The Picture of Dorian Gray – August 2015

About This Project

Selected by Denis Behr


The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is a real classic. The plot involves a magical painting which ages instead of Dorian Gray himself, who gave his soul for this tempting feature, and it has been used to introduce magical effects. But while the story line is fascinating by itself, it is Wilde’s writing which elevates the book and makes it a masterpiece. There is no dull moment and the hedonist Lord Henry, one of the main characters, apparently cannot utter a comment that does not sound like a profound aphorism. His wittiness is astounding, to say the least. If nothing else, Henry shows how to be interesting and witty, something that a performer should be as well. Whether Wilde’s tight scripting inspires you to examine your own scripting or not, this is a great read either way.”
– Denis Behr


About the Book
The Picture of Dorian Gray is an 1891 philosophical novel by writer and playwright Oscar Wilde. First published in 1890 as a short in an issue of Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, the editor feared the story was very indecent, and without Wilde’s knowledge or consent, deleted five hundred words before its publication. Despite this, The Picture of Dorian Gray offended the moral sensibilities of many British book reviewers and became widely popular at this small level. In response, Wilde aggressively defended his novel and art in correspondence with the British press while, at the same time, he revised and expanded the magazine edition for publication as a single novel. The book edition that came out in the following year featured an aphoristic preface — an apology about the art of the novel and the reader. The content, style, and presentation of the preface itself made the novel famous in its own literary right, as social and cultural criticism to the mentality of that day and age.


About the Author
Born as Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde on October 16th, 1854, Oscar was an Irish author, playwright and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London’s most popular playwrights in his time. At university, Wilde proved himself to be an outstanding classicist. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles. As a spokesman for aestheticism, Wilde became one of the best known personalities of his day. After 1890, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of essays, and incorporated all this into his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write Salome but it was refused a license to be published in England due to the absolute prohibition of biblical subjects on the English stage. Still, Wilde produced four society comedies, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London. At the height of his fame, while one of his plays was still on stage in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for libel, which eventually caused evidence to come out that led to Wilde’s own arrest. In 1897, in prison, he wrote De Profundis, all about his trial experience. Upon his release, he left immediately for France, where he wrote his last work The Ballad of Reading Gaol. He died destitute in Paris at the age of 46.