English grammar - Educational blog: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
all human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil” ( Norton . The two young ladies of the play, Gwendolen and Cecily, represent the city . prefers Norfolk, Hamilton and Buckingham to Smith or Jones or Robinson'” . Pentamidines the importance of being earnest gwendolen and cecily meet the robinsons sustains. Upstairs moes were the aboon arsy. Algernon. In order that I might have an opportunity of meeting you. Cecily. [To Gwendolen.] That certainly seems a satisfactory explanation, does it not?.
Then there is the intentional use of the name Ernest. Earnestness, or devotion to virtue and duty, was a Victorian ideal. It stood for sincerity, seriousness, and hard work. Wilde turns these associations upside down, making Ernest a name used for deception.
By using the name Ernest throughout the play, and even in the title, Wilde is making references to social criticism, his own life, and his plot devices.
Marriage in Victorian England is also one of the major themes of the play. Wilde saw marriages filled with hypocrisy and often used to achieve status.
He also saw marriage as an institution that encouraged cheating and killed sexual attraction between spouses. When Lane says that wine is never of superior quality in a married household, Algernon questions whether Lane was ever married.
In short, Wilde seems to say that marriage is a business deal containing property, wealth, and status. Family names and bloodlines are deathly important. The frivolity of the classes is also a subject of this first act.
While the servants, such as Lane depend on the upper classes, they also examine their morals. They might not comment, but their facial expressions betray their understanding of their own role in life, which involves waiting and doing, but not commenting. In Victorian England, style and correct manners were much more important than essence. Algernon feels his style of piano playing is much more important than his accuracy.
Triviality is the witty, admired social wordplay of the day, a perfect honor to style over substance.
In fact, the characters in this play often say the opposite of what is understood to be true. Victorian culture is also a target. One reads something scandalous to be in style, but does not speak of it in polite company.
Perhaps Wilde is saying that the critical reviews of the day should be in the hands of people who are educated to understand art. Some critics have suggested that Wilde began his writing projects by accumulating a group of epigrams he wished to explore.
He turned them upside down to suggest that most people never stop to think about how meaningless they are. Strangely, she chooses a husband based on his name. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out. Gwendolen is only concerned that the form is correct. In fact, she fully intends to say yes only if his name is Ernest.
When Jack mentions the word marriage, she protests that he has not even discussed it with her yet, and he must do so in the correct style. She asserts that her brother even practices proposing to get the form correct.
Wilde is taking a subject — love and marriage — that should be filled with passion and depth and turning it into an exercise in form. This scene is a parody of love and romance, capturing the emptiness of Victorian values that rely on style, not substance. The personification of the Victorian upper-class woman who has a title from her husband in the play is Lady Bracknell, who is arrogant, prejudiced, and conservative.
Wilde uses her to continue his satire of Victorian attitudes about marriage. She will tell Gwendolen when and to whom she will be engaged, and Gwendolen has nothing to say about it. In fact, love is not a factor in marriage nor is the opinion of the children. Lady Bracknell cross-examines Jack, commenting on his wealth and politics.
Discovering he has no parents and that he was found in a hand-bag at a train station, she suggests he produce at least one parent- no matter how he does it- to strengthen his marriage prospects.
Wilde is mocking Victorian attitudes toward marriage and asking why bloodlines and wealth should be more important than love. As for education, the proper Victorian believed schooling should be reserved for those with social status.
Through the preposterous Lady Bracknell, Wilde is once again criticizing a society where the upper class is determined to keep attitudes and power in the hands of the few.
Any revolution or change in thinking at any time is opposite of what the conservative upper class believes in. Society is described in multiple contexts as clever people talking nonsense and triviality. Everybody is clever nowadays. The thing has become an absolute public nuisance. I wish to goodness we had a few fools left. The subject of Cecily introduces a new kind of woman to the play. As the play progresses, Wilde continues his epigrams and puns. One of his most memorable refers to the nature of men and women.
That is their tragedy. Idleness, duty, and marriage are brought together in the conversations of several characters. Sighing bitterly, Miss Prism observes that people who live for pleasure are usually unmarried. Religion is presented as dry, meaningless, and expensive.
The reverend explains to Jack that the sermons for all sacraments are interchangeable. They can be adapted to be joyful or distressing, depending on the occasion. Through these thoughts Wilde expresses the meaninglessness of religion and the obviously hackneyed, empty words of sermons. Wilde also humorously captures the absurdity of rigid Victorian values through the character of Miss Prism. She is a prim woman, and much like the cut glass of the prism. Wilde utilizes her as his representative, a morally upright woman who has written a melodramatic, romantic novel.
Obviously, hypocrisy lurks beneath the strict surface of the prim governess. I trust he will profit by it. She is responsible in a very serious deed- losing a baby. That is not at all the light she has previously cast.
There is also symbolism in the name of Dr. It could be interpreted that, because Wilde chose to name him after a piece of clothing, a covering, the outer vestment- that there is more underneath.
Regarding Miss Prism, he is in fact Chase-able, which he had previously claimed he was not. There is more to him than meets the eye. The hidden and repressed sexual nature of Victorian society is presented in this play, too. Cecily is fascinated by sin and wickedness- but from afar. She is particularly interested in the fact that the prim and proper Miss Prism has written a three-volume novel.
Such novels were not deemed proper literature by Victorians, but were read in secret. Of course, the moral of the novel shows clearly that good people win, and bad people are punished. Where a headache is usually used as an excuse for a lack of sexual interest, Miss Prism uses it as a reason to go on a walk alone with the minister. The humorous cleric speaks in metaphors and often has to define what he means so that he will not be misunderstood.
My metaphor was drawn from bees. There is more than meets the eye here, and Wilde is clearly pointing out the sexual repression of his society and satirizing the societal concern for correct and proper appearances, regardless of what simmers under the surface. No wonder Cecily is so fascinated by the subject of wickedness. In her society, young girls are protected from any knowledge of sex, and adults speak of it in obscure terms so as not to let out the big secret.
Grim, conservative, and unimaginative books are seen as the best way to educate the young. With this foundation, they learn not to question and not to change dramatically the society in which they live. Even his name indicates his hidden humor.
He does not express approval or disapproval, he accommodates his upper-class employers and carefully rehearses his facial expressions to show nothing, but through this deliberate rehearsal, Wilde is showing what an artificial, rehearsed society the upper class lives in.
In this way, Wilde pokes fun at the Victorian concept that everyone has his duty, and each knows his place. Cecily keeps a diary of her girlish fancies, and they are much more interesting than reality.
Max Robinson to portray Lady Bracknell at U.
Because her education is so boring, she lives an interesting fantasy life, which contains her own secret and self-directed education. She, like Algernon, seems to be interested in immediate pleasure, and she puts him in his place when she first meets him.
I am not little. In fact, I believe I am more than usually tall for my age. Wilde here is hinting at a new and more assertive woman. Wilde also attacks the concepts of romance and courtship. Gwendolen and Jack have already demonstrated that proposals must be made correctly, especially if anyone is nearby.
Now, Cecily and Algernon present a mockery of conventional courtship and romance. As always, appearance is everything. Wilde shows this clearly when Algernon proposes to Cecily and tells her he loves her.
He is a bit confused when she explains that they have already been engaged for three months, starting last February 14 — at least that is how she recorded her fantasy in her diary. In fact, she even mentions where, when and how their engagement took place. Furthermore, she has letters written by Ernest that profess his love and record the breaking off of the engagement.
No engagement is serious if it is not broken off at least once and then forgiven. Cecily and Gwendolen have in common their singled-minded persistence in pursuing a husband named Ernest. They have strong opinions, are able to deal with unexpected situations, and are connected in many cases by dialogue that is monotonous and similar. However, they also have many differences. Cecily Cardew is passionate about her desires and her goals, but she is also overly protected in the country setting.
She is being brought up far away from the temptations and social life of the city, protected until her coming out. Her goal is to marry a solid Victorian husband with the trustworthy name of Ernest. When she meets Algernon, she is sure she has found him. Gwendolen Fairfax is a big-city, sophisticated woman in sharp contrast to Cecily Cardew. Gwendolen has ideas of her own.
Like her mother, Gwendolen is determined.
She knows what she wants. She comes to the country to pursue her Ernest, thinking she will rescue him. Whatever her opinion, she states it very clearly. With her lorgnette, she views her world with the shortsightedness filled in her by her Victorian mother- like mother, like daughter. However, this daughter occasionally goes against boundarys placed on her by her class and time period. Wilde connects Cecily and Gwendolen very cleverly by using parallel conversations and by repeating bits and pieces of sentences.
Their artificial speech and comments on trivial subjects are part of polite conversation. Jack and Algernon are also linked with parallel lines that display the similarities in their situations. This witty exchange of conversation is representative of Victorian social ritual where proposals, social calls, and parties are all carefully orchestrated.
Because it is conducted under obvious pressure, the tea becomes a ridiculous event. Throughout the tea pouring and the cake cutting, Cecily and Gwendolen are mindful of their manners in front of the servants. Even their anger is civilized. When Cecily makes a satirical comment about Gwendolen living in town because she does not like crowds- indicating that she has few friends and little social life- Gwendolen bites her lip and beats her foot nervously.
Of course, we know that her Ernest has lied about himself throughout the course of their courtship. What began as trivial has become an engagement.
Both men accuse each other of deceiving the women in their lives, and Jack says that Algernon cannot marry Cecily because he has been deceptive to her. Alternatively, Algernon accuses Jack of engaging in deception toward his cousin, Gwendolen. It seems that marriage plans will not materialize for either of them anytime soon. Their deception as Ernests is definitely over, and now they must figure out how to pick up the pieces. Wilde attacks social behavior with the continuation of speeches by his characters that are the opposite of their actions.
While Cecily and Gwendolen agree to keep a dignified silence, Gwendolen actually states that they will not be the first ones to speak to the men. Worthing, I have something very particular to ask you. He has nothing, but he looks everything. What more can one desire? The aristocrats seem to esteem the appearance of respectability, meaning children are born within the context of marriage.
Wilde once again mocks the hypocrisy of the aristocrats who appear to value monogamy but pretend not to notice affairs.
I do not deny that is a serious blow…. Mother, I forgive you. It was not at all unusual for aristocrats to have illegitimate children, but society turned its head, pretended not to know about those children, and did not condemn their fathers.
The gap between the upper class and its servants is explored in the scenes with Merriman and Prism. Lady Bracknell divides the servant from the lady of the manor. Wilde seems to be questioning the values of a society that hires other people to neglectfully watch its children.
Wilde continues his assault on family life by mentioning its strange qualities in several conversations. As soon as Jack is known to be a member of the established aristocracy, a Moncrieff in fact, he is seen as an appropriate person for Gwendolen to marry. Jack also admits that his name is not Ernest but rather Jack, which is what everyone at his country Manor House calls him.
Algernon jokingly accuses Jack of "Bunburying," his own fanciful term for removing himself from an unpleasant situation in the city, and embarking on a much more pleasurable occupation in the country.
Gwendolen and Lady Bracknell arrive at Algernon's flat for tea. Algernon tells Lady Bracknell that, due to the illness of his friend Bunbury, he must leave London, and as a result will not be able to attend her dinner that night. He distracts her in a different room for a while so that Jack can propose to Gwendolen. Jack tells Gwendolen that he loves her, and she replies that she loves him too, particularly because he is named Ernest, a name that "seems to inspire absolute confidence.
Gwendolen, meanwhile, accepts his proposal just as Lady Bracknell returns; Lady Bracknell announces that Gwendolen may not marry Jack until she gives her approval. Algernon and Gwendolen exit while Lady Bracknell interrogates Jack to determine how suitable a husband he is. She is pleased with his answers until she asks him about his parents. She refuses to let her daughter marry a man with no knowledge of his own parentage, and suggests to Jack that he "acquire some relations as soon as possible.
He gives her the address, which is overheard and copied down by Algernon. At Jack's country estate, Cecily, his ward is learning German and geography at the hands of Miss Prism, a tutor who once wrote a long novel that mysteriously disappeared.
While she is taking a walk with him, Algernon, pretending to be Jack's brother Ernest, arrives to meet Cecily. The two show an immediate romantic interest in one another, and go into the house to get some food. As they leave, Prism and Chasuble return from their work and meet Jack as he arrives back home from the city.
He is dressed in mourning in order to keep up the ruse that his brother, who does not actually exist, has died.
While speaking with Chasuble and Prism, Cecily comes out of the house and sees Jack, and quickly informs him that his brother has returned. Jack is shocked and angered when his "brother" Algernon comes out of the house.
After the others exit to allow the two reunited brothers time to resolve their differences, Jack tells Algernon that he must leave the house at once. Algernon replies that he will leave only if Jack changes out of his morbid mourning clothes.
As Jack exits to do so, Cecily returns. Algernon proposes to her, and she agrees, although she tells him that she particularly loves him because he is named Ernest, a name that "seems to inspire absolute confidence. Algernon grows secretly worried about the fact that he is not named Ernest; he resolves to get rechristened. After Algernon exits, Gwendolen arrives to see Jack, but in the meantime she chats with Cecily, whom she has never met before. Gwendolen is surprised to hear that "Ernest" has a ward but has never told her about it.
Cecily is confused when Gwendolen says that she is engaged to Ernest, and things become heated as, in the confusion, they believe they may be engaged to the same man. Both try to refute the engagement claims of the other, and when that fails, they sit in silent hos6 The Story, continued tility until Algernon and Jack re-enter. The two men confess that they lied about their names and that neither of them is named Ernest.
The two women are shocked, and because both are engaged to someone named Ernest, they retreat together into the house to await the appearance of this brother named Ernest. Meanwhile, Jack begins to panic while Algernon sits back and stuffs himself full of muffins. Act III was Ernest, and because first sons are always named after the father, they realize that Jack's name has, indeed, all along been Ernest.
Overjoyed, Jack realizes that he has been telling the truth his whole life even though he thought he was lying. In the end, he gets together with Gwendolen, Algernon gets together with Cecily, and although Lady Bracknell accuses Jack of triviality, he retorts that he has only just discovered "the vital Importance of Being Earnest. Algernon and Jack enter shortly after the act begins. Algernon tells Cecily that he lied to her about having a brother so that he could spend more time in the city with her.
The women are satisfied, although they still cannot accept marrying the men because neither one is named Ernest. When the men reply that they are scheduled to be christened that afternoon, all seems well, until suddenly Lady Bracknell arrives.
- The Importance of Being Earnest: Second Act, Part 2
- Earnest Study Guide Final
She again refuses to give her consent to the engagement of Gwendolen and Jack. Algernon tells her that he is engaged to Cecily, and when Lady Bracknell learns that Cecily is extremely wealthy thanks to her father's estate, she gives her consent.
However, as Cecily's legal guardian, Jack will not give his consent to the marriage unless Lady Bracknell approves of his engagement to Gwendolen. Lady Bracknell again refuses and prepares to leave with Gwendolen. Dr Chasuble enters and learns that a christening will no longer be necessary, so he resolves to return to Miss Prism. Lady Bracknell, suddenly realizing that she once employed a Miss Prism to take care of her sister's baby, asks to see Miss Prism, who readily appears.
Lady Bracknell demands to know what happened to the baby, which we soon find out disappeared twenty-eight years previously when Miss Prism was supposed to be taking it for a stroll in the perambulator.
Miss Prism confesses that she accidentally put her three-volume novel in the perambulator and the baby in her handbag, which she mistakenly left in the cloakroom at Victoria Station. Jack, suddenly realizing that he was that baby, fetches the handbag in which he was found, which Miss Prism confirms as being hers. Lady Bracknell tells Jack that he is the son of her sister and the elder brother of Algernon.
A search through the military periodicals of the time reveals that their father's first name 7 The Upsetting of A Gower Street Omibus Excerpts of an essay written by Ronald Bryden for the Shaw Festival house programme for the production of The Importance of Being Earnest. One title leaped out at me: Men Who Were Earnest. Over the years I have come to believe, though I shall never be able to prove it, that it played a central part in the creation of his masterpiece.
I have no evidence that Wilde ever read the book or even heard of it. It is highly unlikely that he would have found it in the family nursery in Merrion Square or the library of his Anglican boarding school at Portora. It is an eye-catching volume. It is possible that some irreverent scapegrace of his acquaintance passed it on to Wilde, knowing he would find it a howl. In any case, I shall go to my grave persuaded that the book gave Wilde not only the title but the structure of his play.
The Importance is about the triumph of fantasy over fact, imagination over the nonconformist conscience. The first night audience at the St James Theatre would have recognized the governess at once as a product of University College, London, the first British institution of higher learning to admit women to its classes in The world of University College and its products was the new industrial world of hard scientific facts.
The elder of them maintains that the modern world is the discovery of its poets and artists, not its scientists. Until Turner painted them, no one had ever really seen a sunset. Until its artists displayed its beauties, Japan never existed.
The Importance of Being Earnest: Second Act, Part 2
The scientific observers of the facts see only what is so familiar to every eye that we never notice it. The poet and artist reach past the everyday and habitual to show us the glory of the world as it ought to be. The reality anatomized by Emile Zola and his disciples is a world that cannot change.
The duty of the poet and artist is to bring a better world into being by telling beautiful lies that will kindle the desires of their audiences. Liars are chosen by the gods to bring about the future. By Ronald Bryden knowledged legislators of the world. The conflict between the liars and the devotees of fact in The Importance is resolved by the discovery that the principal champion of the empire of hard facts is herself a fabulist. Did it throw her into the arms of a German geologist, also bound for the doors of University College?
Was it then that, her Bloomsbury notes on Schiller and the fall of the rupee blurred and sodden by a flood of barley water, she decided to use her handbag to carry around the manuscript of her three-volume novel? From the moment Lady Bracknell hears Dr Chasuble utter the name Prism, we can feel the scene moving toward a fairy tale transformation. The laws of probability laid down by statistics for our guidance begin to go into reverse.
The walls of fact and science start to crumble. People cease to be the characters they have been throughout the play and turn into other people.
The end of The Importance of Being Earnest is so perfect it makes you want to cry. If only the world could always be made to change like that! If only it could have stayed like that forever for Oscar! If only our lies could come true, especially the ones we tell about ourselves! It is the greatest comedy ever written. His most recent book, Shaw and His Contemporaries: Theatre Essaysis available in the Shaw Festival Shops. Whatever made her youth in Gower Street so happy turned Miss Prism into a creator of romantic fiction rather than a genuine product of the godless institution.
But for the lovely lies she committed to paper, the tiny Ernest John Moncrieff would never have been found in her handbag at Victoria Station nor adopted by the wealthy Mr Thomas Cardew. That is what the world of fact would have held for him. But having been born miraculously in a handbag, he grows up a prince of the beautiful neverland of lies.
It is a fantastical world that never really existed in this form, and yet the strange thing about The Importance is the number of realistic touchstones. Everyone in the audience on the 14th February would have known the references. Some of the audience would have lived in Belgrave Square. Many of them would have been at the Empire, Leicester Square, in the last week. This fantastical world was made out of the reality of upper class London life.
It was a life that depended on servants, that was afraid of revolution, that manipulated its environment in terms of manners and social and political position because a dangerous world was changing so rapidly. It is everyday life turned into a dream. Even the plot is made up of bits and pieces of other plays.
It is a perfect example of a playwright being so specific that his work becomes universal. Both Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing pretend they are named Ernest in order to further their own interests. In your community, are there family names associated with different professions or characteristics?
Do you associate any first names with certain characteristics in people? If so, is this association caused by the sound of the name or your knowledge of people who have the name? Do such situations exist in real life today? Many authors have written under assumed names or pseudonyms. Research either a modern author Stephen King, for example or an author from the past George Eliot, for examplewho have published novels under names other than their own.
Why do you think someone would choose to write under an assumed name? On the second time around the circle, the student repeats the name and adjective and also adds an accompanying action.
Name Game Part 2 This part of the game is more difficult than the first part. For this reason, the students should be divided into circles of approximately 6 people. In turn, each student says a name that he or she would like as a pseudonym.
The entire circle practices saying each new name for 3 or 4 rotations. This pattern continues and gains speed until everyone is familiar with all the names.
When the circles all return as a large group, people from each circle introduce their peers by pseudonym to the rest of the class. Students may be encouraged to address each other by pseudonym in the hall or cafeteria. Name Game Part 3 This part of the game requires students to assign qualities and actions to characters in The Importance of Being Earnest based on their names.
Divide the class into groups of Have them select at random one of the following names: Based solely on the name, have the students decide on three personality traits of the character, as well as three or four activities the character might habitually be doing. Then have the students each pose in a selected activity to present a complete portrait of their assigned character. Each student in the group should choose a separate activity for the character to be displaying in the portrait.
Have the rest of the class describe the character based on the portraits created. After viewing the play, ask the students to compare their portraits of the characters to the actual characters in the play.
Jack says that he visits the city for pleasure, to avoid the responsibilities of home. When one is in the country, one amuses other people.
What activities do we associate with the country? Its visual equivalent is a landscape picture. In groups of about 6 people, create soundscapes of either the city, the country, or both. After performing the soundscapes, compare the types of sounds associated with each location. Steps for creating a soundscape: Identify sounds associated with a particular setting, environment or experience. Assign at least one sound to each group member.
Practice creating the sounds individually. Determine which sounds should be introduced first, second, third, etc. Experiment with the beginning of the soundscape, gradually building to a crescendo. Determine which sounds should be dropped first, second, third, etc.
Experiment with the ending of the soundscape, gradually going from crescendo to silence. Put the entire soundscape together. Practice until everyone is satisfied with the order of sounds, volume and tempo. The painting features a farmer holding a pitchfork and standing next to his spinster daughter. American Gothic captures the Puritan ethic that Wood believed defined the Midwestern rural character of the early 20th century. In pairs, representing a father and a daughter, create a modern version of American Gothic to depict rural life today.
What object would be included in the picture? What would the living quarters look like? In the same pairs, create a depiction of a modern urban father and daughter. Practise moving slowly from one picture to the other, revealing the difference between life in the city and life in the country for the people in both pictures.
How many have watched the old sit-com Green Acres? In groups ofstudents will decide on creating a scene to take place in either the country or the city. At least one character in the scene will be unaccustomed to life in this environment. Identify two problems the character might face during a typical day in the location your group has selected. In drama, characters usually do not solve problems easily. Imagine three possible attempts the character s might make to solve each of the two problems you have identified.
It will be up to you to decide whether or not the character s succeed s in solving the problems. After the first problem has been dealt with, work on the second problem. Finally, figure out a way to end the scene. When Jack visits Algernon, they eat the sandwiches meant for Lady Bracknell, and discuss dinner plans for later in the day. When Cecily and Gwendolen meet for the first time, they drink tea and eat cake. When Cecily and Gwendolen are angry with Jack and Algernon, the two young men argue about the muffins they are eating.
What social events are associated with eating in contemporary society? What rituals or customs of eating accompany these events? According to Algernon, food is a comfort in times of trouble.
For what reasons, aside from hunger, do people most often eat? Gurney, is a collection of scenes that occur over several years in the same dining room. The following exercise involves constructing scenes that might also occur in a single dining room.
Divide the class into groups according to the following topics: A young man and his friend discuss their plans for the evening. An older relative asks a younger one for help in planning a large party or event. They discuss the guest list and make arrangements. An important family member tries to learn important information about him to determine whether he is a suitable match for the young woman. An adult tries to impress upon a teenager the importance of education. Two girls argue about a boy they both like.
The boy has led each of them to think that she is his girlfriend. Two young men are worried that their girlfriends are going to end their relationships. They discuss their situations and take out their problems on each other. As a class, decide on the location of the dining room.
Is it a formal or informal room? In each group, decide on the time of day and food involved in your scene. Will the food be prepared for you or do you have to cook it as part of your scene? What is the social status of the characters in your scene?
In each group, work out the scene, including a definite beginning and end. Make sure that the food becomes an important component of the scene, and not merely business accompanying the action. After watching The Importance of Being Earnest, discuss whether your scenes shared any elements of scenes from the play. Their days are occupied by the pursuit of entertainment and amusement. They spend much of their time either making plans for the evening or discussing previous social engagements.
What people are wearing, eating, and gossiping about are very serious matters of interest. Escaping boredom is a major goal. What else should bring one anywhere? Cecily, bored with the idleness of her life in the country, writes a fictional account of a romance in her diary, as if the story were really happening to her. Why or why not? Imagine that you are a young unmarried adult living in a wealthy family. You have no career and no household responsibilities because servants attend to cooking and cleaning.
What would you do during a typical day in your life?