The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

4.3 39
by Oscar Wilde
     
 

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About the Author

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He graduated from Oxford University in 1878 with a reputation as a brilliant scholar and quickly dazzled London society with his wit and his flamboyant dress. His first literary successes came in the 1880s with his lecture tour of America and the publication of his fairy tales. These were followed

Overview

About the Author

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He graduated from Oxford University in 1878 with a reputation as a brilliant scholar and quickly dazzled London society with his wit and his flamboyant dress. His first literary successes came in the 1880s with his lecture tour of America and the publication of his fairy tales. These were followed by five highly polished plays and The Picture of Dorian Gray, all completed during the first half of the 1890s. After losing a slander suit over accusations of his homosexual behavior, Wilde was prosecuted and spent two years in prison. Following his release in 1897, estranged from his wife and children, Wilde moved to Paris, where he died in 1900.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Samuel Lyndon Gladden’s edition of The Importance of Being Earnest continues Broadview Press’s proven tradition of excellence. This book will serve the undergraduate, general reader, and scholar. Gladden’s introduction is provocative, and the ancillary materials are especially welcome. Gladden balances familiar with unexpected contemporary works — from Gilbert and Sullivan to Ada Leverson, playbills to reviews, poems to pictures, conduct manuals to dandy tracts — plus excerpts of Wilde’s writings, including an earlier version of the play. Bibliography and chronology complete the presentation as one-stop shopping for an earnest acquaintance with Wilde’s charmer as social text.” — Frederick S. Roden, University of Connecticut

“Broadview’s Importance of Being Earnest carries on the press’s excellent series of texts for general readers and students alike. Samuel Lyndon Gladden presents the three-act text, as well as an appendix with important scenes and lines from the original four-act version. The volume includes many useful annotations and glosses, appendices with contextual information, illustrations, and extracts from letters and documents that will enhance understanding and interpretation of the play. The introduction places the play in up-to-date critical and biographical contexts, illuminating issues without closing down other approaches to making sense of Wilde’s carefully composed dramatic nonsense.” — Philip E. Smith, University of Pittsburgh

Philip E. Smith University of Pittsburgh
"Broadview's Importance of Being Earnest carries on the press's excellent series of texts for general readers and students alike. Samuel Lyndon Gladden presents the three-act text, as well as an appendix with important scenes and lines from the original four-act version. The volume includes many useful annotations and glosses, appendices with contextual information, illustrations, and extracts from letters and documents that will enhance understanding and interpretation of the play. The introduction places the play in up-to-date critical and biographical contexts, illuminating issues without closing down other approaches to making sense of Wilde's carefully composed dramatic nonsense."
Frederick S. Roden University of Connecticut
"Samuel Lyndon Gladden's edition of The Importance of Being Earnest continues Broadview Press's proven tradition of excellence. This book will serve the undergraduate, general reader, and scholar. Gladden's introduction is provocative, and the ancillary materials are especially welcome. Gladden balances familiar with unexpected contemporary works – from Gilbert and Sullivan to Ada Leverson, playbills to reviews, poems to pictures, conduct manuals to dandy tracts – plus excerpts of Wilde's writings, including an earlier version of the play. Bibliography and chronology complete the presentation as one-stop shopping for an earnest acquaintance with Wilde's charmer as social text."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780451520739
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/10/1985
Pages:
1
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

FIRST ACT


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.]

ALGERNON: Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?

LANE: I didn't think it polite to listen, sir.

ALGERNON: I'm sorry for that, for your sake. I don't play accurately - anyone 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.

ALGERNON: 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.]

ALGERNON: [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 consumed.

LANE: Yes, sir; eight bottles and a pint.

ALGERNON: 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.

ALGERNON: 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 once. That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young person.

ALGERNON: [Languidly.] 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 myself.

ALGERNON: Very natural, I am sure. That will do, Lane, thank you.

LANE: Thank you, sir. [Lane goes out.]

ALGERNON: 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 moral responsibility. [Enter Lane.]

LANE: Mr. Ernest Worthing. [Enter Jack.] [Lane goes out.]

ALGERNON: 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!

ALGERNON: [Stiffly.] I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o'clock. Where have you been since last Thursday?

JACK: [Sitting down on the sofa.] In the country.

ALGERNON: 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.

ALGERNON: And who are the people you amuse?

JACK: [Airily.] Oh, neighbours, neighbours.

ALGERNON: Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire?

JACK: Perfectly horrid! Never speak to one of them.

ALGERNON: 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?

ALGERNON: Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.

JACK: How perfectly delightful!

ALGERNON: Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won't quite approve of your being here.

JACK: May I ask why?

ALGERNON: 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 in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.

ALGERNON: I thought you had come up for pleasure? . . . I call that business.

JACK: How utterly unromantic you are!

ALGERNON: I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I'll certainly try to forget the fact.

JACK: I have no doubt about that, dear Algy. The Divorce Court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted.

ALGERNON: Oh! there is no use speculating on that subject. Divorces are made in Heaven - [Jack puts out his hand to take a sandwich. Algernon at once interferes.] Please don't touch the cucumber sandwiches. They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta. [Takes one and eats it.]

JACK: Well, you have been eating them all the time.

ALGERNON: That is quite a different matter. She is my aunt. [Takes plate from below.] Have some bread and butter. The bread and butter is for Gwendolen. Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.

JACK: [Advancing to table and helping himself.] And very good bread and butter it is too.

ALGERNON: Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you were going to eat it all. You behave as if you were married to her already. You are not married to her already, and I don't think you ever will be.

JACK: Why on earth do you say that?

ALGERNON: Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with. Girls don't think it right.

JACK: Oh, that is nonsense!

ALGERNON: It isn't. It is a great truth. It accounts for the extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all over the place. In the second place, I don't give my consent.

Meet the Author

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest.

As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labour after being convicted of "gross indecency" with other men. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland or Britain, and died in poverty.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
October 16, 1854
Date of Death:
November 30, 1900
Place of Birth:
Dublin, Ireland
Place of Death:
Paris, France
Education:
The Royal School in Enniskillen, Dublin, 1864; Trinity College, Dublin, 1871; Magdalen College, Oxford, England, 1874

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The Importance of Being Earnest 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
IanThomas More than 1 year ago
I am very proud to say I read this play and to an extent, enjoyed it. I first heard of Oscar Wilde from another book and when I found this book by him as a possible choice for some required reading, I was ecstatic. Besides the name, Oscar Wilde was unknown to me. I had no knowledge of prior work, history, or even that he wrote plays, not novels. I was truly going out on a lim with this book. I was and was not disappointed in this book. Eighteenth century literature is very strange to me, especially plays. The way of talking and the humor, I find hard to connect to. The characters are far to formal to the extent of being unrealistic. I do not know if that is just my culture and up bring of unbelievable informality or an overly cocky author trying to establish he position as a highly educated person. All conversation in this play seamed stiff and planned out. This for me was especially apparent when it should have been informal conversation if not very informal. Conversations between the to main characters (Algernon and Jack who are friends) just did not flow for me. Their characters did not flourish. Throughout this play I found that one specific characteristic was present in a characters and all to often became the hole character. I felt that they were all one dimensional, "paper" characters. That may have been what Wilde was after in this "Trivial Comedy for Serious People" but it was lost on me. Although I did not enjoy the characters, I did find the story line and plot very interesting and original. I love how this play and the characters put so much emphasis on a name, a single word. I find this fascinating and that main reason I enjoyed this play. I think Oscar Wilde, with this play, captured the essence of the human love for words, spoken and written. Not only do we feel great emotion with words, we put so much importance in them. There are connotations, alternate meaning and, "forbidden" words. These have so much meaning to us. Meaning that we have put into them. The two main female characters do this with a name, Earnest. They have their minds made up that they will only marry a man with the name of Earnest. This is the plot of the story and for how simple it is, I find it very elegant and lovely. With my likes and dislikes about this play, I must come to the parts I hate, about this book. Ending are meant to wrap it up. They make or break a book. There is no perfect ending but there are many bad endings. The Importance of Being Earnest has one of the worst I know. I hate to bad mouth a renowned piece of literature but for this, I truly feel I must. The fraise "Fairy Tail Ending" dose not cover this "perfect" of an ending. I would not mind if it ended happily but in the way it does, it makes me sick. To fully understand how poor the ending is you must read the book. I know I have given a rather poor review for this book, but I must reinvigorate I did enjoy it. The Importance of Being Earnest is a fine read and I feel should be read. Some parts must be fought though but the final destination is good.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I Consider it a Very pleasant chance to study Oscar Wilde's The importance of Bieng Earnest.It Is hard for any playwright or novelist or whatever person to make people laugh through words.However this difficulty was really dissolved,and it was neither difficult nor impossible for Oscar Wilde To attract people's attention and to make them laugh through his works.I Consider , myself, The importance of being Earnest one of the most remarkable works of satire and criticism not only in the Victorian age,but also nowadays,since it discloses many aristocratic behaviors that seems to be very weird and funny at the same time.the several interpretations of this play may be considered as an enough reason for explaining the wit and cleverness of Oscar Wilde.Which,in fact, was translated into words and Acts.Through studying this play,it was clear for me and for my colleagues that Wilde's most important concern is to criticize and assail the Victorian principles and moralites.Wilde Chose some examples of Upper Class poeple to play the role of trivializing a whole culture and philosohpy of life.Characters such as Algernon and Jack are an essential example to reveal Wilde's criticism.They are the effiminite men,who,in the one hand, make pleasure and food as serious and vital as any other mportant and grave issue.on the other hand, they trivialize what is used to be common and widely respecatble in the social view like marriage and love and so on.Oscar Wilde makes his characters play the role of corrupting maxims and saying.Marriage, for instance, has a very common saying about it :'Two is a company three is a crowd', However in the play, this maxim is modified and subverted.it besomes :'in married life, three is a company, and two is none'.the third element in marriage life is business.By mentioning business,one may remark that people in the Victorian age worship money and business more than any other thing.since money provide a full and complete pleasure and comfortable life of them.The feminine Characters in the play, such as Cecily and Gwendolen,though they are well educated but this over intellectualism is standing side by side to their silliness and tiviality.It is really amazing to judge Someone through his name-as what these girls do in fact-.They fall in love with Algernon and Jack not because of their characters,but because of the 'vibrations' produced by their 'unreal' name,Ernest.This trivial motive that stand behind love, is considered on the one hand as a corruption of the moral notion' Love'.it shows love as a trivial emotion that must be criticized.and on the other hand,the silliness of these girls concerning their ' romantic' love,shows how trivial a dandy can be. Lady Bracknell is another important character in the play.She is given some of the wittiest statements of Oscar Wilde himself.She is a great example of the domineering and snobbishing woman,who wants to make her daughter manipulative like her.She wants Gwendolen to be married to a very rich and known man.Her list of 'eligible men' gives us a clear image about her character.She makes the notion of love appear as a deal of business and as a contract that must be beneficial.Her disapproval for the match between her daughter Gwendolen and Jack,is not of his character as an ignorant and a man who smokes,but in the contrary, she disagree with the match because of Jack's unconventional origin.He explaines for L.Bracknell that he was found in a railway station,and that is enough for her to forbid the marriage.This image shows how important the good breed of a person is,because if he is of a good breed and a decent origin so he is automatically acceptable.Otherwise he would be rejected and mocked by people,as what L.Bracknell does in fact with Jack.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading The Importance of Being Earnest in my modern novel class, I became an Oscar Wilde fan. You have to love his wit, dialogue, and clever use of language. A very funny, entertaining, and light play.
Anonymous 8 months ago
I'm always skeptical of books I'm required to read for school, but this one was truly great. I absolutely love this story and read the entire play in one sitting.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is probably more appropriate for teens and adults. It is written in a play format. It isn't thought provoking, but it is rather amusing. Essentially, the basic plot are the complications that arise when people insist on developing alter egos. In a way, as far as discussion, you could interest people in discussing the difficulties other well-known characters or people have had that have double identities (for instance, Superman/Clark Kent). Jack Worthing wishes to marry Lady Fairfax. The problem is, her mother doesn't approve of his orphaned background--he was found in a lady's handbag at the train station. Meanwhile, he is planning to kill off his alter ego Ernest--who is young ward is interested in. Complications arise when his friend Algernon decides to impersonate Ernest. The plot held together well and had very nice twists. The mystery of Jack's origins is solved. At first, I had difficulty in understanding whether the banter between people was supposed to be considered funny or insulting...but once I realized they were trying to be witty, I was able to enjoy it more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well writen; exteremley good for alll ages.
The_Softshell_Crab More than 1 year ago
A classic and an excellent read. Only a few very minor formatting issues kept this from getting five stars. A must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
REL More than 1 year ago
'The Importance of Being Earnest' is perhaps the most magnificent theatrical display of identity crisis since Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' and just as humorous. In this play, two friends, Mr. Jack Worthing and Mr. Algernon Moncrieff who find themselves to be similarly engaged in the art of creating a pretend character who frequently needs their attention and calls them from home. Jack Worthing creates a fictitious brother, "Ernest" as an explanation to his young ward Cecily and members of his household for his frequent visits to the city. In turn, Algernon invents a friend, Mr. Bunbury, who requires his attentions in the countryside. While in the city, Jack assumes the identity of Ernest and his friend Algernon suspects that Ernest is not truly who he seems to be. Jack confesses to his lie and reveals that he has a beautiful young ward named Cecily in the countryside, prompting Algernon to visit Jack's house. Meanwhile, Jack proposes to Algernon's cousin, Gwendolyn Fairfax and by the time he arrives in his country home, he finds Algernon posing as Jack's made-up brother "Ernest" and trying to win Cecily's affections. When Gwendolyn goes to Jack's country house to see the man she knows as Ernest, confusion and hilarity ensue as the two men pretending to be Ernest learn the importance of being earnest. This play is a must-read for fans of theater, comedy, or just literature in general. Clever, witty, and sophisticated without being meretricious, this is amusing to say the least and exemplary of good writing. Full of brio, this play is complex without being a soap opera and has themes as entertaining and classier than any contemporary reality TV show has to offer. It is short enough to be a great beach read for people desiring a more substantial yet light read.
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