The Duchess of Padua - Reception

Reception

Wilde himself described the play to Anderson, saying:

"I have no hesitation in saying that it is the masterpiece of all my literary work, the chef d'oeuvre of my youth."

Mary Anderson, however, was less enthusiastic:

"The play in its present form, I fear, would no more please the public of today than would 'Venus Preserved' or 'Lucretia Borgia'. Neither of can afford failure now, and your Duchess in my hands would not succeed, as the part does not fit me. My admiration of your ability is as great as ever."

William Winter reviewed the first production in The New York Tribune on 27 January 1891:

"The new play is deftly constructed in five short acts, and is written in a strain of blank verse that is always melodious, often eloquent, and sometimes freighted with fanciful figures of rare beauty. It is less a tragedy, however, than a melodrama...the radical defect of the work is insincerity. No one in it is natural."

Robert Shore commented on the play itself while reviewing a contemporary production:

"...his tale of Renaissance realpolitik, revenge and big love is about as far removed from the sophisticated social ironies of The Importance of Being Earnest as you can get. The dramatist affects the high Jacobean manner but the results are more cold pastiche than hot homage. Shakespearean archetypes stand behind the action - especially Lady Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet - but the smoothness of the verse means Wilde's characters never burn with the knotty tormented passion of their dramatic forebears. Basically, it's Victorian melodrama."

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    I gave a speech in Omaha. After the speech I went to a reception elsewhere in town. A sweet old lady came up to me, put her gloved hand in mine, and said, “I hear you spoke here tonight.” “Oh, it was nothing,” I replied modestly. “Yes,” the little old lady nodded, “that’s what I heard.”
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