Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Importance of Being Earnest - by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest (UK edition) (DE edition)  is not the best play ever written.  That honor goes to Shakespeare and which play it is depends on you and the production and the times.  

But “Earnest” is probably the most perfect play.  There is not an extra word or a missing word.  It was a funny popular play when written in 1895 as “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People” and it holds up very well today.

It is also a play that is fun to read and I do not always enjoy reading plays, because they are always better performed.  But anyone can have a good time with this play, no cast or proscenium arch needed.  Here is a bit from the beginning and it certainly sets the tone!
Jack.  Hallo!  Why all these cups?  Why cucumber sandwiches?  Why such reckless extravagance in one so young?  Who is coming to tea?
Algernon.  Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.
Jack.  How perfectly delightful!
Algernon.  Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’t quite approve of your being here.
Jack.  May I ask why?
Algernon.  My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful.  It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you.
Jack.  I am in love with Gwendolen.  I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.
Algernon.  I thought you had come up for pleasure? . . . I call that business.
Jack.  How utterly unromantic you are!
Algernon.  I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing.  It is very romantic to be in love.  But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal.  Why, one may be accepted.  One usually is, I believe.  Then the excitement is all over.  The very essence of romance is uncertainty.  If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.
Jack.  I have no doubt about that, dear Algy.  The Divorce Court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted.
Algernon.  Oh! there is no use speculating on that subject.  Divorces are made in Heaven—[Jack puts out his hand to take a sandwich.  Algernon at once interferes.]  Please don’t touch the cucumber sandwiches.  They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta.  [Takes one and eats it.]
Jack.  Well, you have been eating them all the time.
Algernon.  That is quite a different matter.  She is my aunt.  [Takes plate from below.]  Have some bread and butter.  The bread and butter is for Gwendolen.  Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.
Jack.  [Advancing to table and helping himself.]  And very good bread and butter it is too.
Algernon.  Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you were going to eat it all.  You behave as if you were married to her already.  You are not married to her already, and I don’t think you ever will be.
Jack.  Why on earth do you say that?
Algernon.  Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with.  Girls don’t think it right.
Jack.  Oh, that is nonsense!
Algernon.  It isn’t.  It is a great truth.  It accounts for the extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all over the place.  In the second place, I don’t give my consent.
Jack.  Your consent!
Algernon.  My dear fellow, Gwendolen is my first cousin.  And before I allow you to marry her, you will have to clear up the whole question of Cecily.  [Rings bell.]
Jack.  Cecily!  What on earth do you mean?  What do you mean, Algy, by Cecily!  I don’t know any one of the name of Cecily!
If you have seen the play, you are giggling already.  If you have never seen it, then you are in for a treat!

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1 comment:

  1. I am SO getting this book. Just reread Picture of Dorian Gray a couple of weeks ago. It improves in the reading as your own decades grow. Thanks for the dollop.


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