In 1895, at the peak of his career, Wilde became the central figure in one of the most sensational court trials of the century. Wilde, who had been a close friend of the young Lord Alfred Douglas, was accused by Douglas’s father of sodomy. Sentenced to two years of hard labour in prison, he emerged financially bankrupt and spiritually downcast. He spent the rest of his life in Paris.
The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) can be characterised by adroitly contrived plots and remarkably witty dialogues. The plot is very elaborate and full of sudden changes of each one’s position and unexpected revelations. The main characters are Jack, Cecily, Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen, Algernon, Dr Chasuble and Miss Prism.
The Canterville Ghost is a witty play based on Wilde’s novel. A modern American family comes to England to buy a castle where an evil ghost is said to live. The Mum, Virginia and Washington represent the modern, elaborate and technically developed America, they are extremely proud of their history (which can be seen from the children’s names) and they make fun of all English “ancient” traditions. Duke, the owner of the castle, doesn’t want to sell it, because he is a little afraid of the ghost, his ancient origin. The ghost killed his wife and that’s why he can’t die now although he longs to. Finally the Duke decides to sell it and the Ghost tries to scare the “ridiculous” Americans. But they are not afraid at all and the Ghost gives up. The Duke falls in love with Virginia and Virginia becomes a friend of the Ghost. She manages to rescue him from the spell and the Ghost finally dies. In the happy end the Duke asks Virginia for her hand and when he asks her what actually happened in the chamber where she was with the Ghost, a loud laughing can be heard.