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The Importance of Being Earnest (1895)

by Oscar Wilde

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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10,548177638 (4.16)2 / 372
Drama. Fiction. HTML:

The Importance of Being Earnest is the last play Oscar Wilde ever wrote, and remains his most enduringly popular. It makes fun of social graces in the late Victorian era. Two seemingly unrelated parties are thrown into ridiculous entanglement when their fake identities, maintained in order to escape social responsibilities, grow ever more complicated to uphold.

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    susanbooks: Maurice mentions Oscar Wilde a couple of times & you can imagine the characters in the novel and the play socializing in some drawing room together

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» See also 372 mentions

English (162)  Italian (3)  Catalan (2)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Portuguese (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (175)
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
4.5 stars

Short and funny. I loved the muffin dialogue. The whole thing was very tightly written, which I appreciated. The ending was somewhat… disconcerting… as it showed its age. ( )
  RachelRachelRachel | Nov 21, 2023 |
Short and sweet, Oscar Wilde's popular play The Importance of Being Earnest packs a lot into its three brief acts. On the surface it seems frivolous, a mere satire of Victorian social mores, and even on this level it is entertaining. Its farcical nature – a man invents a brother named 'Ernest' to disguise his second life, and hilarity ensues when 'Ernest' comes to visit his country home – has the sort of fun, easy chaos of a sitcom episode in which similar shenanigans might occur. Though less quotable than Wilde's other works, Earnest still has dialogue that sparkles, as the author enlivens the prattle of these stuffy people with lines that they would not have the wit to conjure themselves.

But beyond this crowd-pleasing level, The Importance of Being Earnest endures. Its characters' determination to take trivial matters seriously and serious matters trivially reminds one disconcertingly of how many real people indeed behave, and while the insufferably snobby airs of the likes of Lady Bracknell are still unappealing to me, it's satisfying to see them skewered. And Wilde's play is nothing so trite as a parody – rather, it's as though Wilde wrote a straightforward play but recognised and delighted in the absurdity of such things, and just couldn't help but sprinkle his own genius on it. What would be contrived in a run-of-the-mill farce – for example, the two women both determined to be attracted only to men named 'Ernest' – takes on additional layers against the backdrop of such authorial genius, and we find ourselves comparing the ways and importance of being earnest/Ernest.

There's also a charmingly human integrity behind the play. It was Wilde's last smash hit before his spectacular downfall; the play being pulled due to his infamous conviction for homosexuality. It's rather touching to see him shine so bright and carelessly here, and rather tragic to know his ascension would soon see him fly too close to the sun (or rather, to Queensberry's son). I remember reading somewhere that 'earnest' was code among Wilde's gay scene for 'homosexual', and while this is disputed by literary detectives, it is rather fantastic to think of that and know that 'The Importance of Being Earnest' was up there in lights in London's West End, with Wilde smiling secretly, even as the unwitting crowds who poured through the doors would not have accepted the importance he placed on being, well, 'earnest'. Even if this speculation is not true – though I hope it is – the play still finds good eating in showing its characters living a double life and riding over the conniptions this causes among the duller people around him. Both feather and maul, The Importance of Being Earnest hides a lot of steel beneath its silk. In keeping with its themes, there's a serious weight beneath its triviality. ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Sep 30, 2023 |
Oscar Wilde es un genio del diálogo. Me encantó El Retrato de Dorian Gray y decidí leer esta obra de teatro, que me ha parecido también maestra. ( )
  InigoAngulo | Sep 2, 2023 |
Probably one of the best books (or plays) I’ve ever read. Wilde’s style is infectiously delightful, and almost every paragraph had me in splits. His grasp of the very upper class he was later part of for a while is unparalleled, and the satire is all the more perfect for it. The characters are a blast, the story’s premise is so ludicrous that it reads like a Bollywood masala movie (except infinitely better), and the ending is such a cute one too!
It’s such a short and simple read that I’d recommend this to anyone of any age, no matter what your preferences in reading are. ( )
  SidKhanooja | Sep 1, 2023 |
A very entertaining play by Wilde, with his typical wit and witticisms and oxymoronic statements. ( )
  BenKline | Aug 14, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (101 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wilde, Oscarprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abbey, GrahamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Agate, JamesContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beerbohm, MaxContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergl, EmilyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Busch, CharlesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carrier, DonaldNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dickson, NeilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Evans, EdithNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gascoine, JillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gielgud, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hankin, St. JohnContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holland, VyvyanForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, AlanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marsters, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neame, ChristopherNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Popkin, HenryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shaw, George BernardContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Templeman, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tsao, AlexCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whalley, JoanneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolf, MatthewNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Morning-room in Algernon's flat in Half-Moon Street. The room is luxuriously and artistically furnished.
Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?
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.
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Please do not combine with works that contain any work other than The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
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Drama. Fiction. HTML:

The Importance of Being Earnest is the last play Oscar Wilde ever wrote, and remains his most enduringly popular. It makes fun of social graces in the late Victorian era. Two seemingly unrelated parties are thrown into ridiculous entanglement when their fake identities, maintained in order to escape social responsibilities, grow ever more complicated to uphold.


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An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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