To What Extent Does The Homosexual Subtext Add To The Comedic Value In The Importance Of Being Earnest

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To what extent does the homosexual subtext add to the comedic value in The Importance of being Earnest
‘The Importance of being Earnest’ is an accomplished parody of the conventions of comedy, containing the main attributes of a comedy of manners. It is easy to view simply as a frivolous farce, laced with witty dialogue, contrived situations and sarcasm. However, upon closer look, Wilde uses his protagonists and the situations caused in the play to target many of the hypocrisies that Victorian society created. Exposing manners, false sincerity and how marriage is little but a social tool, all add to the comedic value of the play, thus considering the play an iridescent filament of fantasy. However, when decoded further, references to the Victorian homosexual underworld are revealed, opening the comedic value up to a whole new audience. I believe that Wilde’s subtle, yet frequent use of homosexual subtext throughout the play adds another layer of meaning to the comedy.

The title of the play is a double entendre, as the pun depends on the adjective ‘Earnest’ meaning sincere and honest, as well as the name ‘Earnest’. However, as the word ‘earnest’ was also gay code for homosexual, Wilde converts it from a double entendre to a triple one. Decoding the play along these lines thus opens up delicious new comic meanings, as one begins to spot and search for double entendres throughout the play. From the butler’s sly admission that ‘there are no cucumbers to be found in the market “even for ready money”, to the statement that Algernon’s luggage includes a particularly large lunchbox, as the central premise of the plots are men emerging from a closet life what more can one say? New hints and meanings thus occur frequently, such as Wilde’s use of conventional comic conventions of dual identities, so historically prevalent in drama stemming from ancient Greece and Rome.
Dual identities is a theme laced throughout the play, exploring what it means to have a dual identity.

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