Importance Of Being Earnest 2 Essay, Research Paper
Oscar Wilde s play The Importance of Being Earnest is perhaps the best verbal farce ever written. Although it is more deliberate and less frantic than your typical farce it still has the basic elements: mistaken identities, the mocking of high society, and a few bits of outrageous physical humor. One of the great strengths of this play is the dynamic set up by the playwright between character and language. From the opening moments (the marvelous banter between Jack and Algy over the cucumber sandwiches sets the tone for the entire performance), a tone which must be sustained by the players.
This play is encompassed in the keeping up of social morals at all costs. The characters continually lie to keep an indignant moral high ground. They feel that without lying they would be unable to achieve their pleasures of life. Two men, John Jack Earnest Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, use the deception (a bunbury) that both their names were Ernest, in order to secure marriage to the women that they love. Without the two men lying, not only to each other but also to the other characters, this play wouldn t be as comical. The two male characters help this play become a farce by the many stories they tell to make the plot confusing but yet funny.
Algernon is this frivolous playboy that sees nothing wrong with bending the truth if it will help him to life s pleasures. He cheerfully dispenses cynical bon mots, such as Divorces are made in heaven, with casual fluidity. What makes Algernon so funny is the comedy that he portrays while he is pretending to be someone else or, as he likes to call it bunburry. As incorrigible as Algernon may be he is also the wittiest, derisive imparting truth in his biting comments. Women call each other sisters only after they call each other many other things. This is definitely not p.c. dialogue, and is largely due to the fact that Wilde enjoyed exaggerating the people s vices.
Algernon s buddy, and temperamental opposite, is John Jack Worthing, who seems to want the same things that Algernon wants but is too repressed to admit it. A country gentleman of means, Worthing also portrays his comedy through the many lies that he tells throughout the play. Jack has an imaginary brother, Earnest, whom his household has never seen; wackiness can only ensue. The character of Jack with Algernon helps bring comedy to the stage with the confusion of what will happen next.
Wilde s comedy of manners revolves around both mens attempt to woo and wed the loves of their lives. Jack loves Algernon s cousin, Gwendolyn Fairfax, while Algernon, bunburrying in the country, rapidly becomes enamored of Jack s young ward, Cecily Cardew. It is the two character actresses who steal this show and remain permanently engraved on the world s funny bone. Gwendolyn and Cecily are total opposites but have one thing in common: they will only marry a man with the name Earnest. Each girl believes her beloved is named Earnest, a name imbued with honor and gallantry. In true, shallow fashion, neither will consent to marriage until her man is rechristened Earnest. Gwendolyn beams with maidenly purity, her expression often eclipsed by a comically frozen grin. Cecily shows the strongest virtue to be her attraction to and flirtation with Algernon s rampant sense of vice. She s wholly frivolous, yet entirely credible.
So is the shallow bond that binds the two young women. Wilde uses the two couples to spout comic platitudes and take jibes at marriage. These characters raise the trivial and superficial to a high art.
At the center of Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people” is Lady Bracknell, the grandest of grande dames who delivers the playwright’s sharpest sallies. Making this play a comedy of manners is Lady Bracknell. The sarcasm toward the upper class is the most important idea in this play and it clearly describes the hypocrisy and vanity of the upper class. For example a conversation between her and Algernon: She says It s high time that Mr. Bunbury made his mind whether he is going to live or to die. Wilde, described the cold heart attitudes of the upper class perfectly, but yet was making it comical for the audience.
Earnest is certainly a play that demands your attention; however it is so joyously performed that you don t mind giving it. None of the characters are earnest, but all are trying darn hard to look it. The Importance of Being Earnest has just the right amount of quick tempered humor to make this story of devilish hidden identities very entertaining.