Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Importance of Being Earnest” as Want to Read:
The Importance of Being Earnest
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Importance of Being Earnest

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  154,301 ratings  ·  4,250 reviews
This final play from the pen of Oscar Wilde is a stylish send-up of Victorian courtship and manners, complete with assumed names, mistaken lovers, and a lost handbag. Jack and Algernon are best friends, both wooing ladies who think their names are Ernest, that name which inspires absolute confidence. Wildes effervescent wit, scathing social satire, and high farce make this ...more
Audio CD, Unabridged, 2 pages
Published November 28th 2009 by L.A. Theatre Works (first published February 14th 1895)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Importance of Being Earnest, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Importance of Being Earnest

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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
Arthur Graham

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


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
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
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
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
May 22, 2012 David rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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?
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
Sumirti Singaravel
* Never read this book in a crowd.
* Never read this book when you are not alone.
* Never read this book after mid-night.
* Never read this book with the doors of your room kept open.
* Never read this book sitting down on the floor.

...because when I read this book in my room, with the doors open at 1.00 am, my mother woke up from her sleep and got awe-shocked at the manner I was rolling on the floor laughing, asked me, "It's been a long time I saw you laughing this way. What happened? Are you
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
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
“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
"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
This short little play is hysterical. I found myself laughing out loud several times, and giggling like a crazy person in between. Seriously fun. :D
Magrat Ajostiernos
Derroche de ingenio, ironía, diversión…
Me he reído a carcajada limpia un buen número de veces, y eso no es fácil
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
I know I've loved this, and I remember some of the word-play. But it deserves a re-read.
... And now I've reread it, and am glad. If anything, I enjoyed it even more, this time.
Highly recommended to all who want to read a play, a classic, and/or something funny.
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.

Every line was perfect.
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
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
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
Eti Mishra
Holy Mother! I must say that this play is hilarious.

This is one of that book that I can read over and over again and still can enjoy every bit of it.And I want more books like this,really.

To be true I never expected this to be so damn funny, like funny from the beginning to the end.This play has it all,humor, fun, good dialogues( good :/ no,best dialogues), witty characters and people full of amusement. I loved everything.

And now I can say, I'm in love with this man's writing, Oscar Wilde, he re
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.“

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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Mrs. Warren's Profession
  • She Stoops to Conquer
  • King Henry VI, Part 3
  • Hedda Gabler
  • The Way of the World
  • Doctor Faustus
  • Angels in America:  A Gay Fantasia on National Themes
  • Tartuffe
  • The Invention of Love
  • The Rivals
  • The Pillowman
  • The Pirates of Penzance
  • The Complete Dramatic Works
  • Trifles
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 The Happy Prince

Share This Book

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” 12258 likes
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” 4593 likes
More quotes…