Lady Windermere's Fan


Writers: Oscar Wilde


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Drama, Comedy
Period, Multiple Settings
Time & Place
london, 1890s
Cast Size
Ideal for
College/University, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre, Regional Theatre
Casting Notes
Mostly female cast
Includes young adult, adult, mature adult characters


Lady Windermere’s Fan is one of Oscar Wilde’s most witty and uncompromisingly satirical plays. It examines the gender politics within marriage and society, and the ambiguous idea of sexual morality among the upper classes. Until Mrs. Erlynne is introduced, Lady Windermere believes that she has a perfectly happy marriage with her adoring husband and young child. However, once she is alerted to Lord Windermere’s seemingly brazen relationship with another woman, Lady Windermere begins to question her own feelings, her marital position and the loyalty of her husband. After Lord Windermere insists upon inviting Mrs. Erlynne to their ball, Lady Windermere takes the radical decision to leave him for Lord Darlington, who has professed his undying love for her. Intercepting Lady Windermere’s note, Mrs. Erlynne goes after her to persuade her to return to her husband. Lady Windermere leaves her fan in Lord Darlington’s house and Mrs. Erlynne must pretend that it is hers to allow Lady Windermere to exit Lord Darlington’s house unseen. Mrs. Erlynne puts her own reputation on the line by revealing herself alone in the house at 2am to the returning gentlemen. The following day, Mrs Erlynne resolves her secrets with both Lady and Lord Windermere to a satisfactory conclusion for all. She begs Lady Windermere not to reveal her unfulfilled elopement, but to stay and have a happy marriage with her husband. Alone with Lord Windermere, it becomes clear that Mrs. Erlynne is, in fact, Lady Windermere’s mother but abandoned her husband and family to elope with a lover twenty years earlier. That relationship broke down and she has been blackmailing Lord Windermere to help her regain social status. Moved by her dealings with her daughter, Mrs. Erlynne begs Lord Windermere not to reveal her secret. Instead, having apparently explained her appearance in Lord Darlington’s house, she and the bumbling Lord Augustus announce their forthcoming marriage and their intention to live outside of England. Taking a serious yet comedic look at marriage, sex and gender, Wilde’s play contains one of his best known lines: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Lead Characters

Lady Windermere's Fan guide sections