Read The Importance of Being Earnest: A Play in Three Acts by Oscar Wilde Free Online
Book Title: The Importance of Being Earnest: A Play in Three Acts|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 544 KB
v The author of the book: Oscar Wilde
Edition: Samuel French, Inc.
Date of issue: March 22nd 2011
ISBN 13: 9780573601903
City - Country: No data
Read full description of the books The Importance of Being Earnest: A Play in Three Acts:When I was quite young – I guess, if you were of a mind to, you might say it was a generation ago – I was listening to a radio program and for some reason they decided to do the handbag scene from The Importance of Being Earnest. I’d heard of the play before, obviously, but only the name. I had thought it would be some terribly dreary thing, having no idea just how funny a man Wilde was. The guy on the radio gave it quite a build up – saying something to the effect that this scene is not just one of the funniest in what is a very funny play, but perhaps one of the funniest scenes in the whole of English drama. I waited fully expecting to be disappointed.
Naturally, I howled with laughter. It is very hard to explain just how funny it is hearing a woman (one of those English upper class aunts that Wodehouse also made a living out of depicting) can be saying the words, “A handbag?” Now, who would ever have thought that perhaps the funniest line in the whole of English drama could possibly be, “A handbag?” I say this without the least fear of spoiling the joke for you, by the way, if you’ve never read or seen the play. A mistake that must be remedied immediately if you never have seen it, by the way.
It would be all too easy to dismiss this play as a light romantic comedy. Although it is about a series of near thwarted romances – the stuff of a million ‘chick-flicks’ and romantic comedies going back as far as the eye can see in drama – this is also something much, much more. It is also a delightfully amusing commentary on human sexual relations, the English class system and (much more importantly) a perfect mirror on the amusing excesses of human selfishness. In fact, some of the best lines in the play, and the funniest lines in the play, highlight our near infinite capacity to love ourselves. To quote only a few and without hardly looking:
“If you are not too long, I will wait for you all my life.”
“Oh! Not at all, Gwendolen. I am very fond of being looked at.”
“If I am occasionally overdressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.”
“I don’t play accurately – anyone can play accurately – but I play with wonderful expression.”
“You see, it (her diary) is simply a very young girl’s record of her thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication.”
The other terribly interesting thing in this play is the role of family. Not only are the families quite dysfunctional, even when people know who their parents are, but the title character is about as confused about how he fits into the complex world of family relations as it is possible to make someone. The thing that makes the line about the handbag quite so funny is that this handbag is about the closest thing he has to family in the entire world. As Pascal once said, we laugh and cry about the same things.
I’m going to finish with my favourite exchange in the play, other than, obviously, the handbag scene which is incomparable:
“Lady Bracknell: Is this Miss Prism a female of repellent aspect, remotely connected with education?
Chasuble: (Somewhat indignantly) She is the most cultivated of ladies, and the very picture of respectability.
Lady Bracknell: It is obviously the same person.”
Wilde is, it hardly needs to be said, the closest thing to a God we are likely to have visit us on this planet. There are, for example, even now, more than 100 years after his death, entire companies that produce desk calendars that would not be in business if not for the endless supply of quotes he provides for the foot of Monday the Ninth of February and so on.
If humour comes in a spectrum and slapstick is at one end of that spectrum, then this is the other end.
Read information about the authorOscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being Earnest.
As the result of a widely covered series of trials, Wilde suffered a dramatic downfall and was imprisoned for two years hard labour after being convicted of "gross indecency" with other men. After Wilde was released from prison he set sail for Dieppe by the night ferry. He never returned to Ireland or Britain, and died in poverty.
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