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The Importance of being Earnest By Oscar Wilde


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The Importance of being Earnest

By Oscar Wilde

Three acts (sometimes four).

Main Characters

John Worthing

Algernon Moncrieff

Gwendolen Fairfax

Lady Bracknell

Cecily Cardew

Miss Prism, Governess

Merriman, Butler
Lane, Manservant


Algernon, a young man, pretends to have a friend named Bunbury who is very ill.

He acts this way in order to avoid his responsabilities by making a visit to his imaginary friend every time he finds himself in troubles.

Algernon will soon discover that his best friend "Ernest" is "bunburying" too; in fact his friend's real name is Jack (or John) and he is pretending to have a brother (named Ernest) who is a not very good person.

In a few words: when Jack goes to London he pretends his name's Ernest; when he goes to the country in order to teach his ward (Cecily, an eighteen year-old girl) he uses his "real" name.

And here the troubles begin.

In fact Jack wants to marry Gwendolen (Algernon's cousin) who loves him very much; unfortunately, it seems that the only reason of her love for him is Jack's "fake name": Ernest (which she thinks it's the most beautiful name in the world).

Besides Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen's mother, doesn't want her daughter to marry an adopted man who "was discovered in a handbag at a railway station".

Algernon, appealed by Jack's description of Cecily, goes to meet her, pretending to be his friend's "brother", Ernest.

The girl, who was already in love with him (as we happen to know thanks to her hilarious diary) agreed to his proposal and accepted to marry him.

Unfortunately Jack, who was in London, decides to end his bunburying by "killing" his brother and goes to the country announcing the tragic death of Ernest.

After a series of misunderstandings, we find out that Jack is a nephew of Lady Bracknell and that he was lost by Cecily's governess, Miss Prism, who was then working for Lady Bracknell's sister.

What is Jack's real name then?

Lady Bracknell tells him that he has the same name of his father, a general, but cannot remember what his name was.

So Jack looks in a military history book and declares that his name is Ernest after all.

Actually, it's not that true, in fact his aunt says: "My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality" which implies that the name is not Ernest.

Then Jack/Ernest answers: "On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I've now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest", that is the final line of the comedy.

Algernon is probably Oscar Wilde's alter ego.


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