In 1883, Irish-born Oscar Wilde returned to London bursting with exuberance from a year long lecture tour of the United States and Canada. Full of talent, passion and, most of all, full of himself, he courted and married the beautiful Constance Lloyd.
A few years later, Wilde's wit, flamboyance and creative genius were widely renowned. His literary career had achieved notoriety with the publication of "The Picture Of Dorian Gray". Oscar and Constance now had two sons whom they both loved very much. But one evening, Robert Ross, a young Canadian houseguest, seduced Oscar and forced him finally to confront the homosexual feelings that had gripped him since his schooldays.
Oscar's work thrived on the realisation that he was gay, but his private life flew increasingly in the face of the decidedly anti-homosexual conventions of late Victorian society. As his literary career flourished, the risk of a huge scandal grew ever larger.
In 1892, on the first night of his acclaimed play "Lady Windermere's Fan", Oscar was re-introduced to a handsome young Oxford undergraduate, Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed "Bosie". Oscar was mesmerised by the cocky, dashing and intelligent young man and began the passionate and stormy relationship which consumed and ultimately destroyed him.
While Oscar had eyes only for Bosie, he embraced the promiscuous world that excited his lover, enjoying the company of rent boys. In following the capricious and amoral Bosie, Oscar neglected his wife and children, and suffered great guilt.
And then the dragon awoke. Bosie's father, the violent, eccentric, cantankerous Marquess of Queensberry, became aware that Bosie, whose "unmanly" and careless behaviour he despised, was cavorting around London with its greatest playwright, Oscar Wilde.
In 1895, days after the triumphant first night of "The Importance Of Being Earnest", Queensberry stormed into Wilde's club, The Albemarle, and finding him absent left a card with the porter, addressed "To Oscar Wilde posing Somdomite" (...misspelling the insult). Bosie, who hated his father, persuaded Oscar to sue the Marquess for libel. As homosexuality was itself illegal, Queensberry was able to destroy Oscar's case at the trial by calling as witnesses rent boys who would describe Wilde's sexual encounters in open court.
Oscar lost the libel case against Queensberry and was arrested by the crown. With essentially no credible defence against charges of homosexual conduct, he was convicted and sentenced to two years hard labour, the latter part in Reading Gaol. Unreformed Dickensian prison conditions caused a calamitous series of illnesses and brought him to death's door.
Constance fled the country with their children and changed the family name, always hoping that Oscar would return to his family and give up Bosie, now also living in exile.
When Oscar was released from prison in 1897, he tried to comply with Constance's wishes, sending Bosie a deeply moving epic letter, "De Profundis", explaining why he could never see him again.
Love, passion, obsession and loneliness combined however to defeat prudence and discretion. Despite the certain knowledge that their relationship was doomed, Oscar was unable to resist temptation and he and Bosie were reunited, with disastrous consequences.
"In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."
Copyright, 1997, Samuelson Entertainment