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The Birthday of the Infanta Oscar Wilde The Birthday of the Infanta by Oscar Wilde
<ul><li>Son of a surgeon and of an ambitious literary woman, Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. After attending Trinity College , he was sent to Oxford where he distinguished himself for his eccentricity. From the art historian and writer John Ruskin , Dorian derived his interest in art; from Walter Pater, the theorist of the Aesthetic Movement in England , he accepted the theory of “Art for Art’s Sake” and the figure of the artist as an alien in a materialistic world. So Wilde wrote only to please himself , living his life as “a work of Art” in the double role of rebel and dandy, filling each passing moment with intense experience, feeling all kind of sensations. </li></ul>“ Life is a work of Art.”
<ul><li>On his coming back to Europe in 1883,Wilde married Constance Lloyd and had two children but he soon became tired of marriage. His homosexual affair with the young Lord Alfred Duglas caused him a public trial ; he was sent to prison and sentenced to two-years of hard labour. When he was released, Wilde was a broken man. He ended his life in Paris where he died in 1900 in absolute poverty at the age of 46.On his deathbed Wilde converted to Catholicism. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>After graduating, Wilde settled in London where he charmed everybody with his ironic, brilliant conversation , his dandy poses and his extravagant dressing. He travelled a lot in Italy , Greece and America where he was engaged for a successful tour of lectures on art and poetry. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
“ The Artist is the creator of beautiful things” . <ul><li>In the late 80s Wilde’s literary talent was revealed by a series of short stories and fairy tales: The Canterville Ghost, lord Arthur Savile’s crime, The happy Prince and other Tales , written both for children and adults.in this decade he wrote the famous novel The Picture of Dorian Gray , whose Preface , a series of aphorisms or epigrammatic sentences which sum up Wilde’s theories on life and art,is considered the Manifesto of Aestheticism in England. </li></ul>In the late 90s he produced a series of successful plays or comedies of manners characterized by foolish plots and brilliant dialogues : Lady Windermere’s Fan , A woman of no importance and his masterpiece The importance of being Earnest. However, both the novel about Dorian Gray and the scandalous tragedy Salomè written in French, damaged Wilde’s reputation since the former was considered immoral ,and the latter was banned from the London stage for obscenity.
Each man kills the thing he loves” <ul><li>In prison Wilde wrote De Profundis ,a long letter to his lover published posthumously in 1905; in the last years of his life he dedicated The Ballad of Reading Gaol to a man executed for his wife’ s death and finally the pamphlet The Soul of man under socialism. </li></ul>
PLOT <ul><li>The Birthday of the Infanta is one of Oscar Wilde’s fantastic and truly meaningful fairytales written for adults rather than for children.The author took inspiration from the famous Velasquez’s painting “Las meninas”. </li></ul><ul><li>The short story is about a hunchbacked dwarf found by courtiers of King Philip IV of Spain in the woods and brought to palace for the amusement of the Infanta, on her twelfth birthday. </li></ul><ul><li>Her birthday is the only time she is allowed to mingle with other children; she enjoys a lot the many festivities arranged to mark it, especially the dwarf's performance who,indeed, dances as he usually does in the woods, unawared of his audience's laughing at him. Amused, the Infanta asks for a second dwarf’s performance after dinner. </li></ul>
The poor dwarf mistakenly believes the Infanta can love him since she had given him a white rose, so one day he tries to find her, passing through a garden where sundials and fishes ridicule him . Inside the palace, he searches through the rooms eventually stumbling upon a grotesque monster that is miming his movements. When he realizes that the monster is his own reflection, he understands that the Infanta does not love him at all .So he falls down kicking and screaming. The Infanta and the other children come upon him and thinking it to be another act of his funny performance, start laughing and applauding him, while the Dwarf’s heart is actually and dramatically stopping . The Infanta demands more entertainment but in vain: the poor Dwarf’s heart has stopped.
The Characters THE INFANTA <ul><li>The pretty doughter of the king of Spain, a”sad and melancholy” man who had lost her young and beloved wife six months after their child’s birth, was “the most graceful of all children at Court”. “Her robe was of grey satin,the skirt and the wide puffed sleeves heavily embroidered with silver, and the stiff corset studded with rows of fine pearls”. “In her hair …round her pale little face,she had a beautiful white rose” .The little girl had “… a proud curved beautiful mouth and a wonderful smile”, just like her mother.The Infanta is unable to give love;she is actually a double character since the beauty of her outer or physical aspect is in contrast with her bad inner world ; so it is not surprising that after the bull-fight with hobby-horses and puppets organized for her birthday ‘s party, “…the eyes of the Infanta were dim with tears”; on the contrary, at the end of the story ,while the poor dwarf is down with his heart broken ,she cries “For the future let those who come to play with me have no hearts”. </li></ul>
The Dwarf <ul><li>The funniest entertainment of the birthday’s party was the dancing of the poor little Dwarf.No one at the SpanishCourt had ever seen “a fantastic little monster” like that before. He was running happy, free and wild through the forest when was taken to the King’s palace.He was completely unconscious of his own grotesque appearance so “when the children laughed, he laughed as freely and as joyously as any of them”. But his ugly presence in the wonderful garden at the king’s Palace caused indignation among the flowers and the plants. “He is a perfect horror” screamed the Cactus.”He is twisted and stumpy, and his head is completely out of proportion with his legs”. The red Geranium itself was deeply disgusted at the Dwarf’s sight.The only onces who sincerely loved him were the Birds and the Lizards; they did not mind the Dwarf’s ugly physical aspect since “ he had been kind to them during that terrible bitter winter, giving them crumbs of his black bread”.Besides his ugliness, the Dwarf is a positive character since he is unable to hate , indeed we read that “he loved all of them”, all flowers,plants,animals and human beings on earth,even the worst onces. </li></ul>
Space <ul><li>All the scenes of the tale take place in wonderful inner and outer spaces: the Royal Palace and the fantastic garden . </li></ul><ul><li>The Palace of the Infanta”seemd asleep and even where the shutters had not been closed,heavy curtains had been drawn across the windows to keep out the glare”. There were many rooms and a wonderful hall, but the white marble statues had …”sad black eyes and strangely smiling lips.The atmosphere inside was …”close and heavy”. In other words, it was a house where there was no place for love and joy.The sadness in the statues’eyes reflected the sadness of the king himself , his inner obscurity, the sense of death in life. </li></ul><ul><li>The garden surrounding the Palace was, on the contrary, …”full of roses and tall tulips which stood straight up upon the stalks”, all around “the purple butterflies fluttered about with gold dust on their wings”; “…the magnolia trees opened their great globe-like blossoms and filled the air with a sweet heavy perfume”. It is a sort of Earthly Paradise whose lights and colors spread all around love, joy of living and freedom. </li></ul>
TIME <ul><li>The sad story of the poor Dwarf and the cruel Infanta took place in Spain between the 16th and 17th century ; it was an age of persecutions towards diversity and immorality , similar to Victorian Age , whose hypocricy and false morality deeply marked Oscar Wilde’s life and art. </li></ul>Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Spain Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición Spanish Inquisition.
Themes <ul><li>The double </li></ul><ul><li>In most of Wilde’s works the doubleness in the sense of “divided self” is the leit – motif of his characters’ nature. So in “ The birthday of the Infanta” when the Dwarf went in to the Palace… and “looked around… everything seemed to have its double in this invisible wall of clear water. Yes, picture for picture was repeated”. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Nor was he alone. Standing under the shadow of the doorway, … he saw a little figure watching him”. It was the reflection of his monstrous figure! It was his alter ago. </li></ul>“ The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.” “ The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.”
“ All art is at once surface and symbol.” <ul><li>The false bull-fight organized for the Infanta birthday’s party and the dance of the poor dwarf to amuse the cruel princess , riminds us to Holbein’s Dance of Death, whose figures “…had been graved by hand on a black ebony cabinet ,inlaid with plates of ivory” which was in the King’s Palace.The image of the false bull deadly hurted at the end of the macabre performance is connected to the sad image of the dwarf whose hearth is bleeding full of pain. The white rose the Infanta offers the warf is like the final stroke the toreador plunges into the bull’s neck. </li></ul>
Conclusions <ul><li>The negative perspective that Wilde conveys in this fairy tale is that society,in general, does not progress. The “paralysing immobility of life” is associated with the social hierarchy which people cannot trascend. </li></ul><ul><li>Though written in t he 19 th century, Wilde’s The Birthday of the Infanta contains important messages about prejudice and social injustices adaptable to modern times ,as well. </li></ul><ul><li>The dishuman attitude the Infanta has towards the poor Dwarf is the same of factory owners towards their poor workers in Victorian England, but also the same of each society which gives importance to profit rather than to human being and his true nature. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Thank you for your attention </li></ul><ul><li>Teachers: Cardone Angela </li></ul><ul><li> Petrillo Antonio </li></ul><ul><li>Students: Gubitoso Francesca </li></ul><ul><li>Maffeo Angelica </li></ul><ul><li> D’Ambrosio Martina </li></ul><ul><li>Mazurets Paolo </li></ul>