The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a comedy of manners in which the vast majority of the humor derives from Wilde’s portrayal of the female characters. The play is not meant to be serious, or to carry any particular moral message, as Wilde himself acknowledges in the plays subtitle that it is merely a "trivial comedy for serious people". This of course leads to the assumption that there is no depth to the play, which is untrue. In fact, while Wilde does not expertly criticizes his audience as well as his contemporaries in his play and simply uses the comedy to do so.
The play’s title, “The Importance of being Earnest” alludes to the key conflict in the play. The audience soon learn that the main obstacle in the play which both Jack and Algernon need to overcome is not opposition from Lady Bracknell, but the fact that Gwendolen and Cecily are adamant in only marrying someone of the name Ernest. Both Gwendolen and Cecily are preferential to the name "Ernest" and echo each other when they both remark that the name “inspires absolute confidence”. The name Ernest is a pun on the adjective "earnest" which means to be honest or sincere. The value represents everything that the upper Victorian class prided themselves on being; serious, honest and sombre. The fact that both Jack and Algernon have aliases, and both pretend to be 'Ernest ' creates humour in the fact that they are not 'Earnest ' in character. There is also dramatic irony created by the fact that both Jack and Algernon call themselves Ernes...
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...atment of women was wrong, and that change was not inevitable, but necessary.
Throughout The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde entertains his audience with witty speech, improbable circumstances and hilarious characters. Wildes contemporary dramatic critic William Archer described the play as being "good to see", but ultimately something which "...imitates nothing, represents nothing, means nothing, is nothing...” in fact, most of the responses of the play was that it was hilarious, and perfectly showcased Wilde 's literary genius, but did not much else. The deeper social criticisms in the play were completely looked over by Victorian audiences. In contrast to this, modern audiences are very aware of the plays criticisms, as they can view it in retrospect of the Victorian era, and see the truth that Wilde was presenting where the Victorian audience couldn 't.
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