The importance of being earnest about

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The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wildes madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance. The rapid-fire wit and eccentric characters of The Importance of Being Earnest have made it a mainstay of the high school curriculum for decades.

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gwendolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jacks ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jacks country home on the same weekend the rivals to fight for Ernests undivided attention and the Ernests to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

This Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Edition includes a glossary and readers notes to help the modern reader appreciate Wildes wry wit and elaborate plot twists.
File Name: the importance of being earnest
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Published 14.12.2018

The Importance of Being Earnest Act III

John Worthing, J. Algernon Moncrieff Rev.
Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest

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The Importance of Being Earnest opened in the West End of London in February during an era when many of the religious, social, political, and economic structures were experiencing change — The Victorian Age the last years of the s. The British Empire was at its height and occupied much of the globe, including Ireland, Wilde's homeland. The English aristocracy was dominant, snobbish and rich — far removed from the British middle class and poor. Many novelists, essayists, poets, philosophers and playwrights of the Victorian Age wrote about social problems, particularly concerning the effects of the Industrial Revolution and political and social reform. Dickens concentrated on the poor, Darwin wrote his theory of evolution describing the survival of the fittest, and Thomas Hardy wrote about the Naturalist Theory of man stuck in the throes of fate. In an age of change, their work, as well as Wilde's plays, encouraged people to think about the artificial barriers that defined society and enabled a privileged life for the rich at the expense of the working class.

Algernon is suspicious of Jack’s personal life because he finds a

Jack Worthing is a fashionable young man who lives in the country with his ward, Cecily Cardew. He has invented a rakish brother named Ernest whose supposed exploits give Jack an excuse to travel to London periodically to rescue him. Jack is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax, the cousin of his friend Algernon Moncrieff. Jack discovers that Algernon has been impersonating Ernest in order to woo Cecily, who has always been in love with the imaginary rogue Ernest. The play ends with both couples happily united.

Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play's major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways. Some contemporary reviews praised the play's humour and the culmination of Wilde's artistic career, while others were cautious about its lack of social messages. Its high farce and witty dialogue have helped make The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde's most enduringly popular play. The successful opening night marked the climax of Wilde's career but also heralded his downfall. The Marquess of Queensberry , whose son Lord Alfred Douglas was Wilde's lover, planned to present the writer with a bouquet of rotten vegetables and disrupt the show.


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  1. The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February at the St James's Theatre.

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