What is The Picture of Dorian Gray?

Penny Dreadful has several famous characters from classic literature. For example, one of its recurring characters, Dorian Gray, is a well-known character from Oscar Wilde’s “A Picture of Dorian Gray”. On the Penny Dreadful show, Dorian Gray is acted by Reeve Carney. If you’re unfamiliar with the original tale, here’s the summary of the book to catch you up to speed.

picture-of-dorian-gray

  1. Dorian Gray is a  beautiful man who becomes the muse of artist Basil Hallward. Basil becomes obsessed with Dorian’s beauty and paints a portrait of him.
  2. One day, Dorian Gray hears a perspective on hedonism from another character, Lord Henry, and begins to believe that beauty and pleasure are the only worthwhile pursuits in life.
  3. Dorian laments that he wishes he would stay forever young, while the portrait of his likeness aged instead of him.
  4. Dorian Gray starts spending more time with Lord Henry and exploring his senses. One of the past times he’s introduced to is theatre.
  5. While enjoying theatre, he discovers an amazing actress, Sibyl Vane, who acts in many Shakespeare plays. He becomes infatuated and asks for her hand in marriage soon after.
  6. Sibyl Vane immediately agrees and falls in love, referring to Dorian as her Prince Charming. Sibyl’s brother, James Vayne, is suspicious of Dorian and promises to kill him if he hurts his sister.
  7. Sibyl loses interest in acting, because the experience of loving Dorian is preferable to acting in love. Dorian realizes he only loved Sibyl because her beauty was in her acting. He ends his relationship with Sibyl, telling her he no longer is interested in her.
  8. After rejecting Sibyl, Dorian Gray discovers his portrait has changed slightly and the painting’s expression now has a slight sneer. Dorian realizes that his earlier wish came true.
  9. Sibyl commits suicide, and in the next 18 years, Dorian Gray experiments with all kinds of vices and experiences, initially guided by Lord Henry’s ideas on hedonism. The corrupt and carnal ways he lives life begin to affect his standing and reputation in civilized society.
  10. Meanwhile, the portrait of Dorian has become more hideous, aged and disfigured over time with every sin that he has committed.
  11. One day, Basil Hallward finds and confronts Dorian on his sins and indulgences. Dorian does not deny his debauchery but blames Basil for his fate. Out of anger, he stabs and kills Basil.
  12. To hide the evidence of his crime, Dorian blackmails Alan Campbell, a chemist, to destroy Basil’s corpse.
  13. Dorian Gray escapes to an opium den to wash away the guilt of his crime. James Vane, Sibyl’s brother, happens to also be there and sees Dorian.
  14. James pulls a gun and prepares to shoot Dorian for causing his sister’s suicide. However, Dorian is able to convince James that he couldn’t possibly be the man from 18 years ago who jilted his sister.
  15. James Vane lets Dorian leave, but immediately regrets it later that night when a worker from the opium den tells him Dorian hasn’t aged in 18 years.
  16. James continues to pursue Dorian, but unfortunately is killed in a hunting accident a few days later.
  17. Dorian Gray becomes increasingly disturbed by the painting’s disfigurement, which plagues him as a reminder of the evils he has perpetrated.
  18. Dorian makes an attempt to be more moral in order to try to restore the painting. He starts by refraining from breaking the heart of a girl he meets. However, when he checks on the painting, he’s found it has become even worse because his motives were not pure – simply vanity and curiosity.
  19. Finally, Dorian decides the only way to escape his past actions is to destroy the painting, the last evidence of his conscience. As he plunges a knife into the painting, he cries out and collapses.
  20. Servants upon entering his room discover a withered, aged and horrible form on the floor, stabbed through the heart. Next to him, the painting of Dorian Gray is pristine and perfect, restored to its original beauty. Only by the rings on his hand are people able to identify the corpse as Dorian Gray’s body.
  21. “Dorian Gray” was the only book Oscar Wilde ever published.
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