54 – 1900)The Importance ofBeing Earnestby Oscar Wilde (1854- 1900)Type of Work:Comic, farcical playSettingLondon, and a country house in Hertfordshire,England; the 1890sPrincipal CharactersJack Worthing, gentleman of the ManorHouse; also known as “Ernest”Celcily Cardew, Worthing’s pretty youngwardMiss Prism, Cecily’s governessAlgernon Moncrieff, Worthing’s friendLady Augusta Braknell, Algernon’s auntGwendolen Fairfax, Lady Bracknell’s daughterThe Reverend Canon Chasublc, Rector ofWooltonStory OverveiwWhile Algernon Moncrieff and his manservantprepared for a visit froi-n his aunt, the formidable Lady Bracknell, theirconversation turned to the question of marriage. Observing the servant’ssomewhat lax views on the subject, Algernon declared, “Really, if the lowerorders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?”This chat was interrupted by the unexpectedarrival of Algernon’s friend, Ernest Worthing Worthing was pleased to hearthat Lady Bracknell – and her beautiful daughter Gwendoleii – would beappearing for tea.
But Algernon warned, “I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’tquite approve of your bein here. ” Mildly insulted, Ernest demanded to knowwhy. “My dear fellow,” Algernon answered, “the way you flirt with Gwendolenis perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirtswith you. ” At this point Worthing announced that he intended to proposemarriage to Gweiidolen, but was taken aback by Algernon’s response: “Idoii’t give my consent.
” Worthing, would first have to explain a certain”Cecily” in his life. As evidence of this relationship, he produced a cigarettecase left behind by Worthing on an earlier visit – devotedly inscribedfrom “Cecily” to her loving “Uncle Jack. “”Well,” admitted Worthing, “my name isErnest in town and Jack in the country. ” It happened, he said, that Cecilywas his ward, who lived in his country home under the watchful eyes ofa sterii governess, Miss Prism. But to escape the stuffy constraints ofcountry living, Jack had invented an alter ego: ” .
. . In order to getup to town I have always pretended to have a younger brother of the nameof Ernest, who lives in Albany, and gets into the most dreadful scrapes. “Thus, Jack was often “called away” to the city to “rescue” irrepressibleErnest.
Smiling, Algernon now confessed that hetoo was a “Bunburyist,” a friend of the equally fictitious “Bunbury,” a”permanent invalid,” whom he visited whenever he chose to get away. When Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen arrived,Algernon took his aunt aside, leaving “Ernest” and Gwendolen alone. “MissFairfax,” Worthing stammered, “ever since I met you I have admired youmore than any girl – I have ever met since – I met you. ” Gwendoleii admittedto returning these warm feelings, in part because “my ideal has alwaysbeen to love someone of the name of Ernest.
” Would she still love him,asked Jack, if his name were, say, “Jack”? “There is very little musicin the name Jack,” observed Gweildolen. Before more could be said, Jackknelt and asked her to marry him. At that moment Lady Bracknell entered,and the couple announced their engagement. Highly displeased, Lady Bracknellrequested a private conference with Mr. Worthing, in which she asked abouthis income, his politics, and, finally, his parentage.
“I don’t actuallyknow who I am by birth,” lack explained; as a baby he had been found ina handbag in the coalroom of the train station. Lady Bracknell was shocked. Neither she nor her husband, she huffed, could allow Gwendolen to “marryinto a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel. “Now Jack considered his predicament.
Atleast, he decided, he could deal with the complication of Ernest. His imaginarybrother must soon “dic” of a severe chill. Deep in these new intrigues,he left. Meanwhile, Algernon, his curiosity piquedby jack’s mysterious young ward, decided he must meet this Cecily.
At the Manor in Hertfordshire, Miss Prismand Cecily were talking in the garden. Cecily expressed the hope that Jackwould soon allow his reprobate brother Ernest to visit: “We might havea good influence over him. ” Miss Prism discouraged this idea, but justa few moments after she had left for a stroll with her own admirer, Dr. Chasuble, the local minister, the butler announced the arrival of Mr.
ErnestWorthing, and in walked Algernon Moncrieff, posing as Jack’s deliciouslywicked – and non-existent brother. After some chit-chat and over a biteto eat, “Ernest” (Algy) implored his “cousin” to “reform him.”Soon Miss Prism and the Reverend returned,just in time to be greeted by Jack Worthing, who arrived with tears ofgrief .