Lord Chiltern a very wealthy member of Parliament and
secretary to the crown with a reputation for absolute integrity in a time when
corruption was rampant. He has married a very good lady who worships him for
his absolute honesty and purity, but in fact he earned his wealth and climbed
politically many years ago only after accepting a bribe of £110,000 from Baron
Cheveley to disclose a govt secret about construction of the Suez Canal.
Lord Goring is a wealthy, very eligible bachelor who prides
himself on doing nothing. He is Chilternís closest friend and is gradually
falling in love with Chilternís sister.
Mrs Cheveley, the widow of the wealthy Austrian Baron who bribed
Chiltern in the past, arrives in London with the letter Chiltern wrote to the
Baron years before conveying information about the Canal. She had formerly been
a school mate of Lady Chiltern, who had learned of her false nature and come to
hate her. She had also been a former lover of Goring when she was poor and
almost married him, but finally accepted the Baron who had even greater wealth
Mrs. Cheveley comes to blackmail Chiltern with the letter. In
exchange she wants him to support the proposed Argentine canal scheme now
before Parliament, in which she has invested and which he is scheduled to
report in Parliament. Chiltern is completely against the scheme because he
knows it is just a speculative swindle.
When Mrs. Cheveley threatens Chiltern, he goes to Goring and
confesses and asks Goring to speak with his wife urging in general terms that a
wife should be understanding of a husbandís deviant past.
When Chiltern refuses Mrs. Cheveley, Mrs Cheveley goes to Lady
Chiltern and reveals the truth.† Lady Chiltern
rejects her husband and sends him away.
Chiltern goes to Goring to seek his advice and support.
Lady Chiltern writes to Goring saying she will come to consult
him at his house. Goring tells his man-servant that he is expecting a lady and
instructs her to be sent into the adjoining parlour. Meanwhile Cheveley comes
unannounced to Goringís house and Goringís servant thinks it is the woman who
was expected. He shows her into the other parlous adjacent to where Chiltern
and Goring are speaking. While waiting, she discovers the letter Lady Chiltern
wrote to Goring and she takes it.
While Chiltern is talking to Goring, Goring opens to door to
the adjacent room so that Lady Chiltern, whom he believes to be inside, can
hear her husbandís genuine repentence. Actually it is Cheveley inside. Chiltern
discovers Cheveley is there, suspects Goring of complicity in blackmail, and
meets Goring and offers to return the letter if he will marry her, but Goring
refuses. He is sure his friend will not accept the bribe and speak falsely in
Parliament. Cheveley insists he will be false to cover his past. Goring agrees
to a wager. If Chiltern speaks falsely in Parliament, he will marry Cheveley.
If he speaks true, she offers to return to Goring the letter Chiltern wrote
earlier to the Baron.
the Parliamentary debate, Chiltern speaks truly and eloquently against the
Argentine canal. His wife is moved, but unable to admit that she forgives. Mrs.
Cheveley accepts defeat and gives Chilternís letter to Goring. But before she
leaves London, she sends to Lord Chiltern the letter Lady Chiltern wrote to
goring as an act of mischief to make him suspect his wife and Goring of having
tells Lady Chiltern that Cheveley has intercepted her letter and sent it to her
husband. Lady Chiltern makes Goring promise not to reveal that she was intending
to meet him at his house at night, an improper act for a married woman. Goring
reluctantly promises not to disclose the real facts. Just at moment Lord
Chiltern, who received the note from Cheveley and has come to confront his
wife, walks in and interrupts Goring in the act of making his promise of
secrecy to lady Chiltern. Her husband now doubly suspects Goring of deceit and
wants to banished him from the house.
confronts his wife and Goring with the letter sent to her by Cheveley. Goring
falsely says that it was a letter written by Lady Chiltern and sent to Goringís
house intended for her husband. Chilternís sister supports the lie by saying
that it was she who delivered the letter to Goringís house. Lady Chiltern lies
in support of this explanation. Rereading the letter, Chiltern realizes that it
could have been addressed to him and accepts the explanations given.
then, Goringís father comes to offer Chiltern a place in the cabinet based on
his eloquent speech against the canal. In order to oblige his wife and win her
back, Chiltern refuses saying he plans to retire.
persuades Lady Chiltern to accept her husbandís genuine change of heart and
make him accept the cabinet post, which he does.
proposes to Chilternís younger sister, who accepts him, but Chiltern refuses his
consent because of what he knows of Goringís past relationship with Mrs.
Cheveley and his belief based on his discovery of her at Goringís house that
the relationship continues even now.
is unwilling to explain the confusion because of his promise to Lady Chiltern
not to disclose the truth. Finally Lady Chiltern has to confess that she lied
to her husband to conceal her intention of seeking Goringís help and that is
why he suspects Goring.
is surprised and perhaps relieved to know that his wife was also capable of an
innocent lie. Finally all are reconciled. Husband and wife are reconciled. He
accepts the cabinet post and agrees to Goringís marriage with his sister.
The positive cannot accomplish at a higher level without
overcoming the threat of the negative. Chiltern was meant for higher
accomplishment. As the opportunity emerges, his own dark past rises and
confronts him. His ability to handle it successfully was essential for his
The negative spurs the positive to greater perfection. Mrs.
Cheveleyís evil intentions resulted in Chiltern clearing his conscience of the
past, making heroic acts of self-sacrifice in first rejecting the blackmail
attempt and second in refusing the cabinet post to satisfy his wife of his
Lord Chiltern had genuinely repented by making the speech. He
chose his love for his wife over his career and agreed to retire. Life did not
force him to return the money and publicly confess. In life, progress is
usually by this means. Everything is based on a false past but society accepts
when there is genuine intention to live at a higher level.
Because Lord Chilternís love for his wife is genuine, Mrs.
Cheveley is moved by her old love of Goring to give up the letter.
Lady Chiltern was forced to lie and confess because she cannot
save an impure man through perfect methods of purity, as Krishna had to fight
falsehood with some resort to falsehood.
The English manís value for honour and truth is absolute.
It developed from the value of Individuality which issued from
work and its achievements.
8. Everyone has a past which is Not an
irrevocable bar, but an obstacle to be surmounted.
Chiltern had given up bribe-taking in practice, but not in his
consciousness. Therefore Mrs. Cheveley comes to rake it up.
as well as society achieve only when the strength is Organised to contain the
mischief of the negative.
film portrays masterfully the various shades of the forces of life recurring to
up the past not only is protection in the present but brings further openings.
up the Cabinet post is essential compensation for the earlier fall. As the
compensation is more than adequate, he changes his mind to accept the post