The Importance of Being Earnest

Subtitled ‘A Trivial Comedy for Serious People’, Oscar Wilde’s (1854–1900) masterpiece was first performed in 1895. In a letter to his friend Robert Ross, Wilde explained the philosophy of the play: ‘we should treat all trivial things very seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality’. The seemingly respectable Jack and the dandy figure Algernon court Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. Having invented a reprobate ‘brother’, Ernest, Jack has led a double life in London using his sibling’s name. Wilde was satirizing and puncturing the hypocrisy and artificiality of Victorian society.

Manuscript draft of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Manuscript draft of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

View images from this item  (381)

Usage terms Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial licence
Held by © Estate of Oscar Wilde

Creator:
Oscar Wilde
Published:
1895
Full title:
The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People
Forms:
Drama, Play
Genre:
Victorian literature
Literary period:
Victorian

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.

An introduction to Oscar Wilde’s play An Ideal Husband

Article by:
Catherine Angerson
Themes:
Popular culture, Fin de siècle, Power and politics

Catherine Angerson explores the serious questions Oscar Wilde raises in An Ideal Husband under the guise of a frivolous society play.

An introduction to Lady Windermere's Fan

Article by:
Andrew Dickson
Themes:
Fin de siècle, Popular culture

Andrew Dickson explores some of complexities of Oscar Wilde’s first hit play, Lady Windermere’s Fan.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

A Christmas Carol

Created by: Charles Dickens

A Christmas book by Charles Dickens (1812–1870), published in 1843. Dickens was prompted to write this ...

A Woman of No Importance

Created by: Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde’s play A Woman of No Importance is a satire on English upper class morality and society’s ...

An Ideal Husband

Created by: Oscar Wilde

An Ideal Husband (1895) is the third of Oscar Wilde’s society comedies after Lady Windermere’s Fan ...

Lady Windermere’s Fan

Created by: Oscar Wilde

Lady Windermere’s Fan was first performed at St James’s Theatre on 20 February 1892 to rave reviews, and ...