The Importance of being Earnest [Play Review]

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Rating: 5/5

Year: 1895


It has been only in recent times I have started exploring various genres and just not crime fiction. I have also developed a growing interest in consuming Classics. Traveling through Shakespeare and Dickens, I recently landed on Wilde. Before I read this work of Oscar Wilde, all I knew about his work was some popular quotes. However, this play – The Importance of being Earnest made me realize why there is a huge following for this brilliant author.

Reading a play might be easy and interesting but writing one? I consider it very difficult. In a novel, the author gets to set the scene taking all the time, describing even the smallest of the things in the scene by its size, quality and color. But in a play, that’s not possible (Unless presented on screen). The author gets very few lines to set the scene, those few words should be so effective to enable the reader the visualize the scene. I believe being able to visualize the story is the key to the success of every literary work. If you are able to use fewer words to achieve the same, the work is undoubtedly going to be a remarkable one.

This play – The Importance of being Earnest strikes at the very early with its tagline. ‘A Trivial Comedy for Serious People’. There are three acts in the play. The first act introduces most of the characters. Ernest, friend of Algernon Moncrieff, is a fine young man who is in love with Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen, who plans to propose to her the very same day. Algernon demands an explanation from Ernest when he finds Ernest’s cigarette case with the inscription, ‘From little Cecily, with her fondest love to Uncle Jack’. Ernest confesses that he leads a double life- John or Jack Worthing in the country, where he takes care of his ward Cecily, to whom Ernest is her Uncle’s brother and Ernest in the London city. Algernon then confesses to his own double identity, the name of his alter being Bunbury. Jack later proposes to Gwendolen, who accepts and admits that she loves him mainly because his name is Ernest. Algernon acquires the address where Cecily lives, and impersonates as Ernest, her Uncle’s brother. Cecily immediately falls in love with Algernon primarily because his name is Ernest! Follow me? Both the ladies love Ernest and Ernest doesn’t exist at all. Now this confusion is the plot of the story. What follows is confusions, misunderstandings and misidentities. The whole getting ready to be christened again was so funny. The ending was really unpredictable, a route which I never expected the author to take.

As a whole, I completely enjoyed reading the story. But when I sit down to dissect and look into the characters in detail- I feel a strange amusement. As long as this story is considered to be a comedy, something of a satirical nature, it could be accepted as fine. But the female characters in the story- Gwendolen and Cecily – the reasons for their love being just the name is a mere joke. Don’t get me wrong here. I understand the story is based on this- the confusion with the name and the ladies’ obsession with the name Ernest. Yet, I couldn’t stop wondering if someone could have been so naive?! Somewhere, this fact of the story troubled me at the end. The women did raise questions on how both the men lied about their identities, but they were so quick to accept their explanation?! May be I am taking this story a little too seriously than needed. May be!

Ultimately, this play is an easy, quick and an entertaining read. Very pleasant and enjoyable. Very clever and witty of the author.

Don’t miss it!


3 thoughts on “The Importance of being Earnest [Play Review]

    guptasaab said:
    June 27, 2017 at 10:47 pm

    What a coincidence! I’m currently getting through one of Oscar Wilde’s works as well! A novel though, instead of a play!

    Liked by 1 person

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