Importance of Being Ernest

Topics: The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw Pages: 6 (1669 words) Published: March 26, 2014
Importancehe Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James's Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personæ in order to escape burdensome social obligations. Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play's major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways. Contemporary reviews all praised the play's humour, though some were cautious about its explicit lack of social messages, while others foresaw the modern consensus that it was the culmination of Wilde's artistic career so far. Its high farce and witty dialogue have helped make The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde's most enduringly popular play. The successful opening night marked the climax of Wilde's career but also heralded his downfall. The Marquess of Queensberry, whose son Lord Alfred Douglas was Wilde's lover, planned to present the writer with a bouquet of rotten vegetables and disrupt the show. Wilde was tipped off and Queensberry was refused admission. Soon afterwards their feud came to a climax in court, where Wilde's homosexual double life was revealed to the Victorian public and he was eventually sentenced to imprisonment. His notoriety caused the play, despite its early success, to be closed after 86 performances. After his release, he published the play from exile in Paris, but he wrote no further comic or dramatic work. The Importance of Being Earnest has been revived many times since its premiere. It has been adapted for the cinema on three occasions. In The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), Dame Edith Evans reprised her celebrated interpretation of Lady Bracknell; The Importance of Being Earnest (1992) by Kurt Baker used an all-black cast; and Oliver Parker's The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) incorporated some of Wilde's original material cut during the preparation of the original stage production. Contents [hide]

1 Composition
2 Productions
2.1 Premiere
2.2 Critical reception
2.3 Revivals
3 Synopsis
3.1 Act I
3.2 Act II
3.3 Act III
4 Themes
4.1 Triviality
4.2 As a satire of society
4.3 Suggested homosexual subtext
5 Dramatic analysis
5.1 Use of language
5.2 Characterisation
5.3 Structure and genre
6 Publication
6.1 First edition
6.2 In translation
7 Adaptations
7.1 Film
7.2 Operas and musicals
7.3 Radio and television
7.4 Commercial recordings
8 Notes and references
9 Sources
10 External links
Composition[edit]

Oscar Wilde in 1889
After the success of Wilde's plays Lady Windermere's Fan and A Woman of No Importance, Wilde's producers urged him to write further plays. In July 1894 he mooted his idea for The Importance of Being Earnest to George Alexander, the actor-manager of the St James's Theatre. Wilde summered with his family at Worthing, where he wrote the play quickly in August.[1] His fame now at its peak, he used the working title Lady Lancing to avoid pre-emptive speculation of its content.[2] Many names and ideas in the play were borrowed from people or places the author had known; Lady Queensberry, Lord Alfred Douglas's mother, for example, lived at Bracknell.[3][n 1] There is widespread agreement among Wilde scholars that the most important influence on the play was W. S. Gilbert's 1877 farce Engaged;[6] Wilde borrowed from Gilbert not only several incidents but, in Russell Jackson's phrase "the gravity of tone demanded by Gilbert of his actors".[7] Wilde continually revised the text over the next months: no line was left untouched, and "in a play so economical with its language and effects, [the revisions] had serious consequences".[8] Sos Eltis describes Wilde's revisions as a refined art at work: the earliest, longest handwritten drafts of the play labour over farcical incidents, broad puns, nonsense dialogue and conventional comic turns. In...
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