The Nightingale & the Rose Characters

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  • 0:00 Singing of Love
  • 0:43 The Student
  • 1:35 The Nightingale
  • 2:36 Other Inhabitants of…
  • 3:33 The Daughter of the Professor
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

A generous Nightingale helps a lovelorn Student in Oscar Wilde's 'The Nightingale and the Rose.' Learn more about them and some of the other characters in Wilde's fairytale in this lesson.

Singing of Love

Have you ever listened to a bird and wondered what its beautiful song was about? Well, in the case of the Nightingale in Oscar Wilde's classic fairy tale 'The Nightingale and the Rose,' the answer is that she is singing about love. But the Nightingale isn't singing about her own love. Instead, she has been singing about the ideal love and the ideal lover.

Like most of us, the Nightingale values love very much. So much, in fact, that she is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for someone else's love. In this lesson, let's learn a bit more about the Nightingale and the Student she tries to help. We'll also learn a bit more about the other inhabitants of the garden, and the object of the Student's affection.

The Student

First, let's meet the Student who impresses the Nightingale with his love. At first, all he wants is to dance with the girl he loves. You might think he wouldn't have any trouble in the love department because he is a good-looking guy, with hair 'dark as the hyacinth blossom,' red lips, and 'beautiful eyes.' But his love says she won't dance with him unless he gives her a red rose. Problem is, there aren't any red roses in the Student's garden. He's a bit theatrical, so he cries pretty loudly about this lack of rose. At one point, he even 'flung himself down on the grass, and buried his face in his hands, and wept.'

The Student might sound a little childish with this behavior, but he is actually very smart. At least, he is very book-smart. He studies philosophy, and has read 'all that the wise men have written.' But later, when the Nightingale tries to talk with him, he does not understand because he only knows 'things that are written down in books.' Evidently, the Student is smart, but not necessarily wise.

The Nightingale

We've probably all heard love is the most important thing in life. Well, the Nightingale believes it, too. In fact, she believes love is 'more precious than emeralds, and dearer than fine opals.' This is what all her songs are about. When she is sitting in her tree singing with her beautiful voice, she is singing about love and a 'true lover.' Problem is, she's never seen this 'true lover.' So, when she hears the Student crying and sees him for the first time, she is impressed. This must be who she sings about all the time!

The Nightingale wants to help. Our heroine may be small, but she is determined and fearless. She flies all over the garden searching for a tree that can give her a red rose. Even when she hears that she will have to go through pain and kill herself in order to make the red rose, she isn't scared. She does have a moment of hesitation though. After all, she likes being alive. But, that hesitation lasts only a moment, because she says, 'Love is better than Life, and what is the heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?' Not only is she resolved and brave, she is also humble and generous.

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