Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE

Oscar

Oscar Wild, portrait (AP)
Oscar Wild, portrait
(AP)

In literature, the pursuit of forbidden love often has tragic consequences. For Oscar Wilde, a prolific literary genius and social critic who was at the peak of his success in the late 19th century, those consequences were all too real. His fall from grace, like that of a classic tragic hero, was swift and complete.

In many ways Wilde was ahead of his time. As an aesthete - one who believed that art must be judged only as art and not by contemporary morality he had forward-thinking views on censorship and obscenity; he refused to acknowledge that books could be moral or immoral. To him a book was either well written or poorly written. Well-written pornography was preferable to bad literature, regardless of the social merit of either. Wilde was also egotistical. He embraced the idea that his genius placed him above the law and subject to different rules of morality.

Book cover: The Picture of Dorian Grey
Book cover: The
Picture of Dorian
Grey

Oscar Wilde was also a homosexual in a time when being gay was a criminal offense. As a cover, Wilde was married with two children and an extraordinarily beautiful and loyal wife, and was for the most part discrete in his homosexual activities. His most popular work, The Picture of Dorian Gray, had caused a stir because of its not-so-subtle homosexual references, but Wilde did not write Dorian Gray as a protest piece. The homosexual element of Dorian Gray was more of a literary device, a gay version of medieval courtly behavior, when a knight pledged his love for an unobtainable lady in platonic form.

His flamboyant lifestyle, ego and choice of romantic partners had dire consequences. Wilde was persecuted for his art and for his love of another man. In some ways, his pride and poor judgment in matters unrelated to art would cost him everything.

 

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