Lady Windermere’s Fan Preparation Paper

February 28, 2022 by Essay Writer

“Lady Windermere’s Fan” Preparation Paper

Script Analysis:


Act I:

Inciting Incident: Lord Windermere has invited Mrs. Erlynne to Lady Windermere’s coming-of-age party.

Lady Windermere meets with Lord Darlington on the day of her coming-of-age party. She shows off her new fan to him and explains to him that his constant compliments should cease. The Duchess of Berwick then enters and informs Lady Windermere that Lord Windermere has been visiting a woman behind her back named Mrs. Erlynne. After the Duchess leaves, Lady Windermere finds her husband’s bank book and a second one with a lock on it. She looks in the book with a lock on it and finds transactions between her husband and Mrs. Erlynne. Lord Windermere comes in and she confronts him, and though he doesn’t refute the dealings with Mrs. Erlynne, he does say that he has not betrayed her. He tells her that he has invited Mrs. Erlynne to her party, and she threatens to cause a scene if she comes. He pleads with her to not do this. Lady Windermere leaves, and Lord Windermere reveals in a soliloquy that he’s protecting Mrs. Erlynne’s true identity.

Act II:

Guests arrive to the party and engage in small talk. Lord Windermere confronts Lady Windermere and asks her to speak with him, but she refuses. Lord Augustus begins speaking to Lord Windermere about Mrs. Erlynne, as he is in love with her, and asks him about their relationship. He tells him that he has not had a secret relationship with her and that she is not a mistress, which relieves Augustus because he was wary of her social standing. Mrs. Erlynne then enters the party and is greeted very coldly by Lady Windermere. Lady Windermere begins speaking to Lord Darlington about Mrs. Erlynne, Lord Darlington professes his love for her, and Lady Windermere refuses it. Lord Darlington tells her that they shall never meet again and leaves. In another area of the room, Mrs. Erlynne tells Lord Windermere of her plans to marry Lord Augustus, but tells him that she shall need some money from him. Lady Windermere decides to leave Lord Windermere for Darlington, writes a note for him and leaves. Mrs. Erlynne finds the note and, in a monologue, reveals that she is Lady Windermere’s mother. She leaves to try to bring Lady Windermere back.

Act III:

Lady Windermere is in Lord Darlington’s house and has finally resolved to return to Lord Windermere. Mrs. Erlynne enters to try to convince Lady Windermere to return home to her husband. She sees this as an attempt to manipulate her, refuses to return, but Mrs. Erlynne finally convinces her by bringing up her child at home that she would be abandoning. Before they can leave though, the group of men (including Lord Windermere, Augustus, and Darlington) enters the room, and they hide. They begin talking about Mrs. Erlynne, Lady Windermere’s fan is found in the room, Lord Windermere accuses Lord Darlington of hiding her in his house, and before he discovers her, Mrs. Erlynne reveals herself to the men, letting Lady Windermere leave unnoticed.

Act IV:

The next morning, Lady Windermere is sitting on her couch, anxious to speak with her husband about the events of the night before. Lord Windermere comes in and speaks to her about Mrs. Erlynne, letting her know that he’s genuinely upset with her. Lady Windermere also apologizes for suspecting him of infidelity. Mrs. Erlynne enters with Lady Windermere’s fan and returns it, and informs them that she shall be leaving the country. Before she leaves, she asks Lady Windermere to give her a photo of her and her son. She agrees and leaves the room.

CLIMAX: Mrs. Erlynne forbids Lord Windermere from telling Lady Windermere about her being her mother, ending the blackmail.

DENOUMENT: Lady Windermere returns to the room with the photograph and asks Lord Windermere to leave to see if Mrs. Erlynne’s coach has arrived. Mrs. Erlynne instructs Lady Windermere not to tell her husband about the night before, and she agrees. Lord Windermere enters, followed by Lord Augustus, and Mrs. Erlynne asks him if she can speak with him. They leave momentarily and return to reveal that she has explained herself to Lord Augustus regarding the night before and that they are now engaged and will live in England. Lord and Lady Windermere’s marriage is kept together, but they both keep their secrets from each other.

b. Character:

1. Lady Windermere:

  1. Superobjective:Love
  2. Scene Objectives and Obstacles

Objective 1: Get Mrs. Erlynne to leave her

Internal: If Mrs. Erlynne leaves, she will probably go back to be with Lord Windermere and there will be no option to turn back on this decision.

External: Mrs. Erlynne really wants Lady Windermere to go back with her husband.

Objective 2: Get Mrs. Erlynne to get her out of the house undetected.

Internal: If Mrs. Erlynne does this for her, the men might see her (including her husband), giving them a chance to court her even more.

External: The men are almost in the room


Objective 1:Exclaims that her husband doesn’t care for her, claims that the idea of sending Mrs. Erlynne is insulting, scolds her for reading the letter, attempts to disprove the claim that the burned letter is hers, call her a whore and claim that her husband couldn’t love her if he was willing to leave her for one.

Objective 2: Hides where Mrs. Erlynne tells her to hide and listens to her instructions

Adjectives: Naïve, Self Absorbed, Confused, Stubborn, Caring, Curious

Mrs. Erlynne:
  1. Superobjective: Stability
  2. Scene Objective and Obstacles: To get Lady Windermere to go back to Lord Windermere before it is noticed that she is gone.

Internal: If she goes back and finds herself back in an unhappy, unfulfilling marriage, she will probably resent her more.

External: Lady Windermere is convinced that Mrs. Erlynne is manipulating her.

Tactics: Pleads with her to return, Refutes the idea that Lord Windermere doesn’t love her, burns the letter she wrote, promises to remove her hold on him if she’ll return home, gives her every reason possible to return home, hides her when the men show up

Adjectives:Manipulative, Caring, Maternal, Kind, Intelligent, Ambitious


1. Style of the Playwright:

Wilde is very often characterized by his wit. The characters he writes tend to be very clever and, because of this, there are many examples of conversations in his plays that can show either a verbal tennis match of wit or a conversation in which characters are constantly adding new elements. Here’s an example of an exchange where the characters’ lines build off of each other from “The Importance of Being Earnest”:

Algernon: I hope to-morrow will be a fine day, Lane.

Lane: It never is, sir.

Algernon: Lane, you’re a perfect pessimist.

Lane: I do my best to give satisfaction, sir.

Though this exchange seems somewhat arbitrary, in it we not only see a build through the lines and the characters working off of the last work, but also some interesting literary contrast between the words “satisfaction” and “perfect” with the word “pessimist”. Another interesting bit showcased in that quote about his language is that his servant characters very rarely speak much, instead giving room to the nobility and the guests of the house to speak (most often because they are the center of the story, but still). Another example of this language being used to a comedic effect can be shown in this segment from “An Ideal Husband”

Lord Caversham: Thank ye. No draught, I hope, in this room?

Lord Goring: No, father.

Lord Caversham: Glad to hear it. Can’t stand draughts. No draughts at home.

Lord Goring: Good many breezes, father.

In this example, it shows how his characters very often use their language and their wit to make themselves the smartest person in the room, and can also be used as a tool to frustrate the other character. However, there are also situations where he uses this wit to showcase a character digging into a situation in an attempt to escalate tension. Here’s an example from “Lady Windermere’s Fan”:

Lord Windermere: Margaret, as far as I have known Mrs. Erlynne-

Lady Windermere: Is there a Mr. Erlynne-or is he a myth?

Lord Windermere: Her husband died many years ago. She is alone in the world.

Lady Windermere: No relations?

Lord Windermere: None.

Lady Windermere: Rather curious, isn’t it?

In this bit, Lady Windermere is constantly looking for clues in Lord Windermere’s language that he uses regarding the mysterious Mrs. Erlynne. She is fully engaged and focused in trying to pry out as much information as she can and to fully prove that he is being unfaithful with her.

In conclusion, Wilde’s use of wit is constant and multi-faceted, whether it be to add some fun wordplay, to add some comedic moments between characters, or to escalate the tension between others. It is a weapon he knows how to use well.

Language of the Scene:

This scene is actually quite unique in the play in terms of language for a couple reasons. The first is that there aren’t nearly as many moments of speedy dialogue between the characters in this scene, the lines are much longer and the characters are consistently explaining their situations and places to the other. The other unique bit about this scene is just how hateful Lady Windermere is toward Mrs. Erlynne and how she rolls with this. Lady Windermere perceives that her life has been ruined by this woman, so she begins insulting her and attacking her from every angle, calling her a liar and a whore in the most brutal ways imaginable. Meanwhile, Mrs. Erlynne, being her mother, is constantly trying to deflate the situation and bring Lady Windermere back to a point of reason and, more importantly, a point where she doesn’t hate her. It becomes painful to watch this woman tear apart a woman that she doesn’t even know that well…and the woman is her mother. This scene is pretty brutal from a language perspective.

Character Specificity:

Lady Windermere:

Lady Windermere tends to be very bull-headed in her pursuit of her goals. She’s up-front with Lord Darlington about his constant compliments, she immediately confronts her husband about Mrs. Erlynne, and she confronts Mrs. Erlynne the moment it is acceptable for her to. However, as demonstrated by that last example, she also feels a need to fit in with society because of her class. Because of this, her language is very frank, but at the same time it isn’t usually as biting as it is in Act III because she’s still trying to fit in with high society.

Mrs. Erlynne:

Outside of this scene, Mrs. Erlynne is incredibly friendly and almost flirtatious with the male characters. However, she never really tries to flatter anybody with her vocabulary. She speaks from the class she came from, without much frills and straight to the point. Yes, she has manipulated people before (whether that be through blackmail or through just flirtatiousness), but there’s a certain frankness to her words that really sings through.

d. Biography and Criticism:

1. Playwright Biography:

Oscar Wilde was a Victorian Era playwright and novelist. He was born and raised in Ireland in the mid-19th century and largely bounced between Ireland and England for a large amount of his life (for example, he studied in Ireland and at Oxford). Wilde was also a homosexual in a time when homosexuality was a criminal offense. Because of this nature of being a societal outcast, the most common goal of his written works was to challenge societal norms. He is most well known for his novel “The Picture of Dorian Grey” (which challenges societal focus on physical beauty) and “The Importance of Being Earnest” (which almost turns high society into parody). However, pieces like “Lady Windermere’s Fan”, “An Ideal Husband”, and “A Woman of No Importance” are all examples of this goal to tear down societal norms (they’re even referred to as the “Comedies of Society” by some). Unfortunately, Wilde’s battle against society went against him when he was tried, convicted, and punished for being a homosexual through imprisonment and exile. This eventually injured and killed him through cerebral meningitis.

Production Criticism:

After reading criticisms of two productions of “Lady Windermere’s Fan” (one performed in Toronto, the other in Austin), it was pointed out that the most effective thing that the directors of each of these productions did was that they showcased how the societal problems in the play are still relevant to this day. I feel that this should be something essential for anybody directing anything by Wilde to understand, given that his plays are all about societal consciousness. There were two issues that critics had with both productions that should be kept in mind. The first of these was consistency in time period; both of them were somewhat period appropriate, but had some inconsistencies. The other issue was that Lady Windermere never seemed to exhibit any growth through the play; she never seemed to get to the point where she realized that many of her prejudices about Mrs. Erlynne and about many societal concepts were wrong.


  1. Major Argument:Social Order vs. Social Acceptance
  2. Major Ideas: Infidelity, Social Classes, Prostitution’s Role in Society, Societal Role of Women, Blackmail, Royalty, Social Contracts, What is Polite, Marital Secrecy, Social Labels
  3. Playwright’s Statement:
  4. While some sort of social structure is important, it is also important not to shut people out based on preconceptions due to social class. As Lord Darlington says, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

  5. Scene’s Contribution to Major Argument:

This is the moment in the play in which Lady Windermere begins to realize that she may have judged Mrs. Erlynne too harshly based on preconceived notions that she gained from the Duchess of Berwick. She begins to realize that not only is Mrs. Erlynne not just a whore from the street who is ruining her marriage, but she also begins to realize that she is a genuinely caring person who really wants to help with her situation. It’s where she begins to realize that she was wrong (especially in the moments after the scene in which Mrs. Erlynne sacrifices the public opinion of her to save her).

Dramatic Action:

Scene Conflict: Lady Windermere is willing to leave her husband for cheating on her with an alleged whore. Mrs. Erlynne wants to save her daughter from destroying her life over a complete misconception, but can’t tell her the full truth.

Unit 1: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

From: the top of the scene

To: Mrs. Erlynne: Thank Heaven I am in time.

Story: Lady Windermere debates with herself on whether or not she should return home to her husband, and resolves to return…that is, until Mrs. Erlynne enters.

Unit Climax: Lady Windermere: No, no! I will go back, let Arthur do with me what he pleases.

Unit 2: Please Go Home

From: Mrs. Erlynne: You must go back to your husband’s house immediately.

To: Mrs. Erlynne: He thinks you are asleep in your own room.

Story: Mrs. Erlynne urges Lady Windermere to return home, telling her that she will be making a grave mistake if she doesn’t. Lady Windermere refuses and tells her that he clearly doesn’t love her, especially if he would send her as the messenger to get her to come back home.

Unit Climax: Lady Windermere: I was going to go back-but to stay himself at home and to send you as his messenger-oh! it was infamous-infamous!

Unit 3: Burn Notice

From: Mrs. Erlynne: He never read the mad letter you wrote to him!

To: Mrs. Erlynne: go back, go back to the husband you love.

Story: Mrs. Erlynne reveals to Lady Windermere that her husband never read her note, shows her the note, and burns it in the fire. Lady Windermere castigates Mrs. Erlynne for reading her note, and then refuses to believe that the note that was thrown in the fire was actually hers.

Unit Climax: Mrs. Erlynne: go back, go back to the husband you love.

Unit 4: He Really Does Love you

From: Lady Windermere: I do not love him!

To: Lady Windermere: You are bought and sold.

Story: Lady Windermere begins to bash her husband and Mrs. Erlynne, exclaiming that he couldn’t possibly love her if he was willing to betray her for an unfeeling whore who wants nothing but control over them. Mrs. Erlynne fights against the claims, tries to clarify the nature of her relationship with him as best as she can, and even promises to get rid of the hold she has over him if she will return to him.

Unit Climax: Lady Windermere: You are bought and sold.

Unit 5: Think of Your Child

From: Mrs. Erlynne: Believe what you choose about me.

To: Lady Windermere: Take me home. Take me home.

Story: Mrs. Erlynne finally stops letting Lady Windermere fight her on every point and lectures her on every reason why she needs to take her husband back. Lady Windermere finally concedes that she is right.

Unit Climax and SCENE CLIMAX: Lady Windermere: Take me home. Take me home.

Unit 6: They’re Coming

From: Mrs. Erlynne: Come! Where is your cloak?

To: Mrs. Erlynne: Oh, never mind me. I’ll face them.

Story: As Mrs. Erlynne and Lady Windermere begin to leave Lord Darlington’s house, they hear the men returning from the gentlemen’s club. Mrs. Erlynne hides Lady Windermere in the curtains and readies herself in the other room for if they try to find her. Lady Windermere goes along with it and hides in the curtains.

Unit Climax: Mrs. Erlynne: Oh, never mind me. I’ll face them.

Given Circumstances:

1. Physical Environment: The home of Lord Darlington (living room/parlor area), London, 1890’s, late at night (AM hours)

Other Environments:


-Lord and Lady Windermere are wealthy.

-Mrs. Erlynne does not come from wealth.

-Lord Windermere has been giving Mrs. Erlynne money.

-Lord Augustus is wealthy as well.

-Lord Darlington is wealthy.


-Lady Windermere is royalty through marrying Lord Windermere.

-Mrs. Erlynne isn’t upper class like many of the other central characters.

-Mrs. Erlynne is Lady Windermere’s mother (though this is largely unknown).

-Mrs. Erlynne plans to marry Lord Augustus, which would move her up the social ladder.

-The Lords can still be evicted from clubs, so they don’t have absolute power.


-Marital infidelity is highly frowned upon.

-Prostitution is highly frowned upon.

-Invasion of privacy is socially unacceptable.

-Leaving your husband, even for another Lord, is wrong.

-Lady Windermere states in Act I that she is a Puritan.


-Lord and Lady Windermere have servants.

-Lord Windermere has control over the house, controls finances.

-Lord Windermere is able to invite whoever he wants to the party, even if his wife doesn’t want them there (like Mrs. Erlynne).

-The threat of socially shaming Lady Windermere gives Mrs. Erlynne power over Lord Windermere.

-Though Lady Windermere can’t remove people from her party, she can make a scene in order to get Lord Windermere to remove them.

Previous Action

-Lord Darlington confessed his love to Lady Windermere.

-Lady Windermere refused him, prompting him to decide to leave her forever.

-Lady Windermere changes her mind because of Mrs. Erlynne.

-Lady Windermere left a note for her husband, telling him that she is leaving him for Lord Darlington.

-Mrs. Erlynne found the note and took it.

-The Duchess of Berwick told Lady Windermere of Lord Windermere’s interactions with Mrs. Erlynne.

-Lady Windermere found her husband’s secret bank book with transactions with Mrs. Erlynne written inside.

-Lady Windermere warned her husband that if Mrs. Erlynne were invited to the party that she would make a scene.

General Facts

-Mrs. Erlynne is Lady Windermere’s mother.

-Lady Windermere doesn’t know that Mrs. Erlynne is her mother.

-Mrs. Erlynne has been blackmailing Lord Windermere with this secret for money.

-Lady Windermere thinks that her mother is dead.

-Lady Windermere has a child with Lord Windermere.


a. My Approach:

Personally, when I look at this scene, I see a woman trying to fight another woman with every prejudice she has in her body only to have them all fail. I see a woman finally having her incredibly structured worldview breaking down. I also see a mother finally trying to have a real relationship with her daughter in which she is trying to save her from making one of the biggest mistakes of her life. So one of them is slowly breaking while the other is slowly building, and I’m going to work to reflect that in the scene through the staging and the design. Though, personally, I feel that costumes will be difficult to get period perfect in this assignment, at this moment I can’t really think of an alternate time period or setting that I would want for this play at this time.


Lady Windermere: Rachel McAdams

When I look at Lady Windermere, I see somebody stubborn and frank, but also incredibly strict in the way that she perceives the world around her. However, there is still a great amount of naivety in her; she still doesn’t really know much about the world or how it operates. Based on the film work I’ve seen from her (though it’s not always in the greatest films), I feel like Rachel McAdams could really bring these characteristics to the forefront.

Mrs. Erlynne:Julianne Moore

This is a woman who has been wronged in her life by the man she gave birth to Lady Windermere and was then wronged by society. She really begins blackmailing Lord Windermere to gain her place in society, but also decides that she should build a relationship with her estranged daughter. Though it’s not really a role she’s explored much in her lifetime, she is still a mother. And that role is showing up in her life more and more as Lady Windermere tries to find her place. Julianne Moore is an actress that I feel can show this idea of past demons still haunting you while also showing the maternal side (while realizing that she isn’t quite comfortable with that role, given that she hasn’t filled that role much in her lifetime).

Initial Direction:

Lady Windermere:

Your life has been torn apart by this woman. Not only has your husband been unfaithful to you, he’s also been unfaithful with a woman so far below your social stature. You’re better than this woman, and yet she has won your husband’s heart. She’s also aware that he is married, so she has done this with the knowledge that you are in the picture. It is time for you to leave this environment in a blaze of glory; bring this woman back down to the class she tried to rise up from.

Mrs. Erlynne:

Your blackmailing scheme has gone far enough. Though you’ve finally risen back up in society, you’ve also tremendously hurt your daughter to the point where she’s willing to leave her family behind for another man. This is sort of like what happened in your past with her father and with her, though not exactly. You haven’t been there for much of her life, but you need to keep her from making the biggest mistake of her life; she will likely end up like you if she goes through with this decision.

Design and Rehearsal Preparation:

a. Sets:

I feel like a cold marble feel to everything would really fit the idea that I’m working for. It looks pretty and is also very structured, tidy, and orderly, but at the same time it also feels cold and unfeeling. Given the societal structure in this play and the ideas that Lady Windermere is battling throughout the piece, I feel like this works for the environment.


  1. Lady Windermere
  2. Mrs. Erlynne


The scene takes place late at night, but there is still quite a bit of action going on at this late hour. There is also quite a bit of heat between our characters; anger from Lady Windermere, warmth from Mrs. Erlynne, passionate love from Lord Darlington. On top of that, there is also a fire in the room. This captures the idea of warmth at this late hour that I’m looking for. I’m not looking for any lighting changes in this scene though, but something to make the fire in the room to look more real would be nice.


Chopin’s Ballad No. 1

The aesthetic of piano ballads is something I would love for this scene, but this one in particular I feel would work the strongest. Its emotional intensity reflects anger at times but also a loving tenderness. There is a great amount of heat and tragedy in this song, but also quite a bit of love at times as well. I feel that it would work perfectly.

e. Groundplan:

f. Rehearsal Plan:
  1. Rehearsal 1: Meet up/Read through
  2. Rehearsal 2: Table work first 3 units
  3. Rehearsal 3: Table work last 3 units
  4. Rehearsal 4: Exercises/Character Exploration
  5. Rehearsal 5: Exercises/Character Exploration
  6. Rehearsal 6: Stage first 2 units
  7. Rehearsal 7: Stage Units 3-4
  8. Rehearsal 8: Stage Units 5-6
  9. Rehearsal 9: Refine scene/try for full run
  10. Rehearsal 10: Refine scene/ full run
  11. Rehearsal 11: Final refinement/full run
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