Underneath the Comedy of Manners

Underneath the Comedy of Manners

The play, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a comedy of manners because it mocks and ridicules the wealthy Victorian society of the mid 1800’s. Wilde uses witty dialouge and twists to create the ridiculous and outlandish plot. Although the play may be light hearted and often funny there is some depth and social commentary about marriage, education, and society.
Act I begins in modern day London (1895) the play opens with the lighthearted and well-to-do bachelor Algernon Moncrieff awaiting the arrival of his aunt, Lady Bracknell and cousin, Gwendolen Fairfax for a meal at his flat. Unexpectedly, his good friend, Ernest Worthing drops by to visit. Ernest announces to Algernon that he is going to ask for Gwendolen’s hand in marriage but before Algernon gives him his approval he mentions a mysterious inscription on Ernest’s cigarette case that says “From little Cecily with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack”(1601).   Algernon demands to know who “Jack” and “Cecily” are. Ernest admits his real name is Jack and Ernest is the name of his fictional troublesome brother who he uses as an excuse to visit the city and Cecily is Jack’s ward that lives with him in the country. Algernon then confesses he is also a “Bunburyist”, (a name he has given to someone that leads a double life) and he often uses his invalid friend Bunbury as an excuse to leave his social obligations in the city.   After a brief conversation between Jack and Algernon Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen arrive at Algernon’s home just in time for Jack’s proposal. Gwendolen enthusiastically accepts and admits she would only accept a proposal from a man named Ernest because “It has a music of its own. It produces vibrations” (1605) and the name Jack: “it does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations” (1603).   Gwendolen’s fascination with the name Ernest is a bit outrageous   and shows that is she is shallow and naïve. Lady Bracknell’s reply to her daughter’s marriage is far from a...

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