- Mass Market Paperback: 64 pages
- Publisher: Dover Publications; 1 edition (July 1, 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0486264785
- ISBN-13: 978-0486264783
- Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 4.9 x 0.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (324 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Importance of Being Earnest 1st Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
The Importance of Being Earnest is a tour de force of comedy, misidentifications, and farce. Algernon and Jack are friends, and each has invented an imaginary person as an excuse of getting out of engagements. Jack's person is Ernest, a brother with a wild past. The two conspire to woo the ladies that they love, and through a series of happenstances, must gently deceive to get want they want. The end result is a play of uncomperable quality, chock full of witticisms that are highly quotable out of context. In fact, I dare suggest the entire play is quotable, such its brilliance.
Wilde pulled no punches when writing Earnest. Often, when a play is filled with memorable quotes, it takes away from the realism of the scenes because the characters then become merely conduits for the writer's intellect. Not so in Earnest. Wilde manages to make the characters say exactly what they would say in each situation, true to their persona. That alone is quite an accomplishment, one not often seen.
Misidentities, witty banter, love, all conspire to one of English's most brilliant comedies ever to have seen the stage. We should be so lucky the world had Oscar Wilde in it, and even more so, that he wrote at all.
I liked this book of the play especially, because it includes helpful notes in the beginning, but more because it has a glossary of difficult terms in the back. Every time I came to a word that I did not know, it was sure to be defined in the back.
If you love theatre, this is a great play to read. I would highly suggest this book.
Wilde believed in art for art's own sake, which explains why he emphasized beauty while his contemporaries were dealing with the problems of industrial England. "The Importance of Being Earnest" is set among the upper class, making fun of their excesses and absurdities while imbuing them with witty banter providing a constant stream of epigrams. The play's situation is simple in its unraveling complexity. Algernon Moncrieff is an upper-class English bachelor who is visited by his friend Jack Worthing, who is known as "Ernest." Jack has come to town to propose to Gwendolen Fairfax, the daugher of the imposing Lady Bracknell and Algy's first cousin. Jack has a ward named Cecily who lives in the country while Algernon has an imaginary friend named "Bunbury" whom he uses as an excuse to get out of social engagements.
Jack proposes to Gwendolen but has two problems. First, Gwendolen is wiling to agree because his name is Ernest, a name that "seems to inspire absolute confidence," but which, of course, is not his true Christian name. Second, Lady Bracknell objects to Jack as a suitor when she learns he was abandoned by his parents and found in a handbag in Victoria Station by Mr. Thomas Cardew. Meanwhile, Algernon heads off to the country to check out Cecily, to whom he introduces himself as being her guardian Jack's brother Ernest. This meets with Ceclily's approval because in her diary she has been writing about her engagement to a man named Ernest. Then things get really interesting.
Wilde proves once and for all time that the pun can indeed be elevated to a high art form. Throughout the entire play we have the double meaning of the word "earnest," almost to the level of a conceit, since many of the play's twists and turns deal with the efforts of Jack and Algernon to be "Ernest," by lying, only to discover that circumstances makes honest men of them in the end (and of the women for that matter as well). There is every reason to believe that Wilde was making a point about earnestness being a key ideal of Victorian culture and one worthy of being thoroughly and completely mocked. Granted, some of the puns are really bad, and the discussion of "Bunburying" is so bad it is stands alone in that regard, but there is a sense in which the bad ones only make the good ones so glorious and emphasize that Wilde is at his best while playing games with the English language.
But if Wilde's puns are the low road then his epigrams represent the heights of his genius, especially when they are used by the characters in an ironic vein (e.g., "It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal" and "I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance"). Jack is the male lead, but it is Algernon who represents the ideal Wilde character, who insists he is a rebel speaking out against the institutions of society, such as marriage, but with attacks that are so flamboyant and humorous that the cleverness of the humor ends up standing apart from the inherent point.
In the end, "The Importance of Being Earnest" is the wittiest play every written, in English or any other language, and I doubt that anything written in the future will come close. Wilde was essentially a stand-up comedian who managed to create a narrative in which he could get off dozens of classic one-liners given a high-class sheen by being labeled epigrams. Like a comedian he touches on several topics, from the aristocracy, marriage, and the literary world to English manners, women, love, religion, and anything else that came to his fertile mind. But because it is done with such a lighthearted tone that the barbs remain as timely today as they were at the end of the 19th-century and "The Importance of Being Earnest" will always be at the forefront of the plays of that time which will continue to be produced.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Unfortunately, the edition of the book I bought is falling apart.Read more