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The Importance of Being Earnest



The Importance of Being Earnest is one of Wilde's most famous plays and still commands the affection of the public through its cinematic adaptations; most recently with Reece Witherspoon and Colin Firth. In Earnest, Wilde uses a mixture of social drama; popular at the time and other popular but less politically engaged forms such as melodrama and farce. The use of gentle parody is probably what protected Wilde from the more biting attacks aimed at his contemporaries such as Henrik Ibsen and Thomas Hardy who commented to similar effect on the values and attitudes of Victorian society. Within the drama Wilde manages to satirise the values that many still believed were the very reason for the great triumphs of Victorian Britain on the world stage. These were the ideas of respectability, self sacrifice, moral rectitude and high mindedness that were closely associated with the Victorian aristocracy. Little by little however Wilde reveals all these to be simply elements of an elaborate mask worn by the ruling elites, behind which each is engaged in precisely the opposite modes of behaviour. In short the principle characters will go to any lengths to avoid their responsibilities and place self interest at the top of their own agendas. Through the literary techniques of dramatic irony parody and reversals Wilde reveals the moral hypocrisy at the heart of the Victorian establishment.

Submitted by Julian Singer Lecturer in English Literature at City College Plymouth.

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Recent Forum Posts on The Importance of Being Earnest

problem with a simple word

Hi! I was wondering if someone could help me: right now I'm working on a translation of The Importance of Being Earnest into my native language and I have a problem with the word "schools". Dr Chasuble suggests strolling "to schools and back". The expression sounds odd to me, because of the plural used, and because it suggests there's a school somewhere on the nobleman's property. Is it possible, that "schools" mentioned is a type of building that one could find somewhere round a big mansion, not necessarily related with education? And if so, what building would that be? I will be really grateful for some hits. PS. I've already checked online dictionaries, but they suggest just "school" meaning place for education or a group of fish.

Cultural Data about TiOBE

When this book was translated, there was a mistake with the name of the book. In spanish, this book is known as "The importance of being called Ernesto":lol:

IoBe essay, HELP!

Hi everyone, i'm writing an essay about IoBE and I wonder if you could tell me about any web where I could find useful and contrasted information about: the IoBE in the context of Wilde's works, main characters and its specific features, the plot, style, the way Wilde uses language on it, etc which is, basically the technical features of the work. Thanks so much for your help

Help with epigrams

can someone give me a few examples of the epigrams in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST? i am having trouble identifying what they are exactly. thanks.

Difficulties in Reading the Importance of Being Earnest (4-act version)

Difficulties in Reading the Importance of Being Earnest (4-act version) Need help. When reading through the Original 4-act play of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, I was baffled by some lines, the meaning of which I can’t quite make out. Please help me. I. Jack: Good heavens! And what nonsense are you reading, Algy? The Army List? Well, I don’t suppose you knew it was the Army List. And you’ve got it open at the wrong page. Besides, there is the thing staring you in the face. M. Generals … Mallam – what ghastly names they have – Markby……(Act IV) What does “Besides, there is the thing staring you in the face” mean? Does “the thing” allude to Cecily, and thus the line means “besides, Cecily is staring you in the face”? Or is it a set-phrase of something? II. Lady Bracknell: That is not the destiny I propose for Gwendolen. Algernon, of course, can choose for himself. Come, dear, we have already missed five, if not six, trains. To miss any more might expose us to comment on the platform. By “To miss any more might expose us to comment on the platform”, does the author mean “leave them to be commented or humiliated by others on the platform” or “leave them on the platform complaining in vain”? III. ALGERNON: My departure will not long be delayed. I have come to bid you good-bye, Miss Cardew. I am informed that a dog-cart has been already ordered for me. I have no option but to go back again into the cold world. CECILY: I hardly know, Mr. Worthing, what you can mean by using such an expression. The day, even for the month of July, is unusually warm. MISS PRISM: Profligacy is apt to dull the senses. ALGERNON: No doubt. I am far from defending the weather. I think, however, that it is only my duty to mention to you, Miss Prism, that Dr Chasuble is expecting you in the vestry. Here, does “I am far from defending the weather” mean “I’m far from dull in sensing the weather” or does “defending” here simply mean defend in sense of protection? IV. What is a “Novel with a purpose”? Does it refer to any meaningful novel in broad sense or does it refer to motivating or inspiring ones? V. In Act IV, when everyone is skimming books to find out Jack’s Christian name, Jack didn’t assign Gwendolen any book, saying that “Gwendolen—no, it would agitate you too much. Leave these researches to less philosophic natures like ours.” What does “Philosophic natures” mean? Looking forward to your opinions, thanks very much.


When Lady Bracknell is making the interview to Jack when he tells her the number of the door at his city house he says 'number 149' and she comments 'Ohhh the unfashionable side'... What did she (Wilde) meant with that? I thought soemthing about the floors, but in the first floor they were actually the richest people who live at the first one.. so why did she mean with it?

TIOBE is a satire on the follies and foibles of the upper class in England

TIOBE is a satire on the follies and foibles of the upper class in England during Oscar Wildes time this is a topic on which i have to write a paper the problem is that TIOBE is a farce any ideas on how i can attempt the answer? also if anyone has any interesting insignts, links to helpful sites etc i would really appreciate ANY help!! thanks

The Importance of Being Earnest

Hello, Since this is my first post, I may as well introduce myself here. My name is p0w3r 7ur7l3. Done. lol. ;) Actually, this thread is of a more serious nature. I have signed up in order to ask questions of, what appears at any rate, to be a community where the average intelligence level is quite a bit higher than at, say, sparknotes. I decided to create my own thread instead of necroposting some of the other IoBE threads since my questions are of a somewhat different nature. And, before you ask and flame, yes I am writting an essay for an english course; no I don't want you to write it for me, yes I have given thought to the issues at hand before I took 15 minutes to sign up here and post and then wait for intelligent replies. Thank you. The basic topic of my essay will be to compare the clown characters within Marlow's Faustus to the characters of Miss Prism/DD Chasuble in IoBE and analyse their contribution to any relevant themes. I have only two issues: I am having a *very* hard time finding solid source material dealing with these points (ie: journals, literary critiques, etc...). I am also having a hard time with an in-depth look at Mrs. Prism. I understand the metaphor inherent with her name, and the reference to Dickens' earlier work (with Mrs. General) but aside from the prunes'n'prisms reference there isn't much (in the way of verifiable quotations) to substantiate the use of Mrs. Prism as the object of satire. I'd like to use her to contrast with Algy and Jack and to reafirm their critique of all things fashionable and with 'class' but I need some academic sources. I would be most in debt to you if anyone could shed some light onto a deeper interpretation of Mrs. Prisms/DD Chasuble's characters and/or provide links or article names to any academic sources that may be relevant to my point of view. I have access to all the standard journal databases and so forth that any university would, so if all you have is an article name that you found online at your own campus, odds are that I will be able to find it. Thank you very much for your help, I am...uh... earnestly awaiting your response. - Ryan TL : DR = I need help finding academic sources/articles/quotations to aid me in my characterizing Mrs. Prism and comparing said characterization to a smiliar comparison to the clown characters in Dr. Faustus. Just noticed that this thread was properly moved to Wilde's forum. Thanks and sorry I didn't put it there to begin with. I failed to see his name on the list of specific authors. - Ryan

Feminism in I.O.B.E.

does anyone know of any knowledgeable links for critical commentary on this topic? thank you.

Modernizing this wonderful play--possible?

I'm in a class on the impact of humor in society, and we've got a final creative project due in a few weeks. It's pretty wide open, but it's encouraged that they relate to one of the plays we've studied--among them, 'The Importance of Being Earnest'! Of COURSE, I postively love this play, and I got an interesting idea... what if I tried 'modernizing' a scene, or maybe an abridgement of the entire play? I fully realize how challenging this could be, since so much of the humor and plot relies on the age and locale. That's kind of why it's tempting! I'm not sure, though, whether I might be in way over my head. Does anybody here have thoughts on whether this is even possible, and if it is, some hints on how to go about it?

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