If life is a form of art, and art’s purpose is to delight and occasionally to instruct, then boredom – which withers delight and inhibits learning – is to be avoided at all costs. For this reason, boredom is a significant preoccupation for the dandyish characters of the play. Characters assert at various times that obligations are boring (“Well, my duty is a thing I never do, on principle. It always depresses me”), goodness is boring, common sense is boring, earnestness is boring, perfection is boring (“We have married perfect husbands, and we are well punished for it”), and romance is boring (“Englishmen always get romantic after a meal, and that bores me dreadfully”). Romance, especially, is boring because it is a mixture of goodness, obligation, and earnestness. Like the other items on the list, it is too heavy a feeling to be delightful; delight is nimble, spontaneous, and changeable.
Yet, as the play’s ending demonstrates, when life comes to a crisis – the crisis of the Chilterns’ marriage, and the crisis of Robert’s reputation – one must move beyond the distinction between the boring and the amusing. The distinction is useful only to a certain point; it is important to the artifice of social life, but less so at times when human nature is more exposed. In moments of crisis, it is the distinction between empathy and egotism, between goodness and heartlessness, which guides the play’s heroes and heroines.
Romance, Boredom, and Delight ThemeTracker
Romance, Boredom, and Delight Quotes in An Ideal Husband
Oh, I love London Society! I think it has immensely improved. It is entirely composed now of beautiful idiots and brilliant lunatics. Just what Society should be.
Oh! I am not at all romantic. I am not old enough. I leave romance to my seniors.
I love talking about nothing, father. It is the only thing I know anything about.
You seem to me to be living entirely for pleasure.
What else is there to live for, father? Nothing ages like happiness.
I like looking at geniuses, and listening to beautiful people.
When Tommy wants to be romantic he talks to one just like a doctor.
The art of living. The only really Fine Art we have produced in modern times.
But women who have common sense are so curiously plain, father, aren’t they?
Youth isn’t an affectation. Youth is an art.
Well, my duty is a thing I never do, on principle. It always depresses me.