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The Importance of Being Earnest (original 1895; edition 2012)

by Oscar Wilde

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6,20191654 (4.15)202
Member:Kathadrion
Title:The Importance of Being Earnest
Authors:Oscar Wilde
Info:Simon & Brown (2012), Paperback, 156 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:course books, English studies, humor, England

Work details

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1895)

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English (85)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (91)
Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
A perfect cure for sadness. ( )
  Irena. | Aug 26, 2014 |
A fun play that made me laugh a few times. ( )
  yougotamber | Aug 22, 2014 |
As Wilde’s last completed play before his world came crumpling down upon him effectively ending his career and possibly his life (oh to live through that humiliation), this work is widely recognized as Wilde’s best published and wittiest piece. (Supposedly, he’s even wittier in person.)

Two bachelor friends, Jack and Algernon, have their eyes on two lovely ladies, Gwendolen and Cecily, both of whom are in love with an Ernest, the non-existent brother of Jack (for Cecily) and alter ego of Jack (for Gwendolen). Add a stuffy Lady Bracknell, mother of Gwendolen, and a Miss Prism, tutor for Cecily, and we have a comedy of he said, she said, who are you, no you are not, a tidy little twist, all wrapped up with multiple hugs – and the proclamation that it’s important to be earnest!

In the Introduction of this book, I find “… this comedy is the fullest embodiment of Wilde’s lifelong assault upon commonplace life and commonplace values.” and “Wilde’s defiance, it should be understood, was deeply personal. It was not at all the product of any seriously considered social criticism, but, rather it stemmed from an individualism supported by a philosophy of art for art’s sake.”
(Side note: The latter explains ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ character when Dorian rejected Sibyl who had rejected her art as an actress.)

So… what is wrong with me? I didn’t find the assault or the defiance to the extent described. I must not be reading the book correctly. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I smiled as I read, and if I was in the theater, I’m certain that I’d be laughing. I can readily visualize the exaggerated speech and gesture of each actor. But it was mostly so obvious. Both Jack and Algernon are trouble getting themselves into more trouble. Both Gwendolen and Cecily are in love, cat fight with each other over ‘Ernest’, get upset at the men, forgive them, and love them again. Throw in the unnamed twist (dun dun dun!), and it’s not hard to guess the ending.

I found George Bernard Shaw’s review of this play at the end of my book; the review was titled “An Old New Play”. Ouch. He wrote much of how I felt in words better than mine:
“I cannot say that I greatly cared for TIoBE. It amused me, of course; but unless comedy touches me as well as amuses me, it leaves me with a sense of having wasted my evening. I go to the theatre to be moved to laughter, not to be tickled or bustled into it; and that is why, though I laugh as much as anybody at a farcical comedy, I am out of spirits before the end of the second act, and out of temper before the end of the third, my miserable mechanical laughter intensifying these symptoms at every outburst. If the public ever becomes intelligent enough to know when it is really enjoying itself and when it is not, there will be an end of farcical comedy.”

Quotes – as assaults on the ordinary:

On Marriage:
“She will place me next Mary Farquhar, who always flirts with her own husband across the dinner-table. That is not very pleasant. Indeed, it is not even decent… and that sort of thing is enormously on the increase. The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It look so bad. It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public…”

On Knowledge – After Jack replied he knows nothing (vs. everything) to Lady Bracknell:
LB: “I am pleased to hear it. 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. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever…”
That last sentence made me laugh out loud as my current boss was educated in England. ( )
1 vote varwenea | Aug 10, 2014 |
So glad I had to read this for my AP British Literature class. This satire of Victorian England made me laugh more than most books and plays I have read. The humor is just unbeatable... I can't wait to read more from Oscar Wilde! ( )
  Kymberlee | Jun 3, 2014 |
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

A play should of course for maximum benefit be expereinced in the theatre. The next best thing would be to buy an audiobook - the L.A. Theatre Works performing The Importance of Being Earnest with live audience.

It’s such a delight - have there been written a more funnier play? With Oscar Wilde’s famous quips and witty remarks - this story of mistaken identities in upper class british society display
an exuberance of life and high spirits.

“Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that.”

I think everyone in this production is in top form - and specially Lady Bracknell played by Margaret Scudamore.

“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.” ( )
3 vote ctpress | May 25, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (196 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Oscar Wildeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Holland, VyvyanForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, AlanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Popkin, HenryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Is contained in

Eight Great Comedies by Sylvan Barnet

Five Plays by Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde: The Complete Plays, Stories, Poems, and Novels by Oscar Wilde

Three Plays by Oscar Wilde

The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde by Oscar Wilde

Cavalcade of comedy; 21 brilliant comedies from Jonson and Wycherley to Thurber and Coward by Louis Kronenberger

Has the adaptation

Has as a student's study guide

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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Morning-room in Algernon's flat in Half-Moon Street. The room is luxuriously and artistically furnished.
Quotations
LADY BRACKNELL: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
ALGERNON: Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?
LANE: I didn't think it polite to listen, sir.
ALGERNON: I am 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.
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: Oh! it is absurd to have a hard-and-fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.
JACK: I am quite aware of the fact, and I don't propose to discuss modern culture. It isn't the sort of thing one should talk of in private.
ALGERNON: The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!
JACK: That wouldn't be at all a bad thing.
ALGERNON: Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow. Don't try it. You should leave that to people who haven't been at a University. They do it so well in the daily papers.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine with works that contain any work other than The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486264785, Paperback)

Witty and buoyant comedy of manners is brilliantly plotted from its effervescent first act to its hilarious denouement, and filled with some of literature's most famous epigrams. Widely considered Wilde's most perfect work, the play is reprinted here from an authoritative early British edition. A selection of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:31 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

"First published 1899 in the United Kingdom. Drawing room comedy exposing quirks and foibles of Victorian society with plot revolving around amorous pursuits of two men who face social obstacles when they woo young ladies of quality. This play 'is noted for its witty lines, its clever situations, and its satire on the British nobility and clergy.'" Reader's Ency 4th ed.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 15 descriptions

Legacy Library: Oscar Wilde

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Audible.com

24 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140436065, 1405801735

HighBridge

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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