The Importance of Being Earnest Dramaturgy

By Sabrina KhanSenior Plogger A farcical play about the Victorian upper class, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was written in 1885, a time when theatre usually dealt with serious and dramatic political themes. Wilde’s play was a sharp and welcome contrast at the time. A witty writer with a strong interest in arts and culture, Wilde’s works often elicit laughs and The Importance of Being Earnest is no different. Wilde mocked societal norms of behavior with his satire of society and its restrictions. The Importance of Being Earnest makes comment on the Victorian era’s emphasis on “earnestness,” which means to be serious and private. The upper classes had hoped to reform the society with this attitude. And Wilde took jabs at it with his humor, using his characters and their dialogue to repeatedly, and pointedly, ridicule this Victorian custom. The story follows the “well-meaning” schemes of two young men, Algernon and Jack, friends who assume the identity of a man named Earnest to fool their social circles and to win the hands of two different women. As tangled a web as the plot weaves, the play reflects rather simple themes that critics of the time both appreciated and criticized, much like the double persona of the play itself. Many, including George Bernard Shaw, who reviewed the play, said it merely amused but lacked moral and failed to move audiences. Still, The Importance of Being Earnest remains to be one of Wilde’s most popular plays and continues to draw laughs to this day.