Lady Windermere suspects her husband of having an affair with another woman; Mrs Erlynne.
By way of revenge, Lady Windermere leaves her husband for another lover.
While attempting to convince Lady Windermere to return to her husband, Mrs Erlynne is found in a compromising position and she sacrifices herself and her reputation to save Lady Windermere's marriage.
Morning-room of Lord Windermere's house in Carlton House Terrace. Doors C. and R. Bureau with books and papers R. Sofa with small tea-table L. Window opening on to terrace L. Table R.
[LADY WINDERMERE is at table R., arranging roses in a blue bowl.]
PARKER. Is your ladyship at home this afternoon?
LADY WINDERMERE. Yes - who has called?
PARKER. Lord Darlington, my lady.
LADY WINDERMERE. [Hesitates for a moment.] Show him up - and I'm at home to any one who calls.
PARKER. Yes, my lady.
LADY WINDERMERE. It's best for me to see him before to-night. I'm glad he's come.
[Enter PARKER C.]
PARKER. Lord Darlington,
[Enter LORD DARLINGTON C.]
LORD DARLINGTON. How do you do, Lady Windermere?
LADY WINDERMERE. How do you do, Lord Darlington? No, I can't shake hands with you. My hands are all wet with these roses. Aren't they lovely? They came up from Selby this morning.
LORD DARLINGTON. They are quite perfect. [Sees a fan lying on the table.] And what a wonderful fan! May I look at it?
LADY WINDERMERE. Do. Pretty, isn't it! It's got my name on it, and everything. I have only just seen it myself. It's my husband's birthday present to me. You know to-day is my birthday?
LORD DARLINGTON. No? Is it really?
LADY WINDERMERE. Yes, I'm of age to-day. Quite an important day in my life, isn't it? That is why I am giving this party to-night. Do sit down. [Still arranging flowers.]
LORD DARLINGTON. [Sitting down.] I wish I had known it was your birthday, Lady Windermere. I would have covered the whole street in front of your house with flowers for you to walk on. They are made for you. [A short pause.]
LADY WINDERMERE. Lord Darlington, you annoyed me last night at the Foreign Office. I am afraid you are going to annoy me again.
LORD DARLINGTON. I, Lady Windermere?
[Enter PARKER and FOOTMAN C., with tray and tea things.]
LADY WINDERMERE. Put it there, Parker. That will do. [Wipes her hands with her pocket-handkerchief, goes to tea-table, and sits down.] Won't you come over, Lord Darlington?
[Exit PARKER C.]
LORD DARLINGTON. [Takes chair and goes across L.C.] I am quite miserable, Lady Windermere. You must tell me what I did. [Sits down at table L.]
LADY WINDERMERE. Well, you kept paying me elaborate compliments the whole evening.
LORD DARLINGTON. [Smiling.] Ah, nowadays we are all of us so hard up, that the only pleasant things to pay are compliments. They're the only things we can pay.
LADY WINDERMERE. [Shaking her head.] No, I am talking very seriously. You mustn't laugh, I am quite serious. I don't like compliments, and I don't see why a man should think he is pleasing a woman enormously when he says to her a whole heap of things that he doesn't mean.