ABSTRACT

Lady Windermere’s Fan. A Play about a Good Woman The play was first produced by George Alexander, the 34-year-old actor-manager at the St James’s Theatre, London, on 20 February 1892 where it ran until 29 July before embarking on a provincial tour from 22 August to 29 October. It was immediately revived in London and ran from 31 October to 30 November. During this time it grossed a profit for Alexander’s company of £5570.0.11, and Wilde, being paid a percentage of the box, earned £7000 from the play in its first year. His celebrity status was assured. Lady Winder­ mere’s Fan was published in 1893. The published version differs from the script that was performed on the first press night, although it is in line with the play that was performed within a week of its opening. The major alteration which Wilde effected early was to bring forward the revelation of Mrs Erlynne’s identity as the mother of Lady Windermere. On the first night this information was withheld until the Very end of the play’ (Critical Heritage, 121). Subsequently the audience became privy to this knowledge at the end of Act 2. Reviewing the first night, A. B. Walkley argued:

If we were told at the outset, I, for one, should not view her conduct and Lord Windermere’s in forcing her upon his wife with half the interest which these things afford me while still in the dark.