Corrected typescript of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Description

This is a typescript of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, which contains many handwritten changes and additions.

Wilde makes a lot of changes throughout this draft, cutting some pages entirely, and adding large sections of new dialogue. This typescript seems to show that Wilde was already aware of which areas he was going to work on before the script was typed up. On folios 12, 13 and 14, large sections, including an entire page, have been left blank by the typist, on which he has made his handwritten additions.

Why was Wilde making so many changes?

Wilde revised the text of The Importance of Being Earnest many times before it was first performed at St James’s Theatre on 14 February 1895. George Alexander, the manager of the theatre, who Wilde had worked with before on Lady Windermere’s Fan, originally rejected the play, but after another of his productions flopped unexpectedly, he took up The Importance of Being Earnest. After some rehearsals, Alexander asked Wilde to shorten the play, from four acts, to three. Wilde agreed to do so, condensing a lot of the action of the second and third acts into one. The cuts included the removal of an entire character, Mr Gribsby. In this typescript, the character is still present, although he is first called Thomas R. Hubbard, before Wilde changes it to Mr Gribsby, which can help us date this draft to a date before Wilde agreed to shorten the play.

Full title:
Oscar Wilde, typescript of The Importance of Being Earnest, with autograph revisions and corrections
Created:
1894
Format:
Manuscript / Draft / Playscript
Language:
English
Creator:
Oscar Wilde
Copyright:
© Estate of Oscar Wilde
Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Add MS 81624

Full catalogue details

Related articles

An introduction to The Importance of Being Earnest

Article by:
John Stokes
Themes:
Fin de siècle, Popular culture

The Importance of Being Earnest draws on elements of farce and melodrama in its depiction of a particular social world. Professor John Stokes considers how Oscar Wilde combined disparate influences into a brilliant satire which contained hidden, progressive sentiments.

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