The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest is Oscar Wilde’s most famous play. Subtitled as A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, the play is known for its high farce and witty dialogue. It concerns the attempts of its protagonists to maintain fictional personas among the social conventions of Victorian London. The title is a pun, using the word "earnest" meaning “honest” and the name "Ernest" which is the name of the alter ego of the main character, Jack Worthing; he uses it to slide away from any responsibilities. But while the play was a huge success, it also proved to be Wilde’s last. On the opening night, his homosexual double life was revealed to the public and he fled to Paris.
Marriage is of paramount importance in the play, both as a force motivating the plot and as a subject for debate. Algernon and Jack, the two protagonists, discuss the nature of marriage when they argue about whether a marriage proposal is a matter of “business” or “pleasure”. Lady Bracknell, meanwhile, describes how it should be “a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be”.
‘Sexist’ marriage under fire after court case
A heterosexual British couple have failed to win the right to have a civil partnership instead of a marriage. But the law may now change. Should the decline of marriage cheer us or worry us?
Marriage in the dock after celebrities split
A slew of celebrity divorces and quarrels played out in grim detail under the glare of the media has led to a bout of public soul-searching about the institution of marriage itself.
One of the major topics of conversation is the constraints morality imposes on people and society. Algernon thinks the servant class has a responsibility to set a moral standard for the upper classes, while also complaining that “More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.” Wilde is less concerned with what is moral than with making fun of the Victorian idea of morality.
Atheism on the rise as millions reject religion
According to a new survey, record numbers of people are swapping religious belief for atheism. Could we be heading toward a godless world – and what might that society look like?
Fight over morality of benefit caps splits UK
This week major changes to the British welfare system begin. Supporters say people must be encouraged into work that pays. Critics say deprived communities will be ground down.
Mother-in-law’s lesson in ‘manners’ for bride
An email from her future mother-in-law berating a young woman for sleeping late, fussy eating and general 'uncouthness' has been released to the world. Whose side are you on?
The strict Victorian class system, in which members of the same class marry each other almost without exception, perpetuates the gulf between the upper, middle and lower classes. Snobbish, aristocratic attitudes further preserve the distance between these groups, and this is especially evident in the character of Lady Bracknell, who disapproves of educating the lower orders.
Class-obsessed Britain bans Indian caste system
The UK government has announced that the Indian caste system will effectively soon be illegal in Britain. But what of Britain’s own obsession with social class?
‘Rose-tinted’ Downton back, with controversy
It has been a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. Last night, the final series of Downton Abbey launched. Harmless pleasure? Or wrongly erasing the crimes of Britain’s aristocracy?
Wilde sees the nature of many Victorian customs and norms as suffocating. He creates episodes in which the characters live secret lives or create deliberately false impressions to express who they really are. Jack and Algernon both create personas to feel more free. These other lives allow them to neglect their duties, in Algernon's case, or leave their duties and pursue pleasure, in Jack's case.
Obama’s secret North Korea cyberwar revealed
On Sunday night North Korea defied a UN ban by launching four ballistic missiles. Now it has been disclosed that for years the USA has been engaged in a secret cyberwar against the country.
America’s secret UFO research unit revealed
Just how wacky is it to believe in UFOs? The US government has spent millions investigating sightings. Now previously secret footage reveals a dramatic encounter with possible aliens.
Trump and Russia: ‘We all need answers’
Today a public hearing about Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia starts. The row is reaching fever pitch. Some predict the biggest scandal in US history. Where is this going?
The characters’ foolishness is at the very heart of the comedy. It is frequently unclear to the audience whether a character is joking, or whether he has unknowingly said something contradictory. One such example comes when Gwendolen flips “style” and “sincerity” when she says, “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing,” reflecting the confusion to come.
Judge sends press, politics and police to stocks
Lord Justice Leveson has cast his judgement on the British press. For many leading institutions, the verdict is damning. Are the problems caused by human mistakes, or something deeper?
The book setting Trump’s presidency ablaze
Can we believe what is written in the “explosive” book about President Trump’s first year? Fire and Fury shot up the bestseller lists this weekend, but some have questioned its accuracy.
With one ‘Oops’ a political star hits the buffers
Gaffes are a part of public life – politicians are human too. But a moment of forgetfulness has sent the American presidential hopeful Rick Perry from front-runner to also-ran. Why?