The play was written by Oscar Wilde in 1894. It is a farcical comedy in which the main protagonists maintain a fictional persona to escape from social obligations, and keep it up throughout the play. It has also been known as ‘A Trivial Comedy For Serious people’. The character Of Jack Worthing has the persona of Ernest, who is his brother, whilst the character of Algernon Moncrieff has the persona of Bun bury, an invalid friend of Algernon’s. The play explores themes such as marriage and the satire of
Victorian ways, and addresses them in a comedic, yet serious way. The play is often viewed as a serious comedy due to the offensive nature of certain characters, such as Lady Bracknell who often says things such as: “To lose one parent, Mr Worthing may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness. “, and the way certain situations, that are often considered to be serious, are dealt with. Wilde uses several comedic devices to create the humour that occurs throughout the play. Wilde uses language devices, such as puns, irony and innuendos to create humour hroughout each act.
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The main pun in the play is in the title. Being “Earnest” implies that you are being serious or sincere, which was a very important Victorian value. However, this was not the case in regards to the character of Jack Worthing, as Jack is anything but truthful, because of his alter-ego, Ernest. The character of Gwendolen is set on marrying a man who goes by the name of Ernest, no matter whether or not he is actually “earnest”. As seen in Act Ill, she is quick to forgive him for his past deceptions, purely because he does, in fact, have the name of Ernest.
Another pun that creates humour is said by Lady Bracknell in Act I: “To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness. ” In this situation, the word “Ios‚’ could mean either that a parent has died. However, it could also be seen as if theyve gone missing. In this situation, Lady Bracknell is being extremely insensitive regarding Jack’s past. This creates humour as it defies the social norms Of the era, and is so absurd and insensitive that it would shock a modern day audience.
However, an audience in the Victorian era would have ound the statement funny because it was such a common thing to say to someone. During Act l, when Lady Bracknell says to Jack: “Whose origin was a terminus”, the joke that she is making is that a railway station is as far back as Jack can trace his identity. This creates humour as the “origin” is the first stop on a railway line and, coincidentally, the place where Jack was first found. The puns in the play amuse the audience due to the subtlety of them, and how they add an underlying tone of humour to an otherwise serious situation. dy Bracknell is the main character who does this throughout the play, eginning when she is questioning Jack about his upbringing and status within society. This enforces the fact that the sole purpose is to amuse due to the scene being full of language techniques that create humour throughout. Wilde also uses irony, both situational and dramatic, throughout the play to create humour and to amuse the reader. Wilde uses situational irony to end a scene in an unexpected way, such as when Lady Bracknell does not want Gwendolen to marry Jack, despite him having all the qualities of a good husband, for example wealth and a good reputation.
During the questioning, he focuses on the one area of Jack’s life that he cannot control – his family, and States: ‘to marry into a cloakroom, and form an alliance with a parcel? ” This shows her views towards, and mocking, the lower classes. However, as seen in Act Ill, Lady Bracknell is perfectly happy for Algernon to marry Cecily because of her wealth, despite her being Jack’s ward. This amuses the reader as, after reading Act I and seeing Lady Bracknell’s reaction to Jack’s proposal, you wouldn’t expect for her to allow Algernon to marry Cecily.
Wilde also uses dramatic irony in , especially n scenes in which the characters do not know the full story whilst the reader does. An example of this would be the situation regarding Jack’s true identity, or lack of. Likewise, Algernon has a secret identity that the reader is aware of before the characters are. This creates humour and amuses the reader as the reader will anticipate the revelation when the characters interact and stay interested in the rest of the play, waiting for each of the characters to reveal their secret identity.
Situational and dramatic irony are one of the main reasons why amuses its readers so much due to it ccurring throughout the whole play, and getting more and more ridiculous as the play progresses. This suggests the sole purpose is to amuse because of the impact the irony, specifically the dramatic irony, has on the audience and the reaction that they have towards it. Wilde uses innuendo in to amuse the reader. One of the main innuendos in the play revolves around the idea of food and how it is used to express things that would be impolite to say out loud.
In Act l, when Jack is eating the bread and butter, Algernon says: “The bread and butter is for Gwendolen. Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter. To which Jack replies: “And very good bread and butter it is too. ” In this situation, the act of eating “bread and butter”, something that is generally considered a ‘simple’ food, has connotations of being a sexual act. This amuses the reader because of the underlying message of what each character is saying, and how the true meaning is cleverly hidden under an innocent conversation. Another innuendo occurs in Act II when the character of Dr.
Chasuble is introduced. During a conversation with Miss Prism and Cecily, Chasuble says: “Were fortunate to be Miss Prism’s pupil, I would hang upon her lips. Many of Chasuble’s conversations regarding Miss Prism have an air of flirtation to them and, in this case, innuendo. By hiding Chasuble’s romantic attraction for Miss Prism beneath a cleverly used metaphor, but still mentioning it through innuendo, Wilde creates humour by pointing out the sexual repression of his society and clearly opposing the social norm that it must be hidden completely. mistaken identity is a key aspect of the play and is used to amuse the audience. The idea of mistaken identity occurs throughout the whole of the play due to Jack having the alter-ego of Ernest, which the haracters in the play are not aware of. Jack’s imaginary brother Ernest allows Jack to escape social and moral obligations, however, as the play progresses and each character gets closer to discovering his true identity, the situations gets more and more humorous. An example of this is in Act II, when Gwendolen and Cecily are asking Jack and Algernon, respectively, about their real identities.
Gwendolen says: ‘Where is your brother Ernest? We are both engaged to be married to your brother Ernest, so it is a matter of some importance to us to know where your brother Ernest is at present. ” This hrase creates confusion within the situation, and the emphasis on “Ernest” , created through repetition, also adds to the humour and amusement of the situation. The repetition emphasises deception, which perhaps mirrors the deception that often occurs within Victorian society.
This idea of mistaken identity within the play amuses the reader due to each characters method of hiding, or in Jack’s case getting rid of, their true identity, and how each reason becomes more and more ridiculous as the play goes on. An example of this is when, in Act l, Jack tells Algernon that he is: “Ernest in town and Jack in the ountry”. This is simply Jack telling a small lie so that his true identity is not uncovered. However, in Act II when Jack arrives at his house in the country, he drastically changes the lie and says that his brother Ernest: “Died abroad; in Paris, in fact. which allows Jack to come clean of his lies and start anew with everyone who had believed Ernest to be a real person. Structure is key in amusing the reader in The Importance of Being Earnest. Wilde creates gaps within the story which must be filled by the audience themselves because of the lack of background knowledge the reader has on each of the haracters, such as what was Mr Cardew, Cecily’s father, like and how he is significant in the events that occur, if he even is at all.
This allows the audience to get involved with the characters and their backstories and possibly create a backstory of their own that explains why exactly each character is the way they are in the play. It also allows the audience to create humorous situations within the backstory, again making them think about how these events could be significant in The Importance Of Being Earnest. Wilde also leads the audience, through ifferent characters, to expect what will happen once the story ends, such as Jack and Gwendolen, Algernon and Cecily and possibly Miss Prism and Dr Chasuble getting married.
However, this may also lead the audience to ask questions about the changes characters may undergo after the story finishes, such as whether Algernon will change and become a committed man to Cecily, or whether he will continue Bunburying. However, despite my belief that the sole purpose in The Importance of Being Earnest is to amuse, the idea that Victorian society and morals are used to inform the audience could lso be seen as the purpose of the play.
In conclusion, believe that the sole purpose Of is too amuse, despite most of the humourous situations being disguised under cleverly used innuendos and the use of language techniques such as irony and puns. However, the sole purpose of could also be seen as being to inform the audience about the mess that is the Victorian society and morals. I do not believe that this is as significant as the aim to amuse due to the play being a comedy and, more often than not, there being a large number of comedic moments throughout the whole Of the play.