Oh, nowadays so many conceited people go about Society pretending to be good, that I think it shows rather a sweet and modest disposition to pretend to be bad. Besides, there is this to be said. If you pretend to be good, the world takes you very seriously. If you pretend to be bad, it doesn’t. Such is the astounding stupidity of optimism
Lady Windermere. [Leaning back on the sofa.] You look on me as being behind the age.—Well, I am! I should be sorry to be on the same level as an age like this.
Lord Darlington. You think the age very bad?
Lady Windermere. Yes. Nowadays people seem to look on life as a speculation. It is not a speculation. It is a sacrament. Its ideal is Love. Its purification is sacrifice.
Lord Darlington. Do you know I am afraid that good people do a great deal of harm in this world. Certainly the greatest harm they do is that they make badness of such extraordinary importance. It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious. I take the side of the charming, and you, Lady Windermere, can’t help belonging to them.
Lord Darlington. Well then, setting aside mercenary people, who, of course, are dreadful, do you think seriously that women who have committed what the world calls a fault should never be forgiven?
Lady Windermere. [Standing at table.] I think they should never be forgiven.
Lord Darlington. And men? Do you think that there should be the same laws for men as there are for women?
Lady Windermere. Certainly!
Lord Darlington. I think life too complex a thing to be settled by these hard and fast rules.
Lord Darlington. Because I think that life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it. [Moves up C.]
Duchess of Berwick. What does he mean? Do, as a concession to my poor wits, Lord Darlington, just explain to me what you really mean.
Lord Darlington. [Coming down back of table.] I think I had better not, Duchess. Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.
Duchess of Berwick. That’s quite right, dear. Crying is the refuge of plain women but the ruin of pretty ones. Agatha, darling!
Lady Windermere. You don’t know me! [Moves R.]
You would feel that he was lying to you every moment of the day. You would feel that the look in his eyes was false, his voice false, his touch false, his passion false. He would come to you when he was weary of others; you would have to comfort him. He would come to you when he was devoted to others; you would have to charm him. You would have to be to him the mask of his real life, the cloak to hide his secret.
When men give up saying what is charming, they give up thinking what is charming.
It is he who has broken the bond of marriage—not I. I only break its bondage
We make gods of men and they leave us. Others make brutes of them and they fawn and are faithful. How hideous life is
Mrs. Erlynne. [Humbly.] Nothing. I know it—but I tell you that your husband loves you—that you may never meet with such love again in your whole life—that such love you will never meet—and that if you throw it away, the day may come when you will starve for love and it will not be given to you, beg for love and it will be denied you
He has never swerved for a moment from the love he bears you. But even if he had a thousand loves, you must stay with your child. If he was harsh to you, you must stay with your child. If he ill-treated you, you must stay with your child. If he abandoned you, your place is with your child.
In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst; the last is a real tragedy!
Cecil Graham. What is a cynic? [Sitting on the back of the sofa.]
Lord Darlington. A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Cecil Graham. And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.
Actions are the first tragedy in life, words are the second. Words are perhaps the worst. Words are merciless
Mrs. Erlynne was a woman more sinned against than sinning, as the phrase goes.
Lady Windermere. Arthur, Arthur, don’t talk so bitterly about any woman. I don’t think now that people can be divided into the good and the bad as though they were two separate races or creations. What are called good women may have terrible things in them, mad moods of recklessness, assertion, jealousy, sin. Bad women, as they are termed, may have in them sorrow, repentance, pity, sacrifice.
Mrs. Erlynne. [With an amused smile.] My dear Windermere, manners before morals!
Mrs. Erlynne. Ideals are dangerous things. Realities are better. They wound, but they’re better.