well as witty dissection of society and its morals, with a sharp focus on sexual politics. By contrast, the experimental, symbolist Salome, written originally in French, was banned for public performance by the English censor. Wilde's final dramatic triumph was his 'trivial' comedy for serious people, The Importance of Being Earnest, arguably the greatest farcical comedy in English.
Peter Raby is Senior Lecturer and Head of the Drama Department at Homerton College, Cambridge.
Bratton is editor of Oscar Wilde (Cambridge, 1988).