Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland, on October 16, 1854. He was an outstanding student of classics at Trinity College, and, in 1874, entered Magdalen College, Oxford, where he won the Newdigate Prize with his poem “Ravenna” (1878). An early leader of the “Aesthetic Movement,” which advanced the concept of “Art for Art’s Sake,” Wilde became a prominent personality in literary and social circles. His volume of fairy tales, The Happy Prince and Other Tales (1888) was followed by The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891) and The House of Pomegranates (1892). However, it was not until his play Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) was presented to the public that he became widely famous. A Woman of No Importance (1893) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) confirmed his stature as a dramatist. In 1895 he brought libel action against the Marquis of Queensbury; revelations at the trial about his relationships led to his being sentenced under the Criminal Law Amendment for homosexual acts. Upon his release in 1897, he settled on the Continent, where he wrote his most powerful and enduring poem, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” (1898). Oscar Wilde died in Paris on November 30, 1900.
Sylvan Barnet, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, is professor of English at Tufts University, specializing in English drama. He is the General Editor of the Signet Classic Shakespeare series and the author or coauthor of many books, including Types of Drama, 8th edition, and An Introduction to Literature, 13th edition.
Marylu Hill is the Director of the Center for Liberal Education at Villanova University. She is the author of Mothering Modernity: Feminism, Modernism, and the Maternal Muse (1999), and coeditor (with Paul Kerry) of Thomas Carlyle Resartus (2010). She has published numerous essays on Victorian subjects, including Thomas Carlyle, Christina Rossetti, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Her current book project is on Oscar Wilde and Platonic dialogue.