The Importance of Being Earnest
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The Importance of Being Earnest

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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  133,244 ratings  ·  3,813 reviews
Wilde's "trivial play for serious people" is a sparkling comedy of manners. This hilariously absurd satire pits sincerity against style, barbed witticisms against ostentatious elegance. Wilde's brilliantly constructed plot and famous dialogue enrich the appeal of his celebrated characters, as he turns accepted ideas inside out and situations upside down in this, his master...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published September 17th 1981 by Methuen Drama (first published 1890)
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Trevor
When I was quite young – I guess, if you were of a mind to, you might say it was a generation ago – I was listening to a radio program and for some reason they decided to do the handbag scene from The Importance of Being Earnest. I’d heard of the play before, obviously, but only the name. I had thought it would be some terribly dreary thing, having no idea just how funny a man Wilde was. The guy on the radio gave it quite a build up – saying something to the effect that this scene is not just on...more
Amanda
I have come to a basic conclusion: Oscar Wilde was the man. And this play proves it. Full of zingers, witty banter, the well-crafted insult, and all things that make Wilde, well, Wilde, the play had me laughing out loud at lines like "The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is pretty, and to someone else if she is plain" or, as a resigned Jack realizes none of them may be married, "Then a passionate celibacy is all that any of us can look forward to."

Also characteristic...more
Steven
Oscar Wildre was pretty darn quotable, wasn't he:

The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her if she is pretty and to someone else if she is plain.

To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

In married life, three is company, and two is none.

I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything o...more
Emily May
“If you are not too long, I will wait for you all my life.”

Ah, Mr Wilde can always be counted on to make me laugh, to poke fun at the ridiculousness of human behaviour, to tell a story that is both incredibly clever and undeniably silly. The Importance of Being Earnest is a play about mistaken identity, lies, the English class system, and the never-ending vanity and selfishness of high society members. And it's hilarious. It's one of few pre-20th century comedies to have maintained it's laugh fa...more
Arthur Graham

I'm Ernest P. Worrell, and I approve this message.

description

Now, there's been an awful lotta discussion goin' on 'round these parts, lotsa blow-hards and no-brains spoutin' off their own uninformed, silly-ass opinions on the matter, but me I'm fixin' to put an end to all this nonsense, right here right now. Yessiree Bob, that's right -- I'm about to explain to y'all knuckleheads the TRUE importance of being Ernest, so listen up!

Lemme ask you somethin' -- Have you ever survived the Kikakee warrior initiati...more
Henry Avila
Algernon(Algy) Moncrieff, is being visited .By his enigmatic friend,Ernest Worthing. That is Ernest in town. And Jack(John),in the country.It's a long story.But we have time. Mr.Worthing,likes to go to town!Get as far as possible.From his responsibilities at home.Change his name to Ernest.Becomes his fake, younger brother.And do the wrong things.Everybody has secrets.Lies in fact flow like maple syrup on pancakes.That's the charm of this play.Finding out the truth.Strange but the facts. Will eve...more
Jean
Every line in The Importance of Being Earnest is an absolute gem. Remember these?

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.”

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

“No woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.”


Just three for a start - I had not realised quite how many of Oscar Wilde's bon mots originated in this particular play, which is subtitled, "A...more
Brad
Comedy is tough to do well, even by those who create it, but it is even tougher to go back and restage past comedies for modern audiences. The easy explanation is that humour is such a product of its time that audiences are simply not capable of getting the jokes -- not truly. There may be something to that, but I think the real problem is more complex, and I think it can be remedied.

Most comedies, particularly those that hold up and become memorable classics, tell their jokes to make a point. G...more
Furqan
I started reading this play on the train while commuting, and had to stop myself after reading few pages because I found it impossible to suppress my laughter and as a result of it, I noticed I was attracting reproving looks from my fellow travelers. I can't remember reading anything as hilarious as this play. Wilde is the undisputed master of sardonic wit, which is cleverly employed in his characters' terse and opportune dialogues.

Some savouring quotes inculde:

"To lose one parent may be regard...more
David
May 22, 2012 David rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Men named Earnest. Or Jack. Or Bunbury.
Plays are generally better heard than read (I find Shakespeare dull as dirt to read, though I enjoy watching his plays), and that is certainly true of this Victorian comedy of misdirection and misunderstanding. Oscar Wilde was in full satiric mode though his humor was perhaps gentler than usual, even though he was sending up Victorian manners and hypocrisy.


Lady Bracknell. [Pencil and note-book in hand.] I feel bound to tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible young men, although I h
...more
Kelly
May 24, 2007 Kelly rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, fans of comedies of manners.
One of the best plays I've ever read/been in. This review is going to be remarkably short, because I think experiencing Oscar Wilde is really not something to be done except by actually doing so. The joke of it is ruined otherwise. I will say the play is fast, witty, extremely bright, and incredibly perverse. It is possible to actually make people roll in the aisles on this one. I've read in several sources that even George Bernard Shaw did when he saw this for the first time. The muffins scene...more
Kirstine
I don't know what I was expecting when I opened this book. Something broody and serious and deep. Well, it certainly wasn't what I got.

I never expected it too be so funny, and I read it. Plays are so very rarely funny - I mean laugh out loud funny - when you read them, but this one was.

Oscar Wilde is an excellent writer (wow, who knew?) and I'll definitely be more active in reading his stuff. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Though I suspect he might have written this whole thing just so he co...more
April
Oscar Wilde is my backup husband, after William Shakespeare.

I don't care that he was gay; he's also dead, but I'm not really making that an issue, am I?
Anthony D Buckley
When the frivolous Jack Worthing visits the country, he disguises himself as “Earnest” to escape from London Society. Unfortunately, he loves Gwendolyn, but she will never marry him if he is not truly Earnest. Her mother, Lady Bracknell, has parallel concerns. She wants her daughter to marry a man of good family. Unfortunately, not only is Jack not “Earnest”, it also turns out that he is a foundling. He was found in a handbag in the left luggage department at Victoria Station, on the Worthing li...more
Stela
“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.”

Here is a quote in a truly Wildean spirit, one of those sayings that Umberto Eco called “aforismi cancrizzabili” (how the heck do you translate this into English?); in other words, a reversible aphorism (and you seem to be able to reverse it all right: “In matters of grave importance, sincerity, not style is the vital thing”), a second-hand aphorism somehow, since the interest for “jeu de mots” outmatches the need to expre...more
Anastasia
"Viviamo, mi spiace doverlo dire, in un'epoca superficiale."

E Oscar Wilde che fa, quindi? Scrive una commedia teatrale per prendere un po' in giro i suoi contemporanei. Con la loro mania dell'etichetta, del trovare il giusto consorte per i propri figli, e tutte le fissazioni superficiali degli inglesi dell'Ottocento. Con tanto di thé bevuto con molto garbo, ma quello non poteva mancare.
Io non impazzisco per Wilde, che diciamocelo, è uno degli autori "classici" più in voga, specie a scuola. Lo l...more
Zanna
Compared to The Picture of Dorian Gray this is simple, succinct and witty. The medium is an effective foil to Wilde's excesses, and his mockery of the hypocritical aristocracy is often enjoyable. However, Wilde does not seriously question the right of his characters to their privilege - his criticism is light-hearted and his target is the way upper classes behave, not their existence. Also, the sexism of the day might excuse Wilde for creating stereotypical female characters, but not so much for...more
Pauline

Every line was perfect.
Jill
Can everything I ever read be like this? Sparkly and caustic and just kind of alive? I would spend my days lost in words.

Oscar Wilde is undoubtedly one of those rare real life quotemachines whom I'm undyingly jealous of. You know, those people who manage to speak as though their words were meant to be graven for the ages and not just immediately swallowed up by the void. From profundity to wittiness, he has a knack for presenting small truths in exquisite packages.

I suspect that every review of...more
Jonathan
The Importance of Being Earnest deserves its spot on any classics shelf as both an example of Oscar Wilde at his wittiest and as a purely grand play. As with all great plays there are many brilliant and highly quotable lines, incredible characters and while developed for the stage it is also highly readable.

I have little else to say about this work only that I find it brilliantly devised and struggle to think how Oscar Wilde could have come up with this the way he did. Its not flawless - but no...more
Mark
I think my take on Oscar Wilde plays is this: He is a man who wrote mildly amusing (really -- when was the last time you guffawed during a Wilde play?) plays in which the Wilde character always said wittily epigrammatic things which no casual partygoer could ever pull off on the spur of the moment. I believe I read someplace that Wilde himself would create and then practice these epigrams for hours in preparation for sprinkling them into conversations.

In other works, when characters are impossi...more
Mike Puma
This is not a review. If it were really a review, you would be instructed to turn your dial … blah, blah, blah. What fun this play is. Read before watching. Earnestly.
ياسر أحمد
The story-line takes a backseat to the Wilde's dry wit, irreverent humour, and sarcastic witticisms.

Despite the fact that the play was written over a century ago, it remains very relevant even today, maybe even more so than when it was originally penned.

Funnily enough, the lead female characters in Wilde's play are portrayed to be shrewd and greedy, whereas, the gents are rather naive and lovestruck.

Most of the funny one-liners and epigrams are highly quotable even outside the context of the pla...more
Malak Alrashed
As a very big fan of Wilde myself, I have been dying to get my hands on this play which was, for my luck, exactly like what I had in mind: smart and simply hilarious! I finished it in one day and then went back to it and read it all over again. No wonder why it's pretty famous; the characters are just awesome and as usual the dialogue is clever. Loved the muffin's scene and how Jack and Algernon get along with each other.
In a few words, it's a very delightful play and it has plenty of witty scen...more
Lit Bug
A Shakespearean comedy, the play follows two friends spinning lies in order to marry their girls - but soon all hell breaks loose with goof-ups, forcing them to admit the truth - Aunt Augusta is the most impressive character, serving as the object of satire of contemporary society. As in Shakespearean comedies, all ends well.

It is charming for its time, abounds in wit and repartee, and is a brilliant example of the Restoration comedy, or the Comedy of Manners, whose prime features were stock cha...more
Scott
A deliciously funny read and the perfect antidote to an overdose of Henry James, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) is a madcap comedy of manners whose clever plot serves up some of Wilde's funniest and must cutting wit. Wilde is at his epigrammatic best satirizing the hypocrisy and pretense of the Victorian upper classes. He repeatedly suspends his drama so that his characters can deliver impudent and hilarious asides lampooning the trinity held most sacred by the fin de siècl...more
Inaniel
Wilde actually can be very funny. He is great.

„The simplicity of your character makes you exquisitely incomprehensible to me.“

I love it!

„If it was my business, I wouldn’t talk about it. [Begins to eat muffins.] It is very vulgar to talk about one’s business. Only people like stock-brokers do that, and then merely at dinner parties.“

Exactly!
...more
Beth F.
How is it that I missed out on The Importance of Being Earnest until now?!?!?

This play is one of those most riotously hysterical things I’ve read in a long time. I absolutely loved it and I highly recommend that anyone who hasn’t yet read it stop whatever you’re doing right now, download a copy from the public domain (the copyright is long since expired) and spend the next hour and a half in a fit of giggles.

Reading this was the most fun I’ve had at work in a long time.
HuhWhat
This was my first time reading anything by Oscar Wilde. I knew of his work, of course, and his reputation but reading one of his plays helped to put that all into perspective. This play is a streamlined piece of art. It’s witty in its denunciation of Victorian societal conventions and what he manages to get across in 60 odd pages through his characters and their dialogue is quite impressive. Definitely go forth and read this !!
Cecily
Almost every line is a gem. Yes, it's all very self-consciously clever, and there are holes in the plot, but that's not the point. Try to pick your favourite 5 quotes from it, or even two dozen - impossible as there are too many contenders.
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Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being E...more
More about Oscar Wilde...
The Picture of Dorian Gray The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays   An Ideal Husband The Canterville Ghost Complete Works of Oscar Wilde

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“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” 11364 likes
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” 4323 likes
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