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Theatre / Lady Windermere's Fan

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Lady Windermere's Fan: A Play About a Good Woman is a 1892 comedy by Oscar Wilde. The play is a comedic satire. It has been made into numerous films, including a 1925 film that was directed by Ernst Lubitsch, a 1949 film directed by Otto Preminger titled The Fan, and a 2004 adaptation that was renamed A Good Woman, set it to 1930s Italy, and starring Helen Hunt as Erlynne and Scarlett Johansson as Windermere.

Lady Windermere suspects her husband may be having an affair, based on the gossip of neighbours and her discovery that he has been paying large sums to a Mrs. Erlynne. Having had enough, she finally leaves him in anger after he invites Mrs. Erlynne to her birthday ball. Mrs. Erlynne follows her to the house of the man who propositioned her, Lord Darlington, who is absent. The two women have a heart-to-heart, and all is not as it seems. Suddenly, a group of men, including Lord Windermere, arrive, forcing the two women to hide. Unfortunately, Lady Windermere has left her fan on the table for her husband to find...

Lady Windermere's Fan contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Author Avatar: Lord Darlington.
  • Black-and-White Insanity: Lady Windermere starts out with this.
  • Blackmail: Mrs Erlynne has been blackmailing Lord Windermere.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Both women do this in Lord Darlington's house.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Lady Windermere teeters on this for some time when she thinks her husband is having an affair.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The following could describe either this play or Othello: the titular character wrongly suspects their spouse of infidelity, which is made worse by the spouse pleading to them for favor on behalf of the suspected paramour - and the situation is made even more compromising by the sight of a recognizable personal token that was dropped in someone's private chambers.
  • Generation Xerox: Defied; Mrs Erlynne manages to save her daughter from repeating her own mistakes of 20 years earlier.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Lord Darlington and Cecil Graham.
  • Gut Feeling: Mrs Erlynne's saves the day, when she decides to open Lady Windermere's letter.
  • History Repeats: Mrs Erlynne lampshades and ultimately averts this trope.
  • Irrevocable Message: Fortunately averted; Lady Windermere's letter is intercepted by Mrs Erlynne.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mrs Erlynne.
  • Kangaroos Represent Australia: The Duchess of Berwick invokes this in her conversations with Australian gentleman Mr Hopper.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Subverted. Mrs Erlynne is Lady Windermere's mother, but never ends up telling her.
  • MacGuffin Title:
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Lord Windermere.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Mrs Erlynne, upon reading Lady Windermere's letter to her husband, saying she is leaving him. She concluded he was having an affair when she discovered that he had been paying Mrs Erlynne large sums of money, while the real reason for the payments was blackmail.
  • Mysterious Parent
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. Lady Windermere and Mrs Erlynne share the name of Margaret, lampshaded when the former gives the latter her fan, which has the name inscribed.
  • One-Word Vocabulary: The only phrase Lady Agatha ever says is "Yes, Mamma".
  • Parental Abandonment: Mrs Erlynne's mistake, which Lady Windermere nearly makes too.
  • Perspective Reversal: Lady Windermere thinks Mrs Erlynne is a wicked woman; her husband, however, thinks there is good in her, allows her to blackmail him because he thinks she deserves another chance, and has her at the house as a guest against his wife's wishes. Mrs Erlynne's act of saving Lady Windermere from disgrace at the cost of her own second chance in society reverses the situation: Lady Windermere is deeply grateful to her, and is forced to dispense with her previous black-and-white worldview; her husband, having witnessed Mrs Erlynne in a gentleman's chambers at night after all he's done for her, considers her beyond the Moral Event Horizon. He comes around, though.
  • Redemption Equals Affliction: After having blackmailed Lord Windermere, Mrs. Erlynne exposed herself to scandal in order to explain the presence of Lady Windermere's fan and let her escape unseen.
  • Second-Act Breakup: Literally. The second act ends with Lady Windermere deciding to leave her husband.
  • Secret-Keeper: Lord and Lady Windermere each keep an important secret from the other in order to save their happy loving marriage. He never tells her that Mrs Erlynne is her mother, and she never tells him that she went to Lord Darlington's chambers and was rescued by Mrs Erlynne. Mrs Erlynne keeps both secrets too.
  • Sex for Solace: Lady Windermere temporarily resolves to go to Lord Darlington for this.
  • Signature Item Clue: Lady Windermere goes to her other admirer's dwellings in a moment of weakness. He isn't there, but Mrs Erlynne arrives there and sets her straight. Both women hide when a group of men including Lord Windermere arrive unexpectedly, but Lady Windermere's fan is discovered on the table, recognised by her husband. Fortunately Mrs Erlynne gives herself up, allowing Lady Windermere to escape unseen.
  • Silent Scapegoat: Mrs Erlynne becomes one in the last act.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Zigzagged. At first Lady Windermere appears to be a Wide-Eyed Idealist in a world of intrigue and lies, but later, the play moves toward the idealistic side.
  • Twist Ending
  • White-and-Grey Morality: Despite evil being discussed numerous times, especially by Lord and Lady Windermere, there are no wicked characters in this play.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: Mrs Erlynne pulls a spur-of-the-moment one in order to save Lady Windermere's reputation and her marriage.