Act One- A Woman of No Importance

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On Lady Hunstanton's house, her well bred guests engage in social groups and small talk. Lady Caroline Ponterfract patronises Hester Worsley, an American visitor, managing to reveal her own ignorance as she does so. She also bullies her good natured husband, Sir John and pronounces her opinions on everyone and everything. She dislikes Mrs. Allonby, one of the few subjects on which she and Hester agree, and disapproves of Hester sounding enthusiastic about young Gerald Arbuthnot, a bank clerk. At that point Gerald enters to tell tell everyone the good news that Lord Illingworth has offered to make him his personal secretary. Lady Hunstanton tells Lady Caroline that Lord Illingworth is aiming for "Diplomacy", in other words to be a foreign ambassador. There is a rumour he may be sent to Vienna, which would be very good posting for him, and of course for Gerald. Lady Hunstanton sends a letter with the footman to Gerald's mother to tell her the good news and ask her to come and dine with them.

Gerald takes Hester off for a walk leaving Lady Hunstanton and Lady Caroline to gossip. Lady Caroline sends Sir John off to put on his overshoes and Mrs. Allonby enters with Lady Stutfield. Mrs. Allonby is always saying witty things to shock other people, while Mrs. Stutfield generally echoes what they say and they talk about absurdities until Sir John re-enters with Mr. Kelvil. The ladies quiz Mr. Kelvil on his duties as a politican adn he tells them he has been writing on the subject of 'purity', which he considers very important, and that the growing influence of women in public life can only be a help, since they are on the side of morality. Lady Hunstanton comments that Lord Illingworth doesn't seem to value women's moral qualities, when the man himself enters and gives an excellent demonstration of his talents as a confirmed rake. He also refuses to be

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