The Importance of Being Earnest

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde

You can’t beat Oscar Wilde when it comes to witty dialogue. The playwright mastered the art form of clever repartee and The Importance of Being Earnest is the best example of that talent.

Two bachelors, Jack and Algernon, both find themselves pretending to be someone they are not in order to get what they want. Their actions cause confusion and cat fights when two ladies, Gwendolen and Cecily find themselves falling for the fictional “Earnest.” Top it off with the indomitable Lady Bracknell, whose matchmaking skills rely heavily on evaluating someone’s social standing and you’ve got a recipe for hilarity.

I’ve always loved this play and rereading it was a treat. I also had the chance to finally see it performed in May and I loved it. That version set the story in the 1990s instead of the 1890s, but the text was exactly the same, which reminded me that romantic comedies really haven’t changed too much.

This play also contains many of Wilde’s most infamous lines. Here’s a few of my favorites:

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

“To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

“I'll bet you anything you like that half an hour after they have met, they will be calling each other sister.
Women only do that when they have called each other a lot of other things first.”

BOTTOM LINE: Read it! It’s a quick and delightful play.

I read this as part of the Let’s Read Plays yearlong event hosted by Fanda. From November 2012 to October 2013 participants will read 12 classics plays throughout the year, at least one each month.


Nikki Steele @ said...

I've seen this one live but it was so long ago that I've forgotten a lot of it. These quoted lines brought a lot of it back. The goal this year was to add in more genres, so may have to read this one soon!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Nikki - It's such a fun play to see live. I love it.

Susan Lindquist said...

This is a hoot of a play! Our hiugh school's drama dept produced it a few years back ... they did a great job, but their youth put a blush on the characters that I thought made it seem winsome instead of biting and satirical ... was wishing to see more seasoned actors do a production ... then I found a BBC version of the play on DVD. better perspective all around ... so funny!

Susan Lindquist said...

PS ... How are you finding Under the Dome?

Jeanne said...

There are so many favorite lines from this play! You listed all the ones I think of immediately except "her hair had gone quite gold from grief."

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Susan - It really is a delight to see live! Confession, I haven't started Under the Dome yet! I have an upcoming flight next week and thought I would wait to start it then.

Jeanne - Man, he had such a way with zingers!

Carl V. Anderson said...

It is fantastic, isn't it? This play and An Ideal Husband are two of my absolute favorites. I got to see it performed live last year myself and it was a treat. My wife and I will often watch the old 1952 film version which is by far my favorite. I'm not really fond of the newer film at all. On the other hand, I do really like the newer film version of An Ideal Husband with Minnie Driver.

Wilde's was a wit that is unsurpassed. He really had such a clever, deft way with words.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Carl - I love An Ideal Husband too! The movie version is really good. I'll have to check out the 1952 version of Importance, I've only seen the newer one.