This Blog is called “Bad Shakespeare” because I’m obviously a Shakespeare kinda guy. (Stratford Upon Avon Represent!) I’ve always been a fan of his works, ability to turn a phrase, and the incredibly violent and sexual material that he hides in his work that gets past censors in the name of art. But, this is a blog about many things, including my love of literature. With that in mind, I’d like to honor today, the birthday of the creator of Bunburying (which is extremely popular today) Oscar Wilde.
One of the most impressively named writers of all time, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (this worked to his advantage. When his mother was mad and using all his names, she’d pass out before she could punish him) was born in 1864, and probably best known for his sole novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray and his play, the Importance of Being Ernest, where the whole “bunbury” thing was born. He also wrote many other plays, poems, and short stories, and was actually quite successful up until, you know... we’ll get to that in a minute.
For those of you who have not read any of his works (but probably should), Bunbury was the fictional relative Algernon would have to go visit when he just wanted to get out of social activities. We can pretend we haven’t done this, but all of us at one time or another has used this excuse to get out of doing something. So next time you have to go visit your “sick grandmother” instead of attending your best friend’s girlfriend’s one woman show, you say a little prayer to the man who gave that act a name.
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was also very successful at using art as a way to talk about his issues with Victorian Society. Dorian Gray was an evil man who appeared to be young and successful while all of his ills were cast upon a portrait. The Importance of Being Ernest, in addition to creating an entire term to get out of social obligations, also featured characters that were extremely shallow. Salome and A Woman of No Importance (considered one of the weakest of his plays, but did lend it’s name to it’s own play written about a troupe trying to put on a production of Salome by Oscar Wilde, A Man of No Importance. It’s very Inceptiony, back before that was a term.) also reflected his views, but were so popular they allowed him to get work.
Sadly, despite his success, he died penniless in 1900 after a stint in prison. Oscar Wilde was homosexual, back when that was an imprisonable offense. (Of course, in some places it still is, or people some people still wish it was. It’s nice to know that people still want to keep the same backwards laws that were popular 100 years ago. That’s sarcasm, kids...) One of the most prolific writers of all time imprisoned because of who he loved. There’s a lesson in that. Of course, being a writer, he took those experiences and used them to write, despite the fact that they would not be published until after his death. There’s a lesson in that, too for writers. (Writers WRITE.)
So today, raise a glass and say Happy Birthday to Oscar Wilde! Then feel free to go visit a non-existent relative instead of doing something you’re socially obligated to!