The importance of being Ernest
Comedy of manners
It deals with a specific class, aristocracy, it shows all its failures and vices. Aristocracy is a fallen class because it has lost all its richness but it has kept its snobbishness and superficiality.
The main theme is the theme of misunderstanding (the double aspect of Victorian society).
There is an happy ending: all comedies turns around love. Love in Victorian society is linked with marriage: in ‘the importance of being Ernest’ there are three marriages.
- Jack Worthing: main protagonist, is a sort of dandy. He’s Ceciliy’s tutor.
- Algernon: close friend to Jack.
- Lady Bracknell: Algernon’s cousin.
- Cecily Cardew: rich orfan heir, lazy student, Jack’s ward.
- Gwendolyn: Algernon’s cousin.
- Miss Prism: Cecily’s governess.
- Dr. Chasuble: the priest, in love with Miss Prism.
The language is witty, absurd.
It is divided into 3 acts:
- I act: set in London, Algernon’s house: Algernon finds a cigarette case on which there is written: ‘to uncle Jack’, belonged to Jack. But everyone in London, also Algernon, know Jack as Ernest: Jack has invented this name because he is tired of country’s life, so he sometimes escapes from it and he goes to visit his invented brother in the city. Also Algernon has adopted this technique: he has invented a false sick friend in the country, Bunbury, so they both ‘bunburing’.
- II act: set in country, Algernon meets Cecily and he says that his name is Ernest. Both Cecily both Gwendolyn (Jack’s fiancée who knows him as Ernest) believes that they are engaged with the same Ernest. They discover they had deceived and that their lovers don’t have the name ‘Ernest’.
- III act: set in country, the two man wants to change their name in church, but it is discovered that the real name of Jack is Ernest.