Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest


Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest


  • Intro

    The Importance of Being Earnest was described by its author, Oscar Wilde, as ‘by a butterfly for butterflies’. It is a story of courtships, betrothals and confused identities in which two young men – Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff – pursue two young women who are both determined to marry someone called Ernest. Set in fashionable London society, the play is characterised by its wit, artifice and highly polished surfaces.  Wilde’s fellow playwright George Bernard Shaw complained that it ‘lacked reality’, but this is exactly what Wilde intended.


    First performed on St Valentine’s Day in 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest was to be Wilde’s last play, as his increasingly public relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas would soon bring about his downfall. Douglas’ father, the Marquess of Queensberry, had launched a campaign against Wilde that would lead to his imprisonment in Reading Gaol. On his release Wilde went to France, and died in self-imposed exile in Paris in 1900.

Explore more timeline content: