These are essays on painting, writing and drama, mostly the latter two. The Decay of Lying mourns the rise of realism, and the loss of characters who speak as people should speak, not as they do. Wilde believes Life imitates Art, so that if the art is written or painted well enough, Nature will imitate it.
The essays are set up as dialogues, and illustrate his theory, in that the conversational exchanges are extended monologues, with Greek, Latin, and French larded in amidst the fulsome descriptive passages. No one spoke that way.
Pen, Pencil and Poison deals with Wilde's fascination with a mediocre writer and talented poisoner.
The Critic as Artist asserts that criticism of Art is a greater art form than the original work, a theory any University English professor accepts as fact, if only secretly.
The Truth of Masks explains how important costume and historical accuracy were in the plays of Shakespeare.
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