THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar (1854-1900) - An Irish-born English poet, novelist,
and playwright. Considered an eccentric, he was the leader of the
aesthetic movement that advocated “art for art’s sake” and was
once imprisoned for two years with hard labor for homosexual
practices. The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) - Subtitled, “A
Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” this play is often considered
Wilde’s masterpiece. Based on a misunderstanding over the name
“Ernest,” it is an attack on earnestness.
THE PERSONS OF THE PLAY
JOHN WORTHING, J.P.
REV. CANON CHASUBLE, D.D.
HON. GWENDOLEN FAIRFAX
MISS PRISM, GOVERNESS
THE SCENES OF THE PLAY
ACT. I, Algernon Moncrieff’s Flat in Half-Moon Street, W.
ACT. II, The Garden the at the Manor House, Woolton.
ACT III, Morning-room at the Manor House, Woolton.
Time, The Present.
SCENE- Morning-room in Algernon’s flat in Half-Moon Street. The
room is luxuriously and artistically furnished. The sound of a
piano is heard in the adjoining room. [Lane is arranging afternoon
tea on the table, and after the music has ceased, Algernon enters.]
ALG Did you hear what I was playing, Lane? LANE I didn’t think
it polite to listen, sir.
ALG I’m sorry for that, for your sake. I don’t play accuratelyanyone
can play accurately- but I play with wonderful expression.
As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep
science for Life.
LANE Yes, sir.
ALG And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the
cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell? LANE Yes, sir.
[Hands them on a salver.]
[Inspects them, takes two, and sits down on the sofa.]
Oh!... by the way, Lane, I see from your book that on Thursday
night, when Lord Shoreman and Mr. Worthing were dining with
me, eight bottles of champagne are entered as having been
LANE Yes, sir; eight bottles and a pint.
ALG Why is it that at a bachelor’s establishment the servants
invariably drink the champagne? I ask merely for information.
LANE I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have
often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely
of a first-rate brand.
ALG Good Heavens! Is marriage so demoralising as that? LANE I
believe it is a very pleasant state, sir. I have had very little
experience of it myself up to the present. I have only been married
That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between myself
and a young person.
I don’t know that I am much interested in your family life, Lane.
LANE No, sir; it is not a very interesting subject. I never think of it
ALG Very natural, I am sure. That will do, Lane, thank you.
LANE Thank you, sir.
[Lane goes out.]
ALG Lane’s views on marriage seem somewhat lax. Really, if the
lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use
of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of
LANE Mr. Ernest Worthing.
[Lane goes out.]
ALG How are you, my dear Ernest? What brings you up to town?
JACK Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one
anywhere? Eating as usual, I see, Algy!
I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight
refreshment at five o’clock. Where have you been since last
[Sitting down on the sofa.]
In the country.
ALG What on earth do you do there? JACK
[Pulling off his gloves.]
When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the
country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring.
ALG And who are the people you amuse? JACK
Oh, neighbours, neighbours.
ALG Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire? JACK
Perfectly horrid! Never speak to one of them.
ALG How immensely you must amuse them!
[Goes over and takes sandwich.]
By the way, Shropshire is your county, is it not? JACK Eh?
Shropshire? Yes, of course. Hallo! Why all these cups? Why
cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so
young? Who is coming to tea?
ALG Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.
JACK How perfectly delightful!
ALG Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’t
quite approve of your being here.
JACK May I ask way? ALG My dear fellow, the way you flirt with
Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way
Gwendolen flirts with you.
JACK I am ...