Summary of Ideal Husband

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Topics: Proposals
Summary of the play

It all starts at a big, high-culture party. Sir Robert and Lady Gertrude Chiltern, rising star couple on the political scene, greet the Who's Who of 1890s London as they mill about delivering bon mots. The surprise main event is the arrival of Mrs. Cheveley. She looks outrageous and radiates menacing charm. It turns out that both Lady Chiltern and Lord Goring, the dandified philosopher in the play, know this lady from days gone by. They're not fans. But Mrs. Cheveley doesn't care – she's not here for fun or friendship. As everyone goes in to dinner, Mrs. Cheveley sits Sir Robert down and informs him that unless he reverses his public position on the Argentine Canal she's invested in, she will blackmail him. She has a letter proving that as a young man, he built his fortune on the sale of state secrets. She will happily show it to the press. Sir Robert freaks out and agrees to do what she wants. When Lady Chiltern finds out about his change of heart – not knowing anything about the blackmail, or about Sir Robert's past missteps – she pressures him to go back on his promise to Mrs. Cheveley. She won't allow him to compromise his principles. So Sir Robert is caught between a rock and a hard place. If he does what Mrs. Cheveley wants, he'll lose his wife. If he doesn't do what Mrs. Cheveley wants, he'll be exposed, losing his position. Lord Goring thinks he should come clean to Lady Chiltern, but Sir Robert doesn't have the chance. Mrs. Cheveley calls to inquire about a brooch she lost at the party. Lady Chiltern doesn't have it. (Lord Goring does; he recognized and collected it the night of the party.) Irritated by Lady Chiltern, Mrs. Cheveley reveals Sir Robert's past: he built his fortune on a crime. Lady Chiltern attacks Sir Robert and says she can't love a dishonest man. He counterattacks that she should never have put him on a pedestal, that no man could survive her idealistic love. Lord Goring now goes into

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