Wilde’s Earnest (1895)
So what’s outrageously “wild” about it?
Perhaps its development
originally written in four acts but then compressed by
Wilde into three on suggestions of actor-manager of St.
compressed version more streamlined; throws out info. not
vital to understanding of characters (Slover: online)
four-act version gives more lines to Chasuble and Prism;
Algernon almost gets arrested in case of mistaken identity
(while masquerading as “Ernest”) for restaurant fees Jack
Worthing hasn’t paid; more commentary on state of
“modern society” by Jack and Algy.
Maybe its implications
disruptive/satirical of social norms
life replaced by art (cf. Decadence: late 19th-cent. artistic
movement that championed idea of “art for art’s sake”;
philosophy based on art critic Walter Pater’s ideas [c.
1870]; e.g., “subtle and delicate sweetness which belongs
to a fine and comely decadence”)
paradox of social conventions and empty words: boredom,
hypocrisy, nonsense, etc.
1890s’ London as evil “megalopolis” (the “Great Whore”)
that gets caricatured, together with Victorian sophistication
Or gender relations
Bunbury as “invaluable permanent
invalid…” (Earnest I.201) who comes in
handy in marriage* (I.232-3)
Gwendolen on ideals and the name
more generally, male/female interaction
(e.g., Mary Farquhar & husband [I.217-
* The Lady With the Monkey, by Aubrey
Slover, Tim. “The Playwright in Earnest: A Re-evaluation of
the Writing and Revising of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of
Being Earnest.” The Importance of Being Earnest: A Study
Guide. Ed. Bob Nelson. Provo: BYU Theatre and Film, 1993.
4-19. 17 Jan. 2010.