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Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either and modern literature a complete impossibility”. Algernon, (Act I)
By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore, Pakistan. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail, qaisarjanjua@gmail, firstname.lastname@example.org
LIFE AND WORKS OF OSCAR WILDE Oscar Wilde was born in 1854 to William Wilde and Lady Jane Francesca Wilde, prominent intellectuals in Dublin, Ireland. Though not of the aristocracy, the Wildes were nonetheless well off and sent Oscar to the finest schools as he grew up. Oscar seems especially influenced by his mother, a brilliantly witty raconteur, and he was frequently invited while still a child to participate in their intellectual circle of friends. Wilde entered Trinity College Dublin in 1871 and enjoyed an accomplished career, garnering awards and studying the classics as well as theories of aestheticism. In 1874, he transferred to Oxford in England and studied under the divergent tutorials of John Ruskin (a Renaissance man of many scholarly talents) and Walter Pater (an influential proponent of the new school of aestheticism). Wilde negotiated their conflicting philosophies while he experimented with flashy clothing and discovered his homosexual tendencies. Upon graduating from Oxford, Wilde had a brief flirtation with Catholicism, even meeting with the Pope, but his independent ideas prevented his exclusive attachment to religion. In 1881, he published his first volume of verse (Poems), and was a well-known enough entity to be satirized by a Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera. He moved to the avantgarde neighbourhood of Chelsea in London, but his father’s death and the family’s snowballing debts forced him to embark on a lecture tour of the United States in 1882. Upon arriving at customs, Wilde boldly made his now-famous statement: ”I have nothing to declare except my genius.” On tour, he dressed up as a dandy and advocated the philosophy of the Aesthetic, the idea that art should exist solely for art’s sake or, as he wrote elsewhere, it should be “useless.” While on tour, Wilde also produced his first, unsuccessful play in New York, Vera. In 1884, Wilde married a shy and rich Irishwoman, Constance Lloyd, and the two moved in to a posh London house. Wilde briefly edited Woman’s World magazine while he wrote a collection of fairy tales and more essays championing the Aesthetic movement. In the 1890s, he exploded on to the literary scene with his masterpiece novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, a Faustian tale about beauty and youth, and a string of highly successful plays, including Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892), Salome (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), and An Ideal Husband (1895). His last play, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), is also considered his greatest
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and the modern paragon of the comedy of manners. By this time, Wilde’s flamboyant appearance, refined wit, and melodious speaking voice made him one of London’s most sought-after dinner-party guests. However, by now Wilde was infatuated with the younger, beautiful poet Lord Alfred Douglas (known as “Bosie”), and he was not shy about flaunting their sexual relationship. Douglas’s father, the Marquess of Queensbury, accused Wilde of sodomy. Wilde, never one to back down from a fight, charged Queensbury with libel. However, Queensbury located several of Wilde’s letters to Bosie as well as other incriminating evidence. Alongside the provocative material in Wilde’s work, the writer was found guilty of homosexuality in a second trial and sentenced to two years of hard labour. In 1897, while in prison, Wilde wrote De Profundis, an examination of his newfound spirituality. After his release, he moved to France under an assumed name. He wrote The Ballad of Reading Gaol in 1898 and published two letters on the poor conditions of prison; one of the letters helped reform a law to prevent children from imprisonment. His new life in France, however, was lonely, impoverished, and humiliating. Wilde died in 1900 in a Paris hotel room. Nevertheless, he retained his epigrammatic wit until his last breath; he is rumoured to have said in the drab hotel room, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has to go.” Critical and popular attention to Wilde has experienced a great resurgence; numerous films based on his plays and life have delighted audiences, while his writings remain a wellspring of witty and subtle thought on aestheticism, morality, and society. WILDE THE ARTIST In the Victorian Age, which encompassed the last quarter of the nineteenth century, England was at its highest point. The British Empire extended all over the world, prompting the phrase, “The sun never sets in the British Empire.” The era saw the flourishing of the English aristocracy, but much like the contemporaneous Gilded Age in America, the rise of the elite created a huge wealth disparity between the very rich and the very poor. This gap became fertile ground for many artists, particularly Charles Dickens, who made a career of examining the social conditions on the lower rungs of English society. The period also played host to a rise of new ideas, most importantly the revolutionary ideas of Darwin, whose work on evolution became
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Wilde pokes fun at the institution of marriage. Of course. overly proper. qaisarjanjua@gmail. rather than focusing on the lower classes or social conditions. which he saw as a practice surrounded by hypocrisy and absurdity. The Victorian novelist Thomas Hardy adopted a fatalist philosophy along Darwinian lines. Ultimately. Because of the play’s profound success. Oscar Wilde. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. The works of Jane Austen and George Eliot alone provide multiple examples of the genre. dialogue and characterization. and concerned with money. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. His characters are typical Victorian snobs.com . marriage. they are often arrogant. This is the major theme of the play. The Importance of Being Earnest nevertheless leaves the audience under the impression that marriage and social values are often tied together in destructive ways.extremely influential in the last part of the nineteenth century. Lady Bracknell in particular embodies the stereotype of the Victorian English aristocrat. a world with which he was personally familiar. chose to satirize the life of the English aristocracy. wit. both immediate and enduring. Pakistan. which is distinctly Victorian in tone. the main concern of all the characters in the play is something that Wilde viewed as rather trivial: marriage. Wilde focuses on the easy life of the wealthy. Indeed. Although the play ends happily. the aristocracy does not see marriage as an organ of love. but rather as a tool for achieving or sustaining social stature. In basing his work on the problems and trials of marriage. none of who seem to work at all. and social life. The Importance of Being Earnest has come to represent Oscar Wilde’s late-Victorian view of the aristocracy. adapts this traditional theme to a contemporary vision. Wilde deliberately adds a Victorian-era interpretation to the age-old English formula of the marriage plot. the play is often seen as providing a deep insight into London society at both its finest and its most absurd before the dawn of the twentieth century. formal. 4 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. man was viewed as moving within forces beyond his control. in which now removed from his privileged place at the centre of the world.
com . Marriage had long been an important issue in English literature. James’s Theatre in London on Feb. Chief among the delights of the play is the characters' confused sense of values. and class. 1895. above all. This is because epigrams encapsulate many of Wilde's beliefs on what art should do. it is also dramatically useless to the play. Wilde critiqued the starchy façade of politeness he observed in society. The packed audience dressed to the nines in the dandified fashion of the playwright and rollicked with laughter at the on-stage caricatures that resembled them. most are universal. they are endlessly quotable and continue to delight audiences with their blend of sophistication and absurdity. often paradoxical statements refer to contemporary events (the state of 19th-century French drama. The epigram is the epitome of this ideal. and it has its philosophy that we should treat all the trivial things of life seriously. and Wilde exposed its manipulative use as a social tool of advancement. qaisarjanjua@gmail. beautiful in its elegant construction. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. In other words. he details the “shallow mask of manner. Part of that success comes from Wilde’s seemingly infinite supply of piquant epigrams. art. especially in regards to marriage and morality. men.” Wilde also directed his actors to speak all their lines in earnest. epigrams have little effect on the story. Nevertheless. except for Miss Prism. for instance). considered Wilde’s best play. 14. all the women in the play have ulterior motives when it comes to romance.A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE PLAY Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest opened at the St. Wilde described the play as “exquisitely trivial. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. the play has proved a timeless hit beyond its primary demographic.” as Cecily calls it. Pakistan. Beyond pontificating on beauty. and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality. art should be beautiful and serve little social function‹it should be “useless. women. An Ideal Husband. that aristocratic Victorians wore. on the month-old heels of Wilde’s previous success. Though some of the concise.” as he has written. Though the Victorian characters are usually anything but earnest. the play is also a masterful send-up of Victorian manners. many hail it as the greatest stage comedy of all time. without a wink to the audience that they were in on the joke. As for morality. a delicate bubble of fancy. they wholeheartedly 5 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. hilarious reflections on beauty. One feature of the epigram that ensures the play’s durability is that it can be separated from the play’s narrative.
6 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Wilde spent little time cataloguing the gritty details of industrializing England. as did so many of his contemporaries.believe they are. Lord Alfred Douglas (“Bosie”). but it is his irrepressible wit that sets him apart. Wilde’s heady success with Earnest was short-lived. One of the ways Wilde’s wit manifests itself is in puns. Running throughout the entire play is the double meaning behind the word earnest. While a comedy of manners. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. and the artist is free to occupy his role as the maker of beautiful things. Pakistan. much of the contemporary audience for the play is reputed to have howled at all the inside references to London’s homosexual subculture. qaisarjanjua@gmail. and his life and career began to unravel. The Importance of Being Earnest. Within the play’s framework of false identities. This wit is the key to Wilde’s own aesthetic style. Wilde’s infamous trial began soon after. Wilde believed art was free to be beautiful. showed up to the opening night. In this independence. father of Wilde’s young lover. In claiming to be Ernest. Wilde also planted several possible allusions to the male characters’ homosexuality. Yet even as he played with his theme for laughs. Wilde was leading dual lives as a married man and an active homosexual. Whether or not one believes this argument. both Algernon and Jack had. the play also uses overtly farcical techniques to downplay its seriousness. it also revelled in their witty banter and rambunctious lives. Wilde was undoubtedly an astute social critic. With his emphasis on beauty. the Marquess of Queensbury. been earnest. unbeknownst to themselves. and while making fun of their absurdities and excesses.” and then discovering that because of a number of remarkable circumstances they had not in fact been lying at all. and it was only in being useless that art could exist for no sake other than its own. its characters lying in order to be “Ernest. Wilde believed in art for art’s own sake. Though he was barred entrance. and the audience is willing to forgive the characters’ irresponsibility and various indiscretions. focused on the elite. which functions both as a male name and as an adjective describing seriousness. Moreover. like so many of his works. which simultaneously scoffs at the uselessness of art and trumpets that uselessness as art’s greatest value. The plays twists and turns around this theme. which conveys both humour and social satire. Perhaps the conspicuous reason that Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest has endured as one of the greatest and most popular works of literature to emerge from Victorian England is its brilliant wit. Unfortunately. as an aesthete influenced by such men as Walter Pater.com . qaisarjanjoa@yahoo.
It is very romantic to be in love. Algernon responds. and also perhaps by making them groan from time to time (particularly with the pun about the dentist).Wilde saw earnestness as being a key ideal in Victorian culture. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. these epigrams express ironic views contrary to what we would expect characters to believe. and so “earnestly” concerned with the maintenance of social norms and the status quo that it had become almost inhuman. Why. stern. it is an earnestness of going after what they wanted. There are other smaller puns throughout the text. Also fundamental to Wilde’s wit is his use of epigrams--short. We see this type of humour at work. unwilling to act earnestly according to social status and convention. conservative. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. The Importance of Being Earnest makes a tentative further claim: that perhaps Algernon. Jack announces that he has come to town to ask Gwendolen to marry him. and Gwendolyn have been the earnest ones all along. “I thought you had come up for pleasure? I call that business.” He goes on to say. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. However. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. With this. these puns demonstrate an interest in playing games with the English language. “I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. as is the joke about being “exploded” in Act III. and who are proven not to have been acting dishonestly at all. it is also important to remember that this is a play and is therefore meant to be performed live before an actual audience. On one level. one may be accepted. Pakistan. witty sayings--to shed light on a given situation. The play mocks this earnestness. for instance. some of which are admittedly bad. The Importance of Being Earnest lightly shows the limitations and unhappiness produced by such a way of life. it is the characters who do not act earnestly who are rewarded with love. they at least act honestly with themselves. I’ll certainly try to forget the fact. Oftentimes. Their earnestness is not one of telling the truth and fitting in. If I ever get married. Jack. in Algernon’s pontifications on marriage in Act I. Cecily. which is generally 7 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. and never completely able to escape their own delusions. Puns are a means of engaging that audience by keeping them alert and interested. In the figure of Lady Bracknell in particular.com . One usually is. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Then the excitement is all over. willing to lie to get what they want. Much of British society struck Wilde as dry. The line about the dentist and the construction of false impressions in Act I is one example of such a pun.” Lines such as these are what make the play truly memorable because they mock our own preconceived ideas about marriage. I believe.
qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. in large part because both its humour and its themes are as timely today as they have ever been. religion and all sorts of other staples in modern society. its participants comported themselves in overly sincere. Algernon is being totally absurd.com . The rapid flip-flopping of truths and lies. Jack and Algernon have lied about their names. sketched out to be a rebel.” But it also turns out that they were both inadvertently telling the truth (or most of it. it does so in a light-hearted fashion while creating some of the most memorable characters in the history of English theatre. English manners and customs. speaking against the fundaments of society. This duality is most apparent in Algernon and Jack’s episodes of “Bunburying. one cannot forget that one is married. men. Overall. DUAL IDENTITIES A subset of the “Mask of manners” theme (see above). the name implies that its bearer truly is earnest. shows how truly muddled the Victorian values of honesty and responsibility were. and yet doing so in such a flamboyant. including marriage. However.viewed as a sacrosanct institution. It pokes fun at the aristocracy. Pakistan. Furthermore.” as the name inspires “absolute confidence”. Wilde exposes this divide in scenes such as when Gwendolen and Cecily behave themselves in front of the servants or when Lady Bracknell warms to Cecily upon discovering she is rich. in other words. has never been successfully matched in English theatre. women. Wilde explores in depth what it means to have a dual identity in Victorian society. humorous way that the criticism itself becomes embedded in a matchless web of humour. love. and by extension Wilde’s own. Algernon’s clever. the literary world. The Importance of Being Earnest has many goals. Algernon is a perfect example of a Wildean character. Frequently in Victorian society.” Both women want to marry someone named “Ernest. cruel attitudes. witty humour. its characters don and take off their masks of manners whenever it is convenient. qaisarjanjua@gmail. honest. 8 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. But the criticism is layered in humour. and responsible. at least). Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. MAJOR THEMES MASKS OF MANNERS The major target of Wilde’s scathing social wit is the hypocritical mask of society. polite ways while they harboured conversely manipulative.” or their creation of an alter ego to allow their own evasion of responsibility. It has always been a huge commercial success. of earnestness and duplicity. but the play truly pivots around the word “earnest. so they are not truly “earnest. marriage.
for example. so does Cecily literally write correspondence between herself and Ernest (before she has ever met him). Only Jack seems to have earnest romantic desires. and gossip without consequence. just as Algernon and Jack seemingly “write” their fictional personae of Bunbury and Ernest. gambol. That Jack truly has been unwittingly leading a life of dual identities shows that our alter egos are not as far from our “real” identities as we would think. though why he would love the selfabsorbed Gwendolen is questionable. only because they have disreputable backgrounds (Gwendolen is aroused by learning that Jack was an orphan. Wilde has described the play as about characters who trivialize serious matters and solemnize trivial matters. these ulterior motives are dwarfed by those of Lady Bracknell. However. and she snubs Cecily until she discovers she has a large personal fortune. though not by much‹Algernon proposes to the young and pretty Cecily within minutes of meeting her. CRITIQUE OF MARRIAGE AS A SOCIAL TOOL Wilde’s most concrete critique in the play is of the manipulative desires revolving around marriage. Wilde was well aware of the dual identities of sexual orientation. qaisarjanjua@gmail. for Wilde also indulged in the aristocratic bounty of the day. Cecily is excited by Algernon’s “wicked” reputation). Pakistan. The men are better.com . not with reality. Unlike the men who are free to come and go as they please. it appears. As a closeted homosexual most of his life who was also married. Their desires to marry someone named “Ernest” demonstrates how their romantic dreams hinge upon titles. in the way that Algernon is aghast by the absence of cucumber sandwiches (ones he ate). She does not consent to Gwendolen's marriage to Jack on the basis of his being an orphan.Wilde drops some hints that Bunburying may describe homosexual liaisons. But other characters go beyond this. we can see these conditions. trivial lives of the aristocracy good-naturedly. But Wilde has a more serious intent: he subscribes to the late-19th-century philosophy of aestheticism espoused by Walter Pater and others that argues for the necessity of art’s primary relationship with beauty. Gwendolen and Cecily are interested in their mates. IDLENESS OF LEISURE CLASS AND THE AESTHETE Wilde good-naturedly exposes the empty. who epitomizes the Victorian tendency to view marriage as a financial arrangement. Art 9 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. she must be mentally satisfied with this fictional identity. or at the very least is an escape from the oppression of marriage. not character. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. or by the serious class conflicts that are quickly smoothed over by wit. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. Algernon is the greatest example of a hedonist who likes nothing better than to eat.
Algernon’s idleness is not merely laziness. rather. specifically those of farce. 10 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. This tone of wit and farce is distinctively Wildean. He echoes dialogue and actions. uses comic reversals.should not mirror reality. his compact. Wilde has said. Wilde also employs several comic tools of “low” comedy. witty maxims that often paradoxically expose the absurdities of society. Frequently he takes an established cliché and alters it to make its illogic somehow more logical (“in married life three is company and two is none”). it is useful for our appreciation of beauty). While these gems are in place for sophisticated critiques of society. absurd ending whose implausibility we overlook because it is so ridiculous. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. only someone so skilled in both genres could combine them so successfully. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Therefore.com . Pakistan. it should be “useless” (in the sense of not serving a social purpose. and explodes a fast-paced. they invariably think of his epigrams. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. but the product of someone who has cultivated an esteemed sense of aesthetic uselessness. COMEDY OF MANNERS AND FARCE When people think of Oscar Wilde.
with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack. Bunbury. for when he needs to get out of town. Jack joins him on the sofa. vowing he will never marry. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. are coming to tea. Algernon is doubtful. his butler. Miss Prism. he needs an excuse to get into town. he has invented a ne’er-do-well younger brother named Ernest who lives in Albany. Since Jack must maintain a high level of morality to set an example. He says that while he does not play with accuracy. while fending off from the cucumber sandwiches (which Algernon gladly eats). Algernon ridicules the notion of marriage. although both Lane and Algernon believe his name is Ernest). Algernon enters. Pakistan. After he muses on the lower class’s inability to set a good example for the upper class. he has to clear up the issue of Cecily. Cecily now lives at Jack’s place in the country under the guidance of her governess. and Algernon says before Jack can marry Gwendolen. who adopted him. Cecily. then takes two of the finished sandwiches and sits on the sofa.PART 1 SUMMARY In Algernon Moncrieff’s stylish and artistic London flat in 1895. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. qaisarjanjua@gmail. he plays with “wonderful expression. Algernon confesses that he has created an invalid in the country he tends to.com . arranges afternoon tea.” He asks Lane if he has prepared the cucumber sandwiches for Lady Bracknell's arrival. since she has written “From little Cecily. he reveals he has come to London to propose to her. Ernest’s constant problems frequently require Jack’s attendance. Jack says she is his aunt. They discuss marriage a little‹Algernon thinks it is “demoralising”--before Algernon excuses Lane. Lane brings in Ernest Worthing (who is listed as “John Worthing” in the cast list and “Jack” in the body of the play. Algernon says he has always suspected Jack was a “Bunburyist. and he wants the case back. 11 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore.” and now he has proof. Therefore. he shows that the inscription is from someone named Cecily. Jack explains that Thomas Cardew. After playing piano in an adjoining room.DETAILED SUMMARY WITH CRITICAL REMARKS ACT I . Algernon calls Lane to bring in Jack's cigarette case. her daughter. When Jack discovers that Lady Bracknell‹Algernon’s aunt‹and Gwendolen.” Jack says his name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country. willed Jack to be guardian to his granddaughter. Lane. who has just returned from the country.
com .” but Algernon maintains that he will need him more than ever if he marries.Jack insists that he is through with “Ernest. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Pakistan. 12 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore.
makes an immediate critique of marriage as “demoralising. convicted in 1895 for homosexual sodomy with Lord Alfred Douglas (“Bosie”). Indeed. qaisarjanjua@gmail. three is company and two is none” wittily captures the monotony of monogamy by playing it against the conventional “two is company. For instance.” The pleasure in his epigrams comes not only from the wordplay or ideas. That Wilde chose “Bunbury” as the name for double identities may prove telling.” Separating “bun” and “bury. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail.” some read it as a description of male-to-male intercourse. A man who marries without knowing Bunbury has a very tedious time of it. His skill lies not only in coining wholly new epigrams. art should not be a straightforward representation of reality‹it should not be “accurate.com . even marrying. Pakistan.” and throughout the scene the best bon mots are reserved for mocking that most traditional romantic covenant. Wilde was heavily influenced by Walter Pater and the other aesthetes of the Victorian age. Wilde is one of history’s more (in) famous homosexuals. They believed art should concern itself only with its aesthetic qualities that art should exist for art’s sake.” Algernon clearly relates the need for an alter ego to the oppressive sexuality of marriage.” Aside from continuing the motif of intercourse with the word “part.” as Algernon would say‹but it should be an extension of its creator’s artistic styles‹it should have “wonderful expression. “in married life. Wilde made greater attempts to hide his sexual orientation. through the sceptical Algernon. Therefore. typically witty or paradoxical saying. but in subverting established ones. However. Is Wilde connecting his characters' need to Bunbury to his own dual identities‹his public. a concise. we can read a homosexual subtext into many of the lines now: “Nothing will induce me to part with Bunbury. heterosexual one (he was married) and his private. homosexual one? Some critical attention has been given to the word “Bunbury. homosexual audience.ANALYSIS Algernon’s throwaway quip to Lane that “anyone can play [piano] accurately but I play with wonder expression” is a good thumbnail of Wilde’s philosophy of art. Prior to that. it has been confirmed that there are several allusions to London’s homosexual world intended for Wilde’s contemporary.” Wilde. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. but from teasing out the logic in his seemingly illogical claims. three’s a crowd. 13 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Wilde is undoubtedly the master of the epigram.
We see two great symbols of the upper class here. the butler. Jack confesses to Gwendolen that he likes her. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. He is foremost a relentless consumer who cannot resist pleasure. but here he makes the sofa a place for social chatter. she maintains. She leaves and Algernon enters. found in a handbag on a train. Jack tells Algernon what happened. The cucumber sandwiches also become a motif for the hedonism of rich. for instance. as she is young and pretty. Lane. and also says he will kill off his brother Ernest later in the week. a comfortable place to while away the afternoon without work. when Algernon is upset over his depleted supply of champagne. asking about his habits. and so on. but he asks her if she would still love him if his name were not Ernest‹if it were Jack. and all the conflicts are quickly resolved through humour.Another staple of the play is its humorous depiction of class tensions. Lady Bracknell interrogates Jack.com . He admits that he was an orphan. what on earth is the use of them?” But this is not a serious play. and she admits that she likes him. is given his fair share of droll sayings.PART 2 SUMMARY Lane introduces Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen. qaisarjanjua@gmail. and even Algernon seems to recognize that the lower class has more power than they seem to: “if the lower orders don’t set us a good example. and orders her to wait in the carriage. but he cannot resist devouring them himself. The sofa is the centre of the leisure class’s idleness. but Jack does not want this to happen. his background. Wilde himself would spend hours in deep thought upon his sofa. Algernon express horror that there are no cucumber sandwiches. Algernon expresses interest in meeting Cecily. Lady Bracknell says that only she or her father can engage Gwendolen. ACT I . Pakistan. and Gwendolen informs her of their engagement. Algernon supposedly saves them for Lady Bracknell. She is aghast at this disclosure and says she will not allow her daughter to marry him. and she accepts. He promises to be present to arrange music at her reception next Saturday. Lane’s wit deflates the discussion of class and turns the topic to marriage. He tells Lady Bracknell that he will be unable to attend her dinner tonight. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. Jack is happy. She would not. After she leaves. He goes with her into the music room. He proposes to her. He 14 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Lady Bracknell comes in. and his compulsion sets up many humorous sight gags. too especially since she has always wanted to love someone named Ernest. as Bunbury is ill. his income.
Wilde gives her some of his wittiest lines to bring out her quirky way of seeing the world. and expresses her fear to Jack that her mother will not let them marry. and Jack escorts her out. on the other hand. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. The many epigrammatic critiques of marriage in the play. Jack warns him that Bunbury will only get him in trouble. we can read more into Gwendolen’s desire to marry someone named Ernest. Marriage. Jack’s warning to Algernon that Bunbury will get him into trouble some day is a projection of his own anxieties‹he has already gotten himself into a fine mess with his own dual identity. is presented here. They debate what to do tonight and settle on doing nothing. that she and Gwendolen will become good friends. Worthing.has no doubt. Mr. but the secondary conflict is far more original and engaging: Gwendolen will only marry someone named Ernest. ANALYSIS The main conflict of the play. and Algernon slyly writes this down and checks a train timetable. She asks for his address in the country. and we are not expected to take the relationships too seriously. but Algernon expresses some anxiety over Bunbury. a farce. The conventional parental conflict over love maintains our interest in the love story. is the only kind of art most people can practice. foremost.” and this word resounds with Wilde’s aesthetic philosophy. and Algernon tells him he will be going Bunburying tomorrow. In the same sense. Lane comes in. like an artist. She promises to write him daily when he returns there. Wilde shows. demonstrate the cruel reality of marriage. Lady Bracknell is a remarkable comic creation. Romance. Jack returns. She calls it her “ideal.” But these lines are always linked to her character. it is the one field in which they can project ideals. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Lane introduces Gwendolen. Gwendolen’s idea of marriage‹and most people’s‹revolves around an ideal romance that does not exist. as in one of her most famous quotes: “To lose one parent. however. glowing over Gwendolen. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. the paragon of the highfalutin Victorian lady who stresses good breeding above all other matters. frequently falls short of its ideal. when Jack informs her that he was 15 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. He believes art should strive to attain an ideal beauty and not mirror a dull reality. But she is far from a boring stereotype. Lady Bracknell’s snobbery over Jack’s disreputable background. may be regarded as a misfortune. whereas art‹at least good art‹can survive in the rarefied atmosphere of the ideal. While the play is. Pakistan. however. which she believes Jack’s real name to be.com . to lose both looks like carelessness. She tells Algernon to turn his back.
Algernon states that “It is awfully hard work doing nothing. tells Merriman to bring him to her. theatre. Miss Prism and Cecily discuss Jack’s serious nature. Algernon announces that he must leave Monday morning. Cecily. Wilde ends with “All art is quite useless. authors of not only their own destinies. When Jack and Algernon debate what do at night.” He does not suggest that art has no place in society‹quite the contrary‹but that it should not be used as a social tool. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. and explains that he is 16 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. playgrounds which they can manipulate to their pleasing. Miss Prism believes it is due to his anxiety over his brother. then. their butler. Merriman. it is clear. are “quite useless” and have little effect on reality.PART 1 SUMMARY In the garden at Jack’s country house. He flirts with Cecily and they exit into the house. Their creation of alter egos makes them virtual playwrights. He and Miss Prism leave for a walk together. Cecily also discloses that Jack has decided to send Ernest to Australia. Pakistan.” He swiftly diagnose the “problem” of the leisure class. like art. He tells Miss Prism he has returned earlier than expected. does require hard work) should have no point. qaisarjanjua@gmail. When he learns that Jack will be back Monday afternoon. they appreciate their lives as works of art. we get a glimpse into their social world ballet. Jack enters the garden. restaurants. Dr. If anything. especially to a mature lady.” That he was found in a handbag on a train is enough of a black mark on his record. Algernon enters. However. a writer who used his art to galvanize reform for England’s oppressed working class. Miss Prism and Chasuble return. but he also further explores Wilde’s aesthetic goals. I don’t mind hard work where there is no definite object of mind. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. ACT II . but of fictional lives. pretending to be Ernest. Wilde is the opposite of Charles Dickens. She urges him to get married.found in a handbag on the Brighton line. and even the word “immaterial” reminds us that it is Jack’s very lack of a material background that disturbs her so greatly.” Prefacing his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray with a series of maxims about art. dressed in black. Art (which. Jack and Algernon. no “definite object of mind. that maintaining their idleness is “work” itself. excited to meet Jack's brother. He and Cecily briefly discuss his “wicked” reputation. indulging in art and pleasure. are two social aesthetes who recognize that their lives. she replies “The line is immaterial. They live the life of Victorian dandies. Chasuble enters the garden. announces the arrival of Ernest Worthing.com .
Even though who are seemingly pure Gwendolen and Cecily are clearly aroused by the purportedly “wicked. the unsuspecting infant also inherits his family’s money and is destined from birth to be a prince or a pauper. The plot thickens in this scene‹Jack needs to get the fake “Ernest” out before he is christened in the early evening. and Cecily emerges from the house. but Cecily says that “Ernest” has been telling him about his friend Bunbury. others are constantly engaged in varying games of deception that are no less important and hypocritical. That would be hypocrisy. That names play such a big role in the plot furthers the theme of masks. qaisarjanjua@gmail. She tells him his brother is in the dining room. In the same way. much as Lady Bracknell insists others accord to the conventions of Victorian society. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail.” disreputable backgrounds of Jack and Algernon. As before. and care less for who they really are. and is at the mercy of his parents. Jack says he doesn’t have a brother. for instance. Merriman enters and says he has put up Ernest in the room next to Jack’s. and Jack asks him if he would christen him this afternoon.” Of course. She tells him not to disown his own brother. must learn to behave like a lady. we see the characters treat solemn matters with carefree abandon Ernest’s (Algernon’s) death and amazing resurrection is hardly 17 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Jack refuses to shake Algernon’s hand.dressed in black for his brother. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. he cannot stand letting others label him. ANALYSIS Cecily explicitly states the major theme of the play to Algernon: “I hope you have not been leading a double life. Likewise. and runs into the house and brings out Algernon. and that someone who takes care of an invalid must have some good in him. Chasuble suggests he will discuss it in his sermon next Sunday. people are forced into labelled expectations of society. while Algernon expresses an interest in Cecily.com . as Ernest has been called back to town. Jack shakes his hand. pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. His point is that everyone in Victorian society wears some kind of social mask. He agrees. Everyone but Jack and Algernon leaves. Jack orders the dogcart. so he creates his own mischievous persona in Bunbury. Merriman leaves. while his happens to revolve around his sexual orientation. A name is but a label. the infant does not choose his own name. Under pressure from Cecily. Cecily. Jack tells Algernon he must leave. It is precisely these societal restraints that Algernon rebels against. Pakistan. who died in Paris last night. Wilde's main interest is in those who pretend to be good but are really wicked all the time.
but Cecily says it can wait. They are a more rational counterpoint to the rash romances of the younger couples. Worthing’s ward. like Algernon. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Merriman announces that Gwendolen has asked to see Mr. She shows him the box of letters he “wrote” to her (which she really wrote to herself). respectively. She wishes Cecily 18 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. and then tells Merriman on his reappearance that the dogcart can come back next week. but invites her in. and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality. We also see hints that Miss Prism wants to marry Chasuble. she says she doubts she would be able to love him were his name Algernon. This seriocomic tone of sincerity not only keeps the laughs coming as the characters trivialize or solemnize the solemn and trivial. as Cecily and Gwendolen are for Algernon and Jack. Worthing (Jack). Miss Prism suggests a solution to the problems of so many marriages: one should marry only when one has gained some maturity. and she points out that they have been engaged for three months‹ever since she heard of Jack’s wicked brother Ernest. when “Ernest” asks her. Algernon compliments Cecily to her great delight. but is put off when she learns that Cecily is Mr.” The play’s original subtitle was “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People. but further develops one of Wilde’s major themes: everyone whole-heartedly believes he or she is leading an earnest life‹they may just be earnestly flouting convention. she has loved him. Pakistan. Gwendolen immediately takes to Cecily. He says he needs to see Chasuble quickly about “christening I mean on most important business.com . She also admits that she loves him because his name is Ernest. ACT II .given a second thought‹but they obsess over small problems. she also seems to care genuinely about Chasuble. and Algernon tells her that Jack has ordered him to leave. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo.” then leaves. Merriman tells him the dogcart is ready. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail.” and Wilde also directed his actors before the play’s first production to deliver their lines with full-blown sincerity. and she is not interested in him solely because of his supposedly “wicked” background. Wilde himself described the play as holding the philosophy that “we should treat all the trivial things of life very seriously. Cecily informs him that he has gone off to see Chasuble some time ago. they share an interest in scholarly pursuits.PART 2 SUMMARY Cecily enters the garden to water the flowers. While Miss Prism also mocks many of marriage's effects. He asks Cecily to marry him.
Gwendolen says that his name is Algernon. as the man before them is her Uncle Jack. and it is revealed that they have both arranged for Chasuble to christen them “Ernest” later that evening. though the possibility of that now occurring seems unlikely. Cecily says she knew there was a misunderstanding. solely on the basis of his wicked reputation. she has “arranged” her own marriage. we can sympathize with her decision. and Cecily calls him Ernest and they kiss. inventing fictional personae to unburden their responsibilities. as “Ernest.com . They ask Jack to explain. he denies it. Pakistan. Merriman and the servant leave. But with 21stcentury hindsight. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. They bicker greedily over the muffins that have been laid out. nor any brother at all.” 19 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Algernon thinks that Jack has deceived Gwendolen. Jack is angry at Algernon for what his Bunburying has gotten them into. she is going to marry Ernest. she had accepted before she even met him. They compare diary entries. She asks if he is engaged to Cecily. They both simply want to marry their loves. She asks if he is married to Gwendolen.were not so young and alluring. but he refuses. the women are far more restricted. Jack enters the garden. is still susceptible to temptation. like Jack and Algernon. Cecily is shocked. Cecily. Jack repeatedly tells Algernon to go. and for deceiving Cecily. qaisarjanjua@gmail. The girls argue and insult each other. Gwendolen feels she has the claim. Algernon enters. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. Ironically. Cecily’s acceptance of Algernon’s proposal is anything but an act of true love. he laughs and denies it. and she and Gwendolen hold each other for protection and make up. and the women launch full-blown verbal attacks. He confesses he has neither brother Ernest. has created a character‹that of Jack's brother Ernest‹and she has taken the motif of the character-as-author a step further by literally writing correspondence between herself and “Ernest. Cecily and Gwendolen assume coldly polite manners. Cecily tells her that she is not Ernest’s ward. but his brother Jack’s‹rather. As Gwendolen goes into shock.” despite his moral nature. The women retire to the house. adding insults at every turn. and he and Gwendolen kiss. Merriman enters with another servant to set out tea. since Ernest asked to marry her yesterday. While the men in the play are free to gambol about. ANALYSIS This scene provides the ultimate demonstration of Wilde’s view of marriage as a sham and a device purely for social standing.
” The name. When Algernon asks Cecily if she would still love him were his name not Ernest. both men. this is the great irony of the play. Once again. sounding like “earnest. Cecily holds the same feelings for the name Ernest as Gwendolen: both believe it inspires “absolute confidence. email@example.com . and Algernon and Jack wrestle over the muffins. they trivialize the solemn and solemnize the trivial. Still. As Wilde points out in his stage directions. are slavishly reduced to their insatiable hedonism (as Algernon was with the cucumber sandwiches).” seems to show only uprightness and honesty. and the postured manners are where Wilde finds most of the humour. such as Cecily’s idea of Earnest as a name that inspires “absolute confidence. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. we can already sense the conflict that will arise over the confusion of their respective Ernests. While most of The Importance of Being Earnest‹with its persistently biting social critiques‹comes straight from the tradition of the comedy of manners. and Algernon’s slip when he says he must be christened repeats Jack’s earlier words. Of course. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. Gwendolen later says she knew from the start that she disliked Cecily. Repetition of dialogue and action is the main tool. as Jack and Algernon have both falsified the name. Rather than focus on the “Ernest” problem at hand. under which both girls chafe. Certain phrases. 20 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. it is foremost a comedy of manners.” echo prior phrases (Gwendolen same words). these hyperkinetic. Wilde also uses visual contrasts to produce humour. the belief in names as a signifier of a person’s worth is ill-founded. as the two couples mimic each other almost perfectly. Cecily and Gwendolen sit and rise several times as they speak to show their various agitated states. The significance of names is made more ridiculous when Gwendolen says she likes Cecily's name and can tell immediately they will be great friends.As one might expect. the “presence of servants exercises a restraining influence. especially Algernon. Wilde relies less on epigrams in this scene but utilizes more classic comic devices.” Reminded of their social standing. blunt devices of repetition and contrast are more in line with the rollicking genre of French farce. the arguing girls put on all the cold airs of noblesse oblige Wilde has ridiculed throughout (though previously Cecily indignantly states: “This is no time for the shallow mask of manners!”) Even Jack and Algernon’s fight over the muffins reminds us of how absurd the idle rich can be. The dialogue when all four characters are present and revelations are made relies most heavily on repetition. it mirrors Jack’s previous question to Gwendolen. Pakistan.
Jack tells Lady Bracknell that if she consents to his marriage with Gwendolen. Jack. Lady Bracknell refuses to allow Algernon to be baptized. in which Algernon impersonated Jack’s brother. Miss Prism enters and. and mentions that Miss Prism is waiting for him. Chasuble says he will leave.ACT III SUMMARY Inside the country house. Lady Bracknell asks Algernon about his friend Bunbury. Pakistan. and he declines to give it. He says that he suspects Algernon of being untruthful. and Algernon says that he is engaged to her. Lady Bracknell tells Jack that he may not speak any more to her daughter. Lady Bracknell arrives. and Gwendolen informs her of her engagement. He recounts this afternoon’s events. Chasuble enters and announces that the christenings are ready. Lady Bracknell continually doubts the reputability of Cecily’s background. Jack leaves excitedly. Only when Lady Bracknell discovers Cecily has a large personal fortune does she warm to her and give her consent. Cecily feels she cannot wait this long to be married. qaisarjanjua@gmail. To Jack’s increasing frustration. Gwendolen and Cecily stare into the window to the garden. They locate his 21 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. he will consent to Cecily’s with Algernon. upon seeing Lady Bracknell. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. the women decide to forgive them. Jack returns with the handbag. he says that Bunbury died that afternoon. Miss Prism recognizes it as her own. He reveals that Cecily is under his guardianship until she turns 35. Lady Bracknell knows of Miss Prism and says she needs to meet her. nor can Algernon.com .” The men reveal that they are to be re-christened this afternoon. and the couples hug. Jack introduces Cecily to Lady Bracknell. Under Jack’s questioning. goes pale. Jack asks Lady Bracknell what his original name was. Cecily may not marry without his consent. Miss Prism reveals she accidentally left the baby in a handbag on the Brighton railway line. however. Lady Bracknell accuses her of kidnapping a baby boy from her house 28 years ago. Jack tells her he was the baby. After asking the men to explain themselves. Lady Bracknell refuses and tells Gwendolen to get ready for the train. says that as his ward. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. but she cannot remember his name. and Jack tells Chasuble that the christenings will not be necessary any more. Lady Bracknell informs Jack that he is the son of her sister‹making him Algernon’s older brother. then quickly change their minds‹their “Christian names are still an insuperable barrier. Jack and Algernon enter. She says he was named after his father.
Gwendolen still refuses to marry Jack until she has proof his real name is Ernest‹to show how absurd the more conventional obstacle of class is. Algernon and Cecily. As Jack (or Ernest) says. Jack tells Lady Bracknell that he has realized. Gwendolen is ecstatic.” as Lady Bracknell dismissed‹turns out to be crucial information in Jack’s revelation of his true origins. Gwendolen and Cecily change their minds repeatedly at the start of the act. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. after hearing of her personal fortune. for the first time in his life. and he provides even more absurd obstacles in the final act Jack holds Cecily under his guardianship until she is 35. Lady Bracknell’s sudden liking to Cecily. Even Chasuble and Miss Prism’s union at the end delights us. the audience overlooks.com . “the vital Importance of Being Earnest. What was previously a throwaway joke‹that the railway line Jack was abandoned on was “immaterial. It is also worthwhile to note Wilde’s continued use of rapid contrasts and shifts. and Jack and Gwendolen‹embrace. All three couples‹Chasuble and Miss Prism. these absurdities so long as they have some real underpinnings.” The various conflicts from lies are resolved since they turn out (for the most part) not to be lies after all Jack truly is Ernest. For instance. as he was a General: Ernest John Moncrieff. This is summed up no better than when Gwendolen asks Cecily if they 22 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Wilde has portrayed them in enough serious light as perfect matches that we ignore their over-the-top embrace. she puts on her “shallow mask of manners” to hide her obvious materialism.” ANALYSIS The ironies explode in the whirlwind last-minute revelations. qaisarjanjua@gmail. or even revels in. we see that so many of these truths especially the social truths are lies. Tight dramatic structure like this allows the audience to forgive the even sillier coincidence that Jack happens to have the Army Lists at hand (made even more hilarious by his explanation that “These delightful records should have been my constant study”). “it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Wilde’s most concrete attack throughout the play is on marriage as a social tool. then what can we make of the supposed truths? On the flip side. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. But if the lies in the play are true. vowing not to speak to the men before immediately doing just that. is a “lie”.name under the Army Lists. As The Importance of Being Earnest is a farce whose aim is a social critique. Algernon truly is his mischievous brother. Wilde’s structural craftsmanship emerges. Pakistan.
23 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore.should forgive them. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. Pakistan.” Wilde is not merely using these reversals for humour.com . I mean. qaisarjanjua@gmail. no. Cecily replies “Yes. he shows how absurd romantic decisions of the heart become when entwined with even more absurd social conventions.
MOST EXPECTED QUESTIONS Q: GIVE AN AUTHENTIC APPRAISAL THAT WILDE WAS A TRUE FOLLOWWER OF “ART FOR ART SAKE” SCOOL OF THOUGHT. humour. wit. Its ‘manners’ are not simply the behaviour of humanity in general but the affections and cultured veneer of a highly developed and self conscious group. It therefore does not play upon our feelings in any way but appeals primarily and always to our reason. The comedy of manners. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Q: AS A SOCIAL SATIRE. concentrates upon the depiction of men and women in social world ruled by tradition. epigrammatic wit. It is essentially intellectual. all are welded together in one unit in this play of Oscar Wilde. the artificiality of theme and personality.e. moreover stresses deeply that tendency in all high comedy. It utilized far more what Johnson knew as wit. Here epicurean meets with the cynical and has an under current of the stoical in it. Wilde has handled with consummate artistry and skill. intellectual refinement. In this play playwright has provided all major forms of satire beautifully.com . In the Whitehall which was ruled by Charles II. Mainly it is concerned with comedy of manners in the tradition of Sheridan in the eighteenth century. The comedy of manners. but not in the way that Johnson’s plays were realistic. The main themes that have been selected for ridicule or criticism are the usual one found in a comedy of manners. farcical absurdity and sentimental comedy. it leaves me with a sense of having wasted my evening”. Pakistan. and easy dalliance had been made the prime qualities which are reflected in the comedy of manners. as its names implies. i. Satire. Q: A CRITIQUE OF THE PLAY. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. Q: AS A COMEDY OF MANNERS. It permits the introduction and expression of practically no emotion whatsoever. Q: GIVE A DEFENCE OF BERNARD SHAW’S REMARKS “Unless a comedy touches one as well as amuses one. This comedy is realistic. Q: ACOUNT FOR THE POPULARITY OF THE PLAY? Ans: “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a delightful comedy. vain 24 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. which has in it a large number of elements mixed together.
he goes on to tell Jack about one Marry Farquahar: “Who always flirt with her husband across the dinner table”. It accounts for the extraordinary number of the bachelors that one sees all over the place”. He thinks that is not very pleasant. “The truth is rarely pure and never simple. It looks so bad. But all the same: “Those sorts of things are enormously on the increase. Indeed it is not even decent. and social relationships. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. Still we find that there are certain things. Another important subject taken up for satire is the literary criticism and the new reading material that was coming at that time. He is trying to make fun of the general tendency that prevails in his time. girls never marry the man they flirt with. Questions are asked and replied in epigrams uttered in tones of deferential gravity. pointed. and conscious manners of the day. Everybody is solemn correct and polite. In that age. It is simply washing one’s clean Lenin in public”. There is also a very bitter satire on truthfulness in the play. Algernon highlights the usual tendency among women of that age. hypocrisy. which are full of retort. Algernon thinks. Of course love and marriage are the dominant themes. 25 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. humbug in education.pretension. which very clearly indicate that Oscar Wilde was trying to expose them so as to make fun of them.com . in the first place. The men and women in London who flirt with their own husbands are scandalous. threevolume novels were being printed and a taste was being developed for them. “More than half of modern literature depends on what one should not read”. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either and modern literature a complete impossibility”. The whole play presents perfectly realistic picture of high-class life of Victorian age. They are witty cultured ideal and wealthy. “Well. The characters behave and talk in languid. Later on. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Similarly. Oscar Wild has chosen to ridicule these and exposes them by means of pungent dialogues and witty remarks. Pakistan. He tells Jack. He openly tells Jack. politics. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. religion.
Pakistan. we find a good deal of wit in them. Algernon is satisfied with an answer if it perfectly phrased. the fountainhead of his art trickles. Satire is one of the channels down which his wit. visiting them and music and conversation were usually regarded as the most important items of entertainment. as it was to Congreve. After all. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Jack is sick to death of cleverness. All the characters behave with a deadly seriousness but still we feel in them an inner consciousness of fun. make us feel the irony involved in it and we see at once the satirical purpose of the dramatist as well as the main intention to which he wanted to subdue his picture of the upper-class manners. 26 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Clothed in the garb of wit and touched with a good deal of humour. shows the hypocrisy and the hollow morals of upper-class society at that time. To Oscar Wilde. they are uttered and the places. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. he satirizes and satirizes cunningly and abundantly. The characters are all witty so much so that even Lane. his wit was a form of aspiration for beauty. meeting people. “The Importance of Being Earnest” has no doubt a very pungent element of satire in it. which he symbolizes in spotless refinement. He loved beauty in every shape and form and. But it is not dissecting or bitter satire that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Satire in Oscar Wilde’s hands is not a driving motive but all the same. In this play nobody is nervous or impatient or catty or ill natured. The false idealism that made both Gwendolen and Cecile fall in love merely with the name of Ernest. “The fun with which one plays seriously a very elaborate practical joke”. what is wit? It is another name for beauty of phrase. But there are certain places where we find his characters using wit so as to find some sort of shelter from an awkward situation. receptions. it comes out in the shape of remarks made by the different characters with all seriousness and gravity. Oscar Wilde shows a strong passion for beauty.com . the man-servant of Algernon. There are sparkles in all its lines. has caught some of his master’s wit and whenever he replies to his master’s questions. He wanted to polish his language and make it most attractive.The people in society were all interested in parties. It is definitely not apparent. But the way. therefore. wit was a form of wisdom and inherent prerogative of an able man and not a means to find social shelters. It is agreeable in every respect. In the use of wit. where they are uttered.
The whole story and plot of the drama virtually revolves round the mistakes committed by the characters at different stages in the story. These errors bring about complication and funny situation.com . This play of Oscar Wilde is also full of romantic elements. The love of the two young women is also marked with serious error. 27 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Miss Prism had committed the greatest mistake. Lady Bracknell commits the error of thought. Even Cecile and Gwendolen find the answer satisfactory when they are beautifully phrased. Even Algernon and Jack commit mistakes by attempting to make a fool of each other. The initial absurdity of the baby deposited in a handbag in the cloakroom of Victoria Station. “The Importance of Being Earnest” is nothing but a fabric of errors. Cecile’s love is also highly romantic Jack’s pretence and Algernon’s Bunburying has an air of romanticism about it. He wanted his play to be a somewhat farcical comedy and in that he has succeeded quite well. the mock mourning of Jack. “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a comedy and its incidents move by means of errors. traditionally serious aspects are ridiculed and made fun of. You cannot go anywhere without meeting clever people”. we feel a new triumph of wit. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. Every sentence is replete with sense and satire. Every page presents a shower of brilliant conceits. The more we read between the lines the more we come to the conclusion that the dialogue in the “Importance of Being Earnest” is the highest model of comic dialogue. Chasuble and Miss Prism are all every amusing situations. everywhere we find a tissue of epigrams in prose. his interview with Lady Bracknell. big and small. Its theme is absolutely unconventional and non-traditional. Pakistan. In this play improbabilities are heaped sky high and atmosphere soared beyond artificiality into the realms of fantasy.“Everybody is clever now a day. The trivial aspects of social life are treated seriously while the. The result is that when we close the play. a new conquest over dullness. Oscar Wilde was an artist in sheer nonsense. covered in the most polished and printed terms. the Quarrel and misunderstanding between Cecile and Gwendolen. The fact is that the play means to provide great fun. and last but not least the marriage bond of Dr. The whole play is agog with the fire of artful raillery. qaisarjanjua@gmail. The story of Jack’s birth is highly romantic. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail.
a delicate bubble of fancy and it has its philosophy. Its nine characters are as enjoyable as they are altogether impossible. it is the most light-hearted and highspirited of comedies. Against this rigid system of controls the young lovers pursue their dreams of romance.com . Set in the elegant and luxurious world of English manor houses and Mayfair in the nineteenth century. Pakistan. The tone is brightly serious. there is much more to it than that. Even the self-indulgent Algernon is earnest in his selfindulgence.He has lost his cigarette case and he takes this loss so seriously that he writes to the Scotland Yard and even declares a large reward. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST”? Q: “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNES” HAS ANY PHILOSOPHY? IF THERE IS ANY. of course. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. qaisarjanjua@gmail. WHAT IS THAT? Ans: “The Importance of Being Earnest” is Wilde’s masterpiece. we find the trivial behaviour of the characters towards serious things and non serious things are the preoccupation and fundamental concern of the characters. It is a fair judgment. In this satire. Wilde explained the philosophy ‘we should treat all the trivial things of life seriously. In spite of improbabilities and absurdities ‘The Importance of Being earnest is not without any theme or message. a mere excuse for causing the lovers some temporary setbacks before the inevitable comic happy ending. which is prominent in the very title of the play. It is exquisitely trivial. though. and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality.Q: JUSTIFY THE TITLE OF THE PLAY. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. Right from the very beginning. none of the characters have any inkling that they are speaking absurdities. especially Jack . it means simply having the name Earnest. Algernon proclaims everywhere that eating of muffins is a sure cure of melancholy moods and psychological outbursts. The plot is nonsensical. being earnest is made as superficial a trait as possible. 28 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Lady Bracknell gives no doubt importance to the distinct social possibilities. The characters are motivated and controlled by a hollow and artificial set of social standards that have little substance but are used to maintain social distinctions and social class privileges. The play is structured as a series of verbal fencing matches in which showing the right form is as important as making one’s point. It has a philosophy and message.
If I didn’t write them down. Jack is said to be born and brought up in the handbag.Moreover. In this play. it is not the case with any single individual rather every one in the play is following the Wilde’s dictum. death. which he is the brother of Algernon. baptism. we think for a while that they are all misguided but ultimately Jack declares at the close of the play that he has well realized the importance of being earnest. Love is brought to ridicule by making the two girls in love with the name of Ernest. which this society considers as trivial while one should not give any attention to those things. the handbag is responsible for revealing the identity of Jack and telling everybody that he belonged to a respectable family. Pakistan. In this way. Oscar Wilde has shown that one should be earnest about those things. these things. Baptism is dismissed as a fashion. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. and a luxury.com . Commenting over the importance of diaries Cecily declares: “I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life. Ultimately also. Had there been no handbag. They would marry the young men if their name is Ernest otherwise they would not marry. are dismissed as trivial. illegitimacy and respectability are all ridiculed. Heroines of the play are also romantic by nature and they give very much importance to unimportant things of life. Then there is another side to the question also. which appeared to be quite insignificant and unimportant.” These ladies do not love the qualities and character of man they love the name of Ernest. But on the other hand. we would not have got the rejection of Jack by Lady Bracknell and if this rejection would not have been there. burial. But when we look at these characters talking so seriously about those things which we regard most insignificant. which are really significant and conventional in the eyes of the people. which are otherwise recognized as very ordinary and to which the people in 29 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. I should probably forget all about them. If he had not been earnest about those little things. Gwendolen would not have gone to the country-house of Jack and also Algernon would not have known the address of Jack’s country house so as to visit Cecily under the assumed name of Ernest. we find that all those things that the society regards as serious and hence and conventionally respectable. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. marriage. Marriage is fixed and approved on the basis of social possibilities. that his name is Earnest and that he can marry the girl he loved so intensely. birth. he would have never been able to prove that he belongs to a respectable family. love. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Both Gwendolen and Cecily keep diaries to record trivialities of their life and they are quite grave in their attitude. All this shows the importance of being earnest. Even a trifling like the handbag has been taken very seriously.
Ernest plays a great part in framing and forming this drama and. The two girls Gwendolen and Cecily are so much in Love with the name of Ernest that they would not marry anybody else but one who has the name of Ernest. are revealed as worth all the attention and all the earnestness. So the two girls have their wish fulfilment. Pakistan. had jack not been so earnest about himself being proved to be to a good family and to verify whether he had been christened and about his own Christian name. Finding their beloveds so adamant about the name of Ernest. 30 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. But as luck could have it the secret of the handbag resolves all complications and difficulties. there would have been no such play that we have in the shape of the three-act comedy. Gen. qaisarjanjua@gmail. In the way Ernest dominates the whole play. the title of play is not only significant but also very interesting. Had the girls not been so earnest about the name of Ernest. Then he declares this Ernest. But ultimately. That shows very clearly. But they have made love under their assumed name of earnest and so the girls are in a great quandary. Ernest serves as pretext for jack and then serves another pretext for Algernon visiting Cecily. therefore. they do get the name of Ernest.general do not give any attention. The two young men who love these two girls are two different individuals. It is revealed in the course of lady Bracknell’s cross-examination of Miss Prism that both Jack and Algernon are real brothers being the sons of Lady Bracknell’s sister and brother-in-law. Then the whole play revolves round the name of Ernest only. Ernest living in London about whom he has to take great care. He has told everybody that he has a brother. most probably. dead. He finds great satisfaction in maintaining this pretence. Jack is known as Ernest in town. None of the rivals is really Ernest by name and. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. they are exposed. Each has the misunderstanding that the other is the rival. Ernest is also the basis of all pretexts and understandings. had the two young men not been so earnest about assuming the name of Ernest. Contact (92) 300 8494678 firstname.lastname@example.org . Had it not been proved that both Algernon and Jack were christened as Ernest by their father. their marriage with Gwendolen and Cecily would not have been possible. Ernest John Moncrieff so both of them are Ernest. they want to be christened. They both get their lovers after it has been proved that they are Ernest. They are proved to be Ernest. Therefore. how great the importance of being Ernest is. the two young men decide to change their names and in the process. it is really the “Importance of Being Earnest”. It creates complications and makes Gwendolen and Cecily quarrel with each other.
Chasuble who is again a bachelor. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. also talks of marriage to Dr. love is the chief motive guiding the actions of the characters and it ultimately ends in marriage. the daughter of Lady Bracknell. It is more romantic to be in love because the essence of romance is uncertainty. his man-servant. to take up the name of Ernest by getting re-christened and any difficulty in his way makes him furious. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Algernon represents a very practical approach to love. Thus we see that throughout the play.Q: DISCUSS THE THEME OF LOVE AND MARRIAGE IN “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST”? Ans: “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a comedy of manners and its main theme like all comedies of that time. when Algernon enquires why the servants in the house of bachelor’s drink champagne. Right from the day. He thinks that the only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her if she is pretty and to some one else if she is plain. Chasuble and Miss Prism love each other. Algernon. He moves on to Jack’s country-house in his absence and falls in love with Cecily. He would not allow Cecily to be married to Algernon unless he is allowed to marry Gwendolen. the governess. Lane. Dr. he tells everybody: “That passionate celibacy is all that anyone of us can look forward to”. There is another formal and very serious approach in the love of Gwendolen and Jack. Both Algernon and Jack are in love with Gwendolen. Jack is in love with Gwendolen and he is so serious in doing everything to make her happy that he is prepared to end his pretence. Algernon is enticed by the description of the beauty and youth of Cecile. tells the master that the wine in married households is never of first-rate quality and Algernon immediately quips “Good Heaven. Most of the characters talk about love and marriage and their views are very strange. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. When Lady Bracknell refuses to agree to this condition. is marriage so demoralizing as that”? Algernon thinks that the people of the lower classes must set an example in love and marriage to the upper classes. Right in the beginning of the play. Cecily has already fallen in love and has also engaged herself for marriage to Ernest without seeing that man. she had heard about him. from her cousin. has been love and marriage. Miss Prism. Algernon thinks that there is nothing in proposing marriage.com . we are introduced to this theme. Pakistan. 31 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Gwendolen is in love with the name of Ernest.
As against this. She knew that if a girl possessed these two things. The love of Miss Prism and Dr. she finds it very romantic and the deeper fibres of her nature are naturally stirred by that story. Chasuble no doubt loves Miss Prism.com . the love of Cecily is girlish and childlike. in her imagination. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. It has music of its own. no doubt wants to take her on a stroll but he cannot marry her because: “The precept as well as the practice of the primitive church was distinctly against matrimony”. Finally. Her ways are very imaginative but they are full of intensity and childlike frankness. It is like that of a fairy tale and is highly romantic. She believes that engagement must come to a girl as a surprise and that it should not continue for long.Gwendolen loves in bookish fashionable manner. She is full of emotion in her love. Chasuble that he must give up his bachelor-hood and marry because: “By remaining persistently single a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation”. They like to be in each other’s company but they seldom talk of love except that Miss Prism tries to convince Dr. She has taken most of her ideals from fashionable magazines and she loves the name of Ernest. She had written letter to him and for him. Pakistan. She even decides to flee to her lover because her mother does not allow her to be engaged for marriage to the person of her own choice. She had not even seen the lover but had fallen in love with him. When she is told about the origin of Jack. It produces vibrations. Lady Bracknell represents the conservative social attitude of the upper class London society towards love and marriage. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. Dr. Their love is more of intellectual type because they delight in the company of each other. She wants the demonstration of love. The eligibility of a young man depended on his having a good social status and the eligibility of a young girl depended on her fortune and the social possibilities of her profile. She wants Jack to propose to her in formal way like the Knights of the middle Ages. Chasuble are in love. Chasuble is of a different order altogether. qaisarjanjua@gmail. 32 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Both Miss Prism and Dr. other things can be taken care of by experienced French maids. She had engaged herself to him. She did agree to the flirtations of young men and women but the question of engagement and settlement of marriage was to be done by the parents. she had bought the engagement ring and the bangle with the real lover’s knot on behalf of her lover.
“Wit” that is. on a closer view to believe that all the characters can possess such a fertile wit: but in the theatre. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. And. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. WHAT IS PECULARITY IN HIS LANGUAGE? Ans: Wit is for the most part an intellectual quality and is articulated in ingenious phraseology. The surprise is usually the result of an unforeseen connection or distinction between words or concepts. Each of the characters gives evidence of brilliant wit in whatever he or she says. we know that we are reading what is known as an artificial comedy. In fact. Q: USE OF WIT IN “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST”? Q: DISCUSS “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST” AS A COMEDY OF DIALOGUES? Q: OSCAR WILDE IS FAMOUS FOR HIS USE OF EPIGRAMS. As all the characters are well educated (even the governess Miss Prism has written a three-volume novel). we hardly stop to question the talent for making witty remarks of which every character provides ample evidence. qaisarjanjua@gmail. There is a profuse flow of wit in the remarks of Algernon and Jack. or even in the study. now. The importance of being Earnest is a witty play. brilliant epigrams clever comparisons etc.com . Pakistan. Even Algernon’s servant Lane amuses us by his remark that bachelors keep superior wines in their homes and that in married households the wine is 33 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. the most common present use of the term derives form its 17th century application to a brilliant and paradoxical style. which is brief. which frustrates the listener’s expectation only to satisfy it in a different way. denotes a kind of verbal expression. deft and intentionally contrived to produce a shock of comic surprise. Witty remarks. But it must be kept in mind that none of the characters give any sign of being aware that he or she is speaking in a witty manner is another point to note that the wit is not laboured but spontaneous and effortless. and comments flow from the lips of various characters actually. The different characters show to us the different objectives with which they can carry on love for the sake of marriage. statements. each character is conscious of his or her wit. the humour and the wit in the speeches of each one is not of the unconscious variety. In other words.Thus we find that the play deals with the theme of love and marriage and it present before us the different aspects of love and marriage. and so it does not matter whether the possession of his gift of wit by so many characters is something convincing or not. it is impossible for us. in any case.
One of Lady Bracknell’s wittiest remarks is that to be born or bred in handbag shows contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life reminding her of the worst excesses of the French Revolution.rarely of a first-rate brand. Lady Bracknell makes a witty remark. perhaps. Another paradoxical remark from Algernon is that people who are not serious about meals are shallow-minded. She thinks it fortunate that education in England produces no effect. Another witty remark comes from Algernon when he gives a twist to a wellknown saying and modifies it by saying that in married life three is a company and two is none. which also amuses us. Pakistan. Algernon makes another paradoxical and witty remark when he says that literary criticism should be left to people who have never been at a university. Algernon says that the lower orders of society should set a good example by showing a sense of moral responsibility so that the upper classes can learn something from them. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. She replies that she does not like to be perfect because perfection leaves no room for development. exotic fruit which should not be touched but should be allowed to remain intact. sir. One of the witty remarks that Algernon makes here is that girls never marry the men they flirt with. which is also paradoxical. it is most indecorous”. Lady Bracknell makes a very witty remarks when. Bunbury should make-up his mind whether he is going to live or to die. 34 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore.com . Witty remarks by Lady Bracknell and her daughter delight us much. she says that she does not like the modern sympathy with invalids. But. on seeing Jack kneeling before Gwendolen. Jack tells Gwendolen that she is perfect being. This remark is amusing because of the extreme exaggeration implied worst excesses of French Revolution. Lady Bracknell makes a very witty remark when she says that Mr. she says to him: “Raise. Lane’s remark about marriage leads Algernon to make a paradoxical statement. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. it would prove to be a serious danger to the upper classes. He makes yet another witty remark by saying that the number of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. Gwendolen reaction to the name Ernest is highly amusing. Jack makes a witty remark when he says that some aunt may be allowed to decide for herself. Moreover. Ignorance is like a delicate. when she says that she does not approve of anything that interferes with natural ignorance. the most hilarious remark that Lady Bracknell makes is that she and her husband cannot allow their “only daughter to marry into a cloakroom and form an alliance with a parcel”. from this semi-recumbent posture. Algernon displays his wit in dialogue with Jack regarding the inscription on Jack’s cigarette case. qaisarjanjua@gmail.
qaisarjanjua@gmail. and confirmations. Chasuble. she says that by remaining unmarried a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation public temptation. Miss Prism makes a witty remark when. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. Chasuble claims that his sermon on the meaning of the manna in the wilderness can be adapted to almost any occasion. Algernon says that. Act II is full of witty remarks.She is a “monster without being a myth”. At another occasion she says that she does not like novels that end happily because such novels depress her much. Referring to the invention of Bunbury. replies that he does his best to give satisfaction to his master. “Memory records the things that have never happened and could not possibly have happened”.com . He has preached this sermon at harvest celebrations. For example Lady Bracknell says that hesitation is a sign of mental decay in the youth and of physical weakness in the old age Lady Bracknell amuses us at her own cost 35 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. Pakistan. on being asked by Algernon if he has told Gwendolen the truth about his being Ernest in town and Jack in the country. and Jack ultimately groaning and sinking into a chair while Algernon continues to eat muffins. Cecily says. Gwendolen makes a sarcastic remark to Cecily when. on days of humiliation and festivals days. on being told that he is a perfect pessimist. Act I ends with Jack telling Algernon that the latter always talks nonsense and with Algernon replying that everybody talks nonsense and nothing but nonsense. Jack makes another witty remark when. joyful or distressing. and refined girl like Gwendolen. Jack says that truth is not quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice. talking to Dr. if he had not have been able to escape from his dinnerengagement with Lady Bracknell. christenings. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. There is something comic in the very invention of an ailing friend by the name of Bunbury and a younger brother by the name Ernest. Act II closes with Algernon again indulging in banter at the cost of Jack. We are greatly amused also when Dr. We come across many witty remarks in the Act III. Algernon replies wittily that the only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her if she is pretty and to make love to some other woman if the first one is unattractive. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different”. implying paradoxical that his pessimism should be cause of satisfaction to his employer. To this. Gwendolen says: “I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. Towards the end of Act I we again meet Lane who. after Cecily has mentioned a spade. sweet.
36 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. Her refusal for marriage to her daughter and latter dialogue with Miss Prism amuses us much. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. She says that her own husband has no fortune of any kind. She says that thirty-five is an attractive age for marriage. Pakistan. email@example.com .when she says that she does not approve mercenary marriage.
And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes painfully effeminate. does he not?” DR. and to some one else. Contact (92) 300 8494678 qaisarjanjua@hotmail. one always amuses oneself.” “The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public.” 37 By Qaisar Iqbal Janjua from Lahore. CHASUBLE “What seem to us bitter trials are often blessing in disguise. It is bad. I’ll certainly try to forget the fact. if she is pretty.” “The home seems to me to be the proper sphere for man. That is their tragedy. people don’t talk. and if one plays bad music. if she is plain.” “The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her. qaisarjanjoa@yahoo. qaisarjanjua@gmail. Pakistan.com . No man does. not sincerity is the vital thing.” “All women become like their mothers. style. It produces a false impression”. That’s his.” GWENDOLEN FAIRFAX “In matter s of grave importance. ALGERNON MONCRIEF “The very essence of romance is uncertainty. “It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn’t a dentist.” “If one plays good music. When one is in the country one amuses other people”. people don’t listen.OSCAR WILDE’S EPIGRAMS JACK WORTHING “When one is in town. If I ever get married.
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