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The Importance of Being Earnest By Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
The Importance of Being Earnest Written in 1895 A Comedy in 3 Acts Is a satire Immediate hit when first performed Criticizes Victorian moral and social values Bridges Victorian period/literature with Modern Uses wit, puns, exaggeration, and wordplay to create humor
Main Characters John Worthing, aka Lady Bracknell, “Jack”, aka “Earnest” mother of Gwendolyn Algernon Montcrief, Gwendolyn, wants to Jack’s friend marry a man named Lane, the butler for “Earnest” Algernon Cecily, Jack’s ward Rev. Chausible, the preacher in the Miss Prism, Cecily’s country governess
Settings Time: Around 1890 Place(s): London (“the City”) Jack’s House in the Country (a very large estate) The village church
Victorian Period Named for Queen Victoria of England Was Queen from 1837-1901 Followed the reign of “Mad” King George The culture was very moral and serious Women were expected to be the “angel in the house” - to take care of their husband and family
Queen Victoria Became Queen as a young girl Married Albert, Prince Consort and adored him After he died, she wore black for the rest of her life Had 9 children Created a culture that valued family and stability
Victorian Period Manners were supremely important English society was divided into classes The Upper-class was well-educated, came from a rich and respected family (“old money”), and having good manners mattered more than anything else Considered bad manners to flaunt wealth
Victorian Period Young women were always chaperoned until they were married Women’s clothing covered them from neck to ankle; clothes had to be modest In the upper classes, people with a bad reputation were outcasts no matter how much money they had Good manners were extremely important
Victorian Period People did not just “drop in” to visit - they made formal appointments Refreshments were expected when visitors came to “call” (visit) - usually tea and cake or tiny, elegant cucumber sandwiches Men were expected to be well-educated Women were expected to marry well
Oscar Wilde - Author Born in Ireland; lived in England and abroad Attended Trinity College in Ireland and Oxford University in England Very witty and funny Believed in the value of “art for art’s sake” - art (literature) should not be concerned with political issues Wrote several plays, but only one novel Novel: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde With other writers and artists, rebelled against the prim, moral, religious culture of Victorian England Was known to be wild, flamboyant, witty Although homosexual, married and had children Being homosexual was illegal, and he served time in prison for it
Oscar Wilde Handsome Loved clothes Could be quite dramatic Completely unique
Oscar Wilde Came from upper-class family Brilliant writer Loved to shock people “Bad Boy” of his time Never allowed to see his family again Spent the remainder of his life in Paris Died alone and poor in Paris
Literary Vocabulary Comedy - light-hearted literature with humor and a happy ending Satire - literary writing that makes fun of or criticizes the faults of people or groups. Purpose is to point out flaws Wit - using words to be clever and funny with language Pun - a play on words
Literary Vocabulary Protagonist - the main character Foil - the character who contrasts the main character (the foil “reflects” the traits of the main character) Blocking figure - A character, often old and cranky, who interferes with the romantic desires or the other main characters and provides comic action
Literary Vocabulary Motif - a recurring character or element repeated in a literary work. Food is a motif in The Importance of Being Earnest Protagonist - the main character
The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde created many amusing quotes
Oscar Wilde Quotes “I always pass on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it. It is never of any use to oneself. “ “I can resist everything except temptation. “
Oscar Wilde Quotes “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. “ “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”
The Importance of Being Earnest Even though this play was written more than 100 years ago, it continues to be very popular More than one movie has been made of this play, the most recent in the past 5-10 years This play is currently being performed on Broadway in New York City (through June)
Importance of Being Earnest The title of the play is a pun. To be “earnest” means to be serious, and the main character (John/Jack) uses the name “Earnest” when he is in the city “Bunburying” is using an alias to “get away with” avoiding social obligatioins
Importance of Being Earnest What have you learned so far? Know the characters, the setting, the plot Know the basic facts about the author Know the basic facts of Victorian England Know the literary vocabulary required Understand that this play is a comedy
Importance of Being Earnest You have come to the end of the PowerPoint You are ready to begin the play!
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