The Importance of Being Earnest
Subtitled “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,” Wilde’s play is a brilliantly satirical comedy of manners, sending up the absurdity of Victorian social mores and cleverly critiquing the conventions of love and marriage. The tale of two gentlemen who adopt fictitious identities in order to woo the objects of their affections is Wilde’s most beloved work, considered to be one of the wittiest plays ever written in English. The glowing critical reception in London on opening night at the St. James Theater in 1895 marked the high point of Wilde’s career as a writer.
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absurd afraid afternoon Ahem ALGERNON My dear ALGERNON Thank ALGERNON Yes Aunt Augusta Belgrave Square better bread and butter brother Ernest Bunburyist called Ernest Cecily Cardew CECILY Oh CECILY Uncle Jack CECILY Yes CHASUBLE Looking christened Christian name cigarette course cousin Cecily cucumber sandwiches darling dear Algy dear boy dear Doctor dear fellow diary dine eat muffins engaged Enter Jack Enter Lane Enter Merriman Ernest in town Ernest Worthing fact girl guardian GWENDOLEN Yes hand hand-bag Harbury heavens Hertfordshire JACK Gwendolen JACK Oh JACK Yes kind kisses Lane goes LANE Yes little Cecily London Lord Bracknell mamma Markby married mean MERRIMAN Yes Miss Cardew Miss Fairfax MISS PRISM Cecily Moncrieff name of Ernest never nonsense perfectly heartless pleasant pleasure Pray pretty little head Rising seems serious severe chill Shropshire suppose sure talk tell thing Tunbridge Victoria Station
Page 33 - I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, , at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.
Page 63 - You mustn't think that I am wicked. CECILY: If you are not, then you have certainly been deceiving us all in a very inexcusable manner. I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.
Page 62 - I am more than usually tall for my age. (ALGERNON is rather taken aback.) But I am your cousin Cecily. You, I see from your card, are Uncle Jack's brother, my cousin Ernest, my wicked cousin Ernest. ALGERNON: Oh! I am not really wicked at all, cousin Cecily. You mustn't think that I am wicked.
Page 17 - That is not very pleasant. Indeed, it is not even decent . . . and that sort of thing is enormously on the increase. The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public.
Page 116 - You have been christened already. ALGERNON. Yes, but I have not been christened for years. JACK. Yes, but you have been christened. That is the important thing. ALGERNON. Quite so. So I know my constitution can stand it. If you are not quite sure about your ever having been christened, I must say I think it rather dangerous your venturing on it now. It might make you very unwell. You can hardly have forgotten that someone very closely connected with you was very nearly carried off this week in Paris...
Page 69 - And you do not seem to realize, dear Doctor, that by persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation. Men should be more careful; this very celibacy leads weaker vessels astray. CHASUBLE. But is a man not equally attractive when married? MISS PRISM. No married man is ever attractive except to his wife. CHASUBLE. And often, I've been told, not even to her. MISS PRISM. That depends on the intellectual sympathies of the woman. Maturity can always be depended...
Page 113 - Well, I can't eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.
Page 143 - Bracknell (in a severe, judicial voice) : Prism ! (Miss PRISM bows her head in shame.) Come here, Prism ! (Miss PRISM approaches in a humble manner.) Prism ! Where is that baby ? (General consternation. The CANON starts back in horror. ALGERNON and JACK pretend to be anxious to shield CECILY and GWENDOLEN from hearing the details of a terrible public scandal...
Page 34 - That is satisfactory. What between the duties expected of one during one's life-time, and the duties exacted from one after one's death, land has ceased to be either a profit or a pleasure. It gives one position, and prevents one from keeping it up. That's all that can be said about land. Jack. I have a country house with some land, of course, attached to it, about fifteen hundred acres, I believe; but I don't depend on that for my real income.