The Importance of Being Earnest

Oscar Wilde’s last and most famous play, debuted in London on February 14, 1895.

At the time, Wilde was at the height of his success. But just a few months later his boyfriend’s father sent an insulting letter calling him a “somdomite” – yep, he misspelled it. A humiliating trial was set in motion, and Wilde was convicted of “gross indecency” and sentenced to two years of hard labor.

“Life is too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it,” wrote Wilde in one of his first plays, Veraor The Nihilists. Long interested in the combination of the serious with the trivial, Oscar Wilde experimented with different proportions of each in his plays like a baker trying to get the perfect sugar to salt ratio in chocolate chip cookies. By the time Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest he had perfected his recipe.

The Importance of Being Earnest is funny all the time. There is nothing earnest about this play, at least on the surface. It’s a satire of the Victorian era, when an intricate code of behavior governed everything from communication to sexuality. The most important rules applied to marriage – always a popular topic in Victorian plays, and one that interested Wilde, who was married to a woman but sexually involved with men.

During the Victorian period, marriage was about protecting your resources, and keeping socially unacceptable impulses under control.

a. Can you find examples of this?

b. Read about The Victorian Times, which characteristics are mocked in this play?

c. Aesthetic Movement: make a list of the most important characteristics.

d. Explain the term “Bunburying”. 

e. Describe different scenes in which people are eating or drinking.

f. Two faces: Lane, Algernon, Jack. Explain.

e. Explain these quotations: 

1. “. . . my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.”

2. “I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.”

3. “Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.”

4. “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

5. “You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter – a girl brought up with the utmost care – to marry into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel?”

How is Algernon an example of the Aesthetic Movement? In which way do Algernon and Jack mock The Vistorian society?

 

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7 Responses to The Importance of Being Earnest

  1. Flores Piran Fernandez Vidal and Buljevich says:

    SECOND PART:
    f. Two faces: Lane, Algernon, Jack. Explain.
    Lane: Is a responsible servant and then they show the other face which is when he stole the champagne.
    Jack: He has to faces because where he lives, in country estate, Jack is known as Jack and he trouble to in London, where there he is known as Ernest, Jack’s brother.
    Algernon: he has two faces because He is a very educated man but he invents a invalid man named Bunbury, to give him a reprieve from his real life (Lady Bracknell and their friends) .
    g. 1 this quotation shows that Gwendolen doesn’t love Jack, what she loves is his name.
    2. Lady Bracknell says this to jack when they are at Algernon’s house.
    4. Lady Bracknell says that to Jack after he tells her that he has no parents.
    5. Lady Barcknell tells this to Jack because he is nobody, and he doesn’t have much many as Gwendolen.

  2. Milagros Zubizarreta, Milagros Alezzandrini and Nacho Rela says:

    A,B)The Victorian era was a time characterized by an emphasis on strict moral values. The male and female characters in The Importance of Being Earnest all fulfill Victorian gender stereotypes. Jack (in the guise of Ernest) and Algernon are Victorian dandies, bachelors who indulge freely in the good life. Gwendolen is the very paragon of Victorian femininity, and is so superficial that she declares she refuses to marry a man whose name is not Ernest. Other characteristics that are mocked in the play are the relationship how everyone was suppose to be married to look good in society and how here they had double lifes one to look good morally and the other life to enjoy themseves.

    C) The term “Aesthetic Movement” refers to the introduction of principles that emphasized art in the production of furniture, metalwork, ceramics, stained glass, textiles, wallpapers, and books. The Aesthetic movement in Britain began as a reform impulse. It was a part of a larger critique of the Industrial Revolution,

    D) Bunburying was a term made up by Algernon. He had made up an imaginary friend called bunburry. This friend was very sick and lived in the country side. He used “him” as an excuse to be able to not having to attend to family meetings. So this term means having a imaginary person to use as an excuse to be able to enjoy yourself.

    E)At the beggining of the play lane, the butler, and algernon are drinking champagne. Than Algerno eats some of the cucumber sandwiches which were ment to be for his aunt. When ernest come he eats some bread with butter.

    F) Lanes two faces are when he is drinking champagne at the begining and talking with Algernon when they are alone, his other face appears when there are other people and he acts like a servant.
    Algernons two faces are Algernon the man who lives in the city and his sick “friend” Bunburry.
    Jacks two faces are jack the man that lives in the country side with cecily and Ernest in the city who is suppose to be his brother

    E)
    1) This is said by Gwendolen to Jack (ernest) when he proposes to her. He was thinking about telling her the truth of his name being Jack but when she said this he couldn’t. However , we find this idea of loving someone by his name is very strange.

    2)

  3. fran okecki, sebas borda and agustin campion says:

    A) An example is when Jack it talking with lady B. and she questioned him to see how much money he possessed and the land he owned. She is a perfect example of a Victorian woman.
    B) One characteristic mocked in the play is how lady B. talked about money and luxurious stuff. Another thing is the food and the drinks that are in the play like wine and champagne. The butler who stole good bottles of Champaign even though he looked so nice. In addition how Algy doesn’t mind the butler stole the wine.
    C) -The Arts and Crafts Movement is the main line of reform design in the 19th century that defines the period of its greatest development. -whose roots were in the reaction to the Industrial Revolution in England. – refers to the introduction of principles that emphasized art in the production of furniture, metalwork, ceramics, stained glass, textiles, wallpapers, and books. -The movement incorporated both exotic and historical sources of design generally. – The Aesthetic movement in Britain began as a reform impulse. -It was a part of a larger critique of the Industrial Revolution, which had radically altered Britain following the Napoleonic Wars. – it paralleled political events that had firmly established the power of the middle class with the Second Reform Bill of 1867. -The costs of these social transformations were the subjects of impassioned debate.
    D) The term bunburying is said by Algy because every time he wanted to go to the country side and help his “friend” he told his butler he was bunburying.
    E) One of the scenes where they were eating is when Jack and Algernon are talking about marriage and woman. Algernon is eating the sandwiches that Lady B. asked for. Then when Lane and other servants were drinking the Champaign in the kitchen
    F) Algernon: when he talks to jack he has a very informal way of speaking and he is disrespectfull and ironic. Then whenever lady B. is present he talks in a very polite and formal way. Lane: when he drinks the champagne with the other servant and when he serves Algernon. Jack: when he speaks with algy and when he speaks to lady B and gwendolen.

  4. Fernandez Vidal, Flores Piran and Buljevich says:

    a. Can you find examples of this?
    Yes, an example can be when Lady Bracknell started making questions at him about his economic situation “What is your income” What is more, another example is when Gwendolane told Jack that her mother didn´t accept their marriage, as in the Victorian Times it was important the parents approvement.
    b. Read about The Victorian Times, which characteristics are mocked in this play?
    The characteristics that are mocked in the play are:
    At the Victorian Times, people gave a lot of importance to the marriage, and they respect it a lot, but in the novel, Algy mock the characteristics by saying that marriages were not important and necessary “Is marriage more demoralizing as that” We can see the irony he uses here. Furthermore, In the novel, Algy invents a sickness friend called Bunburing to avoid social boring engagements. Moreover, Jack invents “Ernest” his imagen brother, so as he could go to the city and leave the country where he was Jack.
    c. Aesthetic Movement: make a list of the most important characteristics.
    -art shouldn’t be influenced by politics, science, or morality,
    -should be an expression of whatever it wished to be.
    -Art shouldn’t merely look to life or nature for inspiration, for art that too closely imitates life is a failure
    -Plays with characters who spoke and acted just like they would in real life were utterly boring
    -Aesthetic Movement was the philosophy behind the Pre-Raphaelites. They strove to create beauty and emotion in their art, typically focusing on the female body.
    d. Explain the term “Bunburying”.
    Bunburying is the fictitious invalid friend of the character Algernon whose supposed illness is used as an excuse to avoid social engagements. Bunburying is to Avoid one’s duties and responsibilities by claiming to have appointments to see a ficticious person
    e. Describe different scenes in which people are eating or drinking.
    One scene where they talk about drinking is when At the beginning of the first act, Algernon asks Lane about the eight bottles of champagne and pint that the servants had drunk.Another scene is when Jack eats the food of Gwendolane when she hadn´t arrived yet. It was butter and bread
    we are missing F.

  5. Sofia Teran and Nicolas Araya says:

    1) An example can be that Gwendolen couldn´t marry Jack because her parent’s didn´t want her to and she couldn´t contradict them. Also, other example can be that at the beginning of the act lane and argeron are talking about what marriage was and they say it was boring and useless and in the victoria era people got married only for money and social status.
    2) in thye victoria era everything was very serious and jack invited a name so that he could live his house and live Cecily so as to enjoy his bachelor life and go to party to the city. This was big contradiction because the invention of a name was disrespectful and not serious.
    3) Beauty and quality were ignored for profit and quantity. The political philosophy was, naturally, anti-aristocratic and the expression of that idea in terms of design principles was a rejection of the characteristics of design associated with the rich. Thus, although the Movement definitely had its stylistic expressions, it was not simply an art movement but had a rather complex structure of social, political and moral ideas of the British life in during that period.
    4) the fictitious invalid friend of the character Algernon whose supposed illness is used as an excuse to avoid social engagements.
    Avoiding one’s duties and responsibilities by claiming to have appointments to see a fictitious person.
    5) when jack eats the cucumber sandwiches that were for Lady bracknell
    when lane stole the campaigned bottle and drank it with his colleagues

  6. Delfina Subira, Joaquin Olaizola says:

    1. Yes, I found the example of Lady Bracknell asking about the resources Jack had to see if she accepted him marrying Gwendolen. She asked Jack his age, If he smoked, his knowledge, his income, his houses, his politics, his parents, his history and more.
    When Jack invents a young brother of him at town and changes his name to go there and have some fun, because leaving his responsibilities (Cecile) to hang out with friends was socially bad seen.
    4. Bunburying means nothing really, it is a verb invented by Algernon that meant going down to the countryside and have some fun. Because he invented a friend of him that is very ill called Bunbury. So when he visits him, he is bunburying.
    5. When Lady Bracknell goes to have a cup of tea and some cucumber sandwiches to Algernon’s house. However, there were no cucumbers so she ends eating some crumpets with Lady Harbury. And, before the visit of Lady Bracknell, Jack ate the bread and butter that were going to be eaten by Gwendolen and before that, the servants are drinking some bottles of champagne.
    6. Alergnon because he seems to be a very responsible and educated man but he lies to his aunt and friends creating a friend of him at the countryside. He made this because he needed an excuse to go and have fun whenever he wanted.
    Jack because he seems to be also a man with responsibilities (C ecile) but he also invents a new little brother called Ernest at the town so that he can go over there and have fun when he need it or want it.
    Lane, haves a face that is making what Algy tell him, always working and being responsible but the other face shows that he stole some bottles of champagne that Algy had in order to drink them with other servants.
    7.
    1. When Gwendolen declares Jack that she loved him and that this was mainly because he was called Ernest. But, as we know his is not called like that so, he is now in a big trouble.

  7. Emi Molmenti, Belu Irazusta and MerI Brito Peret says:

    a and b))For example, that Gwendolen couldn’t marry Earnest because her mom dind’t give permission. to drink wine and champagne as Algernon do, is tipical of the victorian times as they wanted all the time to show off. moreover, they used to smoke a lot in that time, like Algy and Jack do. Inventing a person to have a good time. Because in victorian time they had to behave well. In order to enjoy, they invented persons. They mocked the society.
    c)) defines the period of its greatest development. introduction of principles that emphasized art in the production of furniture, metalwork, ceramics, stained glass, textiles, wallpapers, and books. moreover, The movement incorporated both exotic and historical sources of design generally. Out of the Aesthetic Movement came new ideas and shapes that looked towards the 20th century. in addition, artist, designer, printer, and intellectual reflected a search for a new social order. finally, The labor divisions were depriving the craftsman of the pleasure of his work and as work was central to the social life of the individual, this disintegrated and debased English society. Beauty and quality were ignored for profit and quantity. The political philosophy was, naturally, anti-aristocratic and the expression of that idea in terms of design principles was a rejection of the characteristics of design associated with the rich. There was also a religious component, in that the nature of religious beliefs was a great influence in the formation of British values. As it was oriented away from ritual and visual symbols and more towards social and community ideals, it reinforced the social nature of the movement.
    d)) the term bunburing makes reference to the action of being another man named Bunbury by Algy and to act as if he was another person to go to the countryside.
    e))when jack goes to Algy´s house and they eat sandwiches and drink tea. “takes one and eats it”. then also lord shoreman and jack were dining together, and then the servants drink 8 bottles of champeigne on thursday night.
    f))Algernon has another “personality” named Burbury, that he uses to be in the countryside. Jack also has another personality named “Earnest” to use when he is in the town. Lane is a very good butler, he is very respectful and responsable but on the other hand he stoles champaigne from Algy.
    g)) 1- Gwendolen loves the name Earnest and she wants to marry a man with that name, and this is the reason she is interested in Jack.
    2- Lady Bracknell says this to Jack

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