An Ideal Husband is about a group of rich people in London during the 1890s. Sir Robert Chiltern, is the ‘ideal husband’ who works in the government’s foreign office and has a happy marriage, or does he?
In Act 1, a beautiful and sophisticated woman called Mrs Cheveley arrives. She has been out of England. Her arrival brings trouble for Sir Robert. She has a secret letter about him and she wants him to get the government to agree to a building plan for Argentina, which will make her rich. Sir Robert tells his wife, Lady Chiltern. She asks him not to do what Mrs Cheveley wants. Mrs Cheveley then tells Lady Chiltern that Sir Robert once sold a government secret to a businessman for money. This information is revealed in Mrs Cheveley’s ‘letter’. In fact, Mrs Cheveley is using the letter to blackmail Sir Robert.
Lord Goring is a good friend to both Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern and he loves Sir Robert’s sister, Mabel. In Act 2, Goring suggests to Sir Robert that to stop Mrs Cheveley making trouble for Sir Robert, he needs to find out something bad about her. In Act 3 it is Lord Goring who is able to get the letter back, by proving to Mrs Cheveley that he knows she is a thief. Lady Chiltern is very upset because she can no longer think of her husband as honest.
In Act 3 Lord Goring is at home waiting for Lady Chiltern, who has sent him a letter asking if she can talk to him. Mrs Cheveley steals this letter while she is waiting to talk to Lord Goring. Sir Robert has also come to talk to Goring. He finds out that Mrs Cheveley is in the next room. Lord Goring thinks it is Lady Chiltern who is there and he tells Sir Robert that the lady loves him.
Thismakes Sir Robert angry with Lord Goring. Mrs Cheveley thinks that the stolen letter addressed to Goring is a love letter and she later sends it to Sir Robert.
In Act 4 Lady Chiltern learns that Sir Robert’s secret is safe, but that Mrs Cheveley has sent her (Lady Chiltern’s) letter to Goring. Sir Robert thinks the letter was written to him, and so it doesn’t make him angry, as he thinks it shows that his wife loves him again. He doesn’t want to upset her again, so when Lord Caversham tells him that the prime minister wants to give him a more important government job, he says he cannot take it. Lord Goring tells Lady Chiltern that she should let her husband take the job. It is important to him. Lady Chiltern understands this. She has changed and is able to forgive her husband. In the last scene Mabel and Goring prepare to get married and Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern’s marriage is safe.
An An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde