The novel opens in a painter’s studio with Basil Hallward, the artist that is painting the portrait of a young extraordinary beautiful aristocrat, Dorian Gray, and speaks about him to his friend Lord Henry Wotton. Then Dorian appears and is so fascinated by the words about beauty and youth of Lord Henry that, looking at his portrait, expresses a wish “If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old”.
One day Dorian reveals his two friends his deep love for a young actress, Sibyl Vane and wants them to see her perform. But Sibyl that night, acts without passion and Dorian, disilluded abandons her with cruel words. . During the night she commits suicide and on the portrait appears the first touch of cruelty on the mouth. Dorian decides to hide the picture in a secret room.
From this moment on, the young man leads a double life and rumours about his behaviour spread in London, but Dorian’s face remains as pure and innocent as ever.
One night, when Dorian is thirty-eight, Basil Hallward goes to inform him he is going to Paris where he would like to show the picture. Dorian brings him in front of the canvas and stabs him to keep the secret of his life. Later he blackmails Alan Campbell, once a friend of his, and obliges him to destroy the painter’s body chemically.
One evening, while going out of an opium den, Dorian is seized round his neck by James Vane, Sibyl’s brother, who follows him to Selby Royal, Dorian’s country residence, James is killed in a shooting party. Dorian feels safe and wants to change his life. He goes back to London to see if the picture shows any sign of repentance, but the canvas is even more disgusting. He stabs it, but in so doing kills himself. The servants find a beautiful portrait, but it is hard to recognize Dorian in the wrinkled old man lying dead on the floor.