The Importance of Being Earnest—Oscar Wilde
1. Mr. Earnest Worthing (Jack) enters Algernon Moncrieff’s flat in the Mayfair section of London’s Went End claiming to be visiting in town for “pleasure”. When Algernon informs him that Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen will be coming by, Jack, delighted, confides in Algernon of his intentions to propose to Gwendolen. 2. Jack and Algernon have a debate over whether the subject of marriage is of “business” or “pleasure” which eventually leads to Algernon confronting Jack about the “cigarette case Mr. Worthing left.” 3. Algernon forces Jack to explain the inscription on the inside of the case: from “little Cecily” to “her dear Uncle Jack”. Jack admits that his name is not Earnest but rather Jack, claiming that he is “Earnest in town and Jack in the country.” 4. Jack tells Algernon about the false brother he created as an excuse to get out of the country. Algernon tells Jack that he has invented a friend call Bunbury whose sudden illnesses give him Algernon a chance to get away to the country. 5. Jack tells Algernon that if Gwendolen consents to marry him then he will “kill off” his imaginary brother Earnest, as “little Cecily” is getting too interested in Earnest. Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen arrive. 6. Algernon tells Lady Bracknell that due to the illness of his friend Bunbury he will be able to keep their dinner appointment. Lady Bracknell replies by voicing her irritation about Bunbury’s indecisiveness about whether to “live or die.” 7. Jack proposes to Gwendolen but becomes somewhat dismayed when she admits that her affection for him is based upon her belief that the name Earnest “inspires absolute confidence.” 8. Lady Bracknell interviews Jack to determine his eligibility and is immediately turned off by Jack’s explanation of his family background, as Jack admits that he has no idea who his parents are and that he was found in a handbag in the cloakroom at Victoria Station. Lady Bracknell refuses to let Gwendolen marry Jack. 9. Algernon, posing as Earnest, visits Jack’s estate in the country as quickly falls in love with Cecily. Jack enters, claiming that his brother earnest died of a “severe chill,” only to be confronted by Algernon and is forced to go along with the charade 10. Algernon proposes to Cecily only to find out that Cecily already considers herself engaged to him. Algernon becomes uncomfortable when Cecily says that her love is derived form the fact that Algernon’s name is Earnest. 11. Gwendolen arrives and Cecily attempts to play hostess but the two quickly fall into an argument over who is really engages to Earnest Worthing. 12. Jack and Algernon arrive and Cecily and Gwendolen demand to know the truth. Once the two young ladies learn that they have been deceived, they retire to the house arm in arm, leaving Algernon and Jack to sort out their differences. 13. Cecily and Gwendolen, eager to forgive the men, quickly accept Algernon and Jack’s explanations of their motives. The women are finally won over when Jack and Algernon inform them of their intentions to be christened Earnest. 14. Lady Bracknell arrives and opposes the marriage of Gwendolen and Jack but becomes thrilled by the prospect of Algernon marrying the wealthy Cecily. Jack informs Lady Bracknell that he has no intentions of consenting to the marriage of Cecily and Algernon unless Lady Bracknell agrees to his union with Gwendolen. 15. Lady Bracknell confronts Ms. Prism about “a certain baby” of which Ms. Prism was responsible for twenty-eight years ago. 16. Ms. Prism confesses to having lost the child—putting the baby in a handbag and putting her manuscript in the carriage. The baby turns out to be Jack. Events reveal that Jack is the son of Lady Bracknell’s sister and is therefore Algernon’s younger brother. 17. Although the subject of Jack’s background has been resolved, the matter of his name still remains. Through military...
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