feedback image
Total feedbacks: 111
82
26
0
3
0
Looking for The Importance of Being Earnest in PDF? Check out Scribid.com
Audiobook
Check out Audiobooks.com

Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rehey
Thank you Oscar Wilde!! I loved reading this book while waiting in line for the Toronto Film Festival movies to start..... I have so many nuggets from my recent indulgence of Oscar Wilde's witty, fun, original, and rhythmical play, "The Importance of Being Earnest".

Every phrase and expression is a thought worth enjoying and applying to our life today. The play on words, the glittering conversation, the unexpected turn of phrases, it's deliciously clever and a classic it remains forever. I've made a note of catching the play someday!

You must simply just read the play - it's only 3 acts. It is short and sweet and the use of language is pure and unique. I took away some humor, some irony, a lot of truth and a lot of pure delight in the expression of how I wish English were still spoken today.

Some of my favorite quotes:
- I don't play accurately--any one can play accurately--but I play with wonderful expression.
- The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I'll certainly try to forget the fact.
- The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public.
- I have always been of the opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing. Which do you know?
- Relations are simply tedious pack of people, who haven't got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.
- All women become like their mother. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michelle gray
Oscar Wilde's last and best-known play is a classic comedy complete with mistaken identities, biting satire, and a fair amount of punning (including a crucial pun in the title). This is Wilde at his irreverent best as he repeatedly skewers as many aspects of late 19th Century English society as he can manage.

I've occasionally heard the term "joke density" applied to comedy writing, and The Importance of Being Ernest certainly has that. Every character in the play is witty, and the jabs, barbs, and puns come fast and furious.

The story centers on two somewhat roguish young bachelors who have both created elaborate lies to help them to cover for their mischief. At different points in the play, both gentlemen have assumed the false name of Ernest, which becomes a problem once two women become involved. Two women who are both particularly enamored with the idea of marrying someone named Ernest.

The tightly plotted play has enough twists and turns to keep things interesting, and the witty dialogue never lets up.

The Avon (a HarperCollins imprint) paperback edition that I read contained a short collection of critical essays, the most interesting being a (mostly negative) review by George Bernard Shaw of the original production of the play, which raises some interesting points about the nature of comedy. I found some good insights into the career of Oscar Wilde in the introduction and the other critical pieces, but those familiar with his life and work would not be missing much by skipping these "bonus features".

The play itself was a really enjoyable work to read, and I'll keep an eye out for a chance to catch a performance of it sometime.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nalin lalwani
I actually read an online version of this text provided by my teacher as part of my Introduction to Drama course, so this is not the same version I'm writing about, but is the same work. This is a more modern version of the Comedy of Manners, though from a very conservative time in history that didn't allow for much sexual content. That said, there are some interesting mistaken identities, "faked" deaths, couples falling in love at the drop of a hat, and great criticism and humor towards Victorian society and habits. It's modern enough to be read easily, with an interesting story, and is doubtlessly amusing. More than that, if you've ever wondered how important a name can truly be, the play will certainly give you your answer. I'd certainly recommend that anyone interested in drama read it once at least, as it truly is important within the history and context of the genre itself, in multiple ways.
My Side of the Mountain (Puffin Modern Classics) :: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading - How to Read a Book :: The Last of the Mohicans (Bantam Classics) :: A Treasury of Children's Literature :: The Moon Is Down
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rebecca sullivan
This is timeless comedy by Oscar Wilde! Many phrases from this play have become aphorisms. This masterpiece was created by Wilde at the time of its prosperity and great popularity. But interestingly, during the premiere of this play, there was a scandal associated with the attempt to penetrate into the theater of Marquis Queensbury. To some extent this was a sad omen of the future fate of Oscar. But then on that memorable evening of 14 February 1895 premiere of the play was successful. Enthusiastically rave reviews of the expressed Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells. They were right! For more than a hundred years after the creation of this masterpiece, we continue to laugh at the events of the main characters and to experience with them adventures. Thank you!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
priscilla paton
"The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" is one of the first plays written in English since the works of Shakespeare that celebrates the language itself. Oscar Wilde's comedy has one advantage over the classic comedies of the Bard in that "The Importance of Being Earnest" is as funny today as it was when it was first performed at the St. Jame's Theater in London on February 14, 1895. After all, enjoying Shakespeare requires checking the bottom for footnotes explaining the meaning of those dozens of words that Shakespeare makes up in any one of his plays. But Wilde's brilliant wit, his humor and social satire, remain intact even though he was a writer of the Victorian era.

Wilde believed in art for art's own sake, which explains why he emphasized beauty while his contemporaries were dealing with the problems of industrial England. "The Importance of Being Earnest" is set among the upper class, making fun of their excesses and absurdities while imbuing them with witty banter providing a constant stream of epigrams. The play's situation is simple in its unraveling complexity. Algernon Moncrieff is an upper-class English bachelor who is visited by his friend Jack Worthing, who is known as "Ernest." Jack has come to town to propose to Gwendolen Fairfax, the daugher of the imposing Lady Bracknell and Algy's first cousin. Jack has a ward named Cecily who lives in the country while Algernon has an imaginary friend named "Bunbury" whom he uses as an excuse to get out of social engagements.

Jack proposes to Gwendolen but has two problems. First, Gwendolen is wiling to agree because his name is Ernest, a name that "seems to inspire absolute confidence," but which, of course, is not his true Christian name. Second, Lady Bracknell objects to Jack as a suitor when she learns he was abandoned by his parents and found in a handbag in Victoria Station by Mr. Thomas Cardew. Meanwhile, Algernon heads off to the country to check out Cecily, to whom he introduces himself as being her guardian Jack's brother Ernest. This meets with Ceclily's approval because in her diary she has been writing about her engagement to a man named Ernest. Then things get really interesting.

Wilde proves once and for all time that the pun can indeed be elevated to a high art form. Throughout the entire play we have the double meaning of the word "earnest," almost to the level of a conceit, since many of the play's twists and turns deal with the efforts of Jack and Algernon to be "Ernest," by lying, only to discover that circumstances makes honest men of them in the end (and of the women for that matter as well). There is every reason to believe that Wilde was making a point about earnestness being a key ideal of Victorian culture and one worthy of being thoroughly and completely mocked. Granted, some of the puns are really bad, and the discussion of "Bunburying" is so bad it is stands alone in that regard, but there is a sense in which the bad ones only make the good ones so glorious and emphasize that Wilde is at his best while playing games with the English language.

But if Wilde's puns are the low road then his epigrams represent the heights of his genius, especially when they are used by the characters in an ironic vein (e.g., "It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal" and "I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance"). Jack is the male lead, but it is Algernon who represents the ideal Wilde character, who insists he is a rebel speaking out against the institutions of society, such as marriage, but with attacks that are so flamboyant and humorous that the cleverness of the humor ends up standing apart from the inherent point.

In the end, "The Importance of Being Earnest" is the wittiest play every written, in English or any other language, and I doubt that anything written in the future will come close. Wilde was essentially a stand-up comedian who managed to create a narrative in which he could get off dozens of classic one-liners given a high-class sheen by being labeled epigrams. Like a comedian he touches on several topics, from the aristocracy, marriage, and the literary world to English manners, women, love, religion, and anything else that came to his fertile mind. But because it is done with such a lighthearted tone that the barbs remain as timely today as they were at the end of the 19th-century and "The Importance of Being Earnest" will always be at the forefront of the plays of that time which will continue to be produced.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
durion
"Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I didn't know anything about this play going in to it. After reading the first few pages it became evident pretty quickly that this was a comedy, and a pretty good one at that. There is a lot of witty banter and snide remarks throughout that make you laugh out loud. I imagine this is even funnier on the stage with the actors' body language, etc.

The play demonstrates how a couple of lies can culminate into a huge quandary. You can see the train wreck coming and the anticipation builds until the train finally comes off it's tracks at the satisfying collision ... I mean culmination.

The version of the book I read is full of footnotes that includes changes that have occured in the play over the years and other pertinent information to the play. There is one footnote that I found particularly interesting; it says, Franklin Dyall, who played Merriman (in the play) recalled the effect of one of his lines on the first night, "This [announcement] was received with the loudest and most sustained laugh that I have ever experienced, culminating in a round of applause; and as I came off Wilde said to me: 'I'm so glad you got that laugh. It shows they have followed the plot.'" Imagine watching your play being acted out for the first time. It must be nerve-wracking to sit there hoping that people will like it and appreciate it. It must also be extremely satisfying to see and hear the positive reactions.

My wife noticed what I was reading and told me she had seen the movie and that it starred Rupert Everett as Algernon. I can't think of a more apt actor for that role. I will have to check it out.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brent
Oscar Wilde gives us in this play one of his best instance of humor, or would I say wit ? Every situation, every word, every piece of this dialogue is full of smartness and intelligence. The only aim of the play is to show us how absurd strict social canons are. Life is extremely more fun than the respect of such rules that destroy any kind of pleasure or happy turns of events. Good society is thus turned upside down and the best instance of such humorous antics is the fact that the son of a general was officially born in a handbag deposited in the cloakroom of Victoria Station, the Brighton Line. How ridiculous ! How funny, ah ah and funny, strange ! Oscar Wilde shows how vain all appearances are because appearances may hide deeper things that are of far more important value than these appearances. This play is thus a constant and perfect example of comedy. But in spite of this light appearance of the play, we can feel the deeper suffering of Oscar Wilde who is very serious about the absurdity of keeping up appearances instead of taking only character into account. In other words, this comedy is a sign of the total decay of such higher society that is nothing but a pretty face with nothing behind, nothing in the head or the brain. It is a call for a real society based on human values like love, truthfulness, faithfulness. All twists in the social fabric create unconceivable embroglios that lead to entanglements and other difficulties. Things would be so simple if men and women could just follow their inclinations and their deep sentiments. We also find in this comedy a deep marivaux-ian influence : Marivaux loved in his play to alter identities, but among girls, to test the love of men. Here it is the men who have altered identities and it leads to testing their ability at sacrificing such entangled situations for the love of a girl. There is also a strong recollection of Shakespeare who enjoyed turning his girls into boys in his comedies, but once again to test the love of men, to see without being seen, for women. Oscar Wilde, in the social setting of a Victorian society, is just as witty and funny as Shakespeare in say As you Like It, or say again A Midsummer Night's Dream. And life turns Aunt Augusta, alias Lady Bracknell into the ass of the fable.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University of Perpignan
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ellis
One thing happens when you read Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest"; you are amazed to remember that this play was authored over 100 years ago. For most plays of that era, the average reader tends to lose references and it tends to be stodgy and irrelevant. Not so Earnest, due to the brilliance and imagination of it's playwright.

The Importance of Being Earnest is a tour de force of comedy, misidentifications, and farce. Algernon and Jack are friends, and each has invented an imaginary person as an excuse of getting out of engagements. Jack's person is Ernest, a brother with a wild past. The two conspire to woo the ladies that they love, and through a series of happenstances, must gently deceive to get want they want. The end result is a play of uncomperable quality, chock full of witticisms that are highly quotable out of context. In fact, I dare suggest the entire play is quotable, such its brilliance.

Wilde pulled no punches when writing Earnest. Often, when a play is filled with memorable quotes, it takes away from the realism of the scenes because the characters then become merely conduits for the writer's intellect. Not so in Earnest. Wilde manages to make the characters say exactly what they would say in each situation, true to their persona. That alone is quite an accomplishment, one not often seen.

Misidentities, witty banter, love, all conspire to one of English's most brilliant comedies ever to have seen the stage. We should be so lucky the world had Oscar Wilde in it, and even more so, that he wrote at all.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
aleksandra
Oscar Wilde once said that all forms of art are useless. Bearing this in mind, his play `The Importance of Being Earnest' is one of the most useless pieces ever written. Writing a simple and funny play, the play writer managed to criticize the hypocrisy of the Victorian society in this comedy of manners.
The whole story is around the words `earnest' and `Ernest'. More than toying with the words and their sound and meaning, Wilde is talking about the `masks' that people put in their faces by that time. Nobody is really what he/she seems to be. The two main characters Algernon Moncrieff and Algernon Moncrieff create another ego that they pretend to be their brothers-- to such device they call Bunburying hence the name of Algernon's brother.
What is very clear with this plot is that Wilde shows how one has to lie in order to succeed. However, in another level, Bunburying is way of describing homosexual liaisons or is a way of escaping from the chains of the marriage. By the way, marriage itself is strongly criticized by the author in this play. The two marriageable girls are interested in men whose names are Ernest, no matter how they look or what they do.
All the undertones of the play aside, `The Importance of Being Ernest' is a quick and funny play, full of great lines that could only come from Oscar Wilde's mind. Just like Lady Braknell says to hurry a marriage: `I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other's character before marriage, which I think is never advisable.' Simply funny, acid and true!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
valari
The play's protagonist Jack makes up an imaginary brother called Earnest, who he uses as an excuse to get out of town and do what he likes, but is too embarrassed to admit he likes.
Jack and Algernon are best friends, who amusingly get tangled in the web of being mistaken for Earnest and falling in love with women who are mesmerized by the name Earnest, which as Jack's object of affection Gwendolen puts it: "it inspires absolute confidence".

The ladies, despite their fixation with Earnest's name, accept their loved ones, but will these two men give up the dream of being Earnest, and if they do, will society and other people accept the lie they made up?

As expected, a forcibly happy ending will reveal an unexpected surprise about Jack and the made up character.

If it wasn't Oscar Wilde's play, I would've asked, what are the odds? Given the playful plot and the masked serious topics like deception, double lives, hypocrisy and mainly the nature of marriage, I can accept some deviation from reality.

The importance of being Earnest is a fun read, and a special sarcastic way of dealing with Victorian morals and values as Wilde perceived them. The play absolutely deserves all the attention it got and still gets.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
anne marie
Oscar Wilde's masterpiece, this play has many, many versions that are available. Of them all, audio or film, this is the best. It is somewhere between a really good A & E production with a twist of Monty Python in the pacing and delivery. This is the version of all versions to hear! Superb.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
roanne
All of the plays in this book are delightfully sardonic, hilarious and poignant about the superficiality/triviality and haphazardous nature of culture and humanity. They are rather formulaic, I must say, so it is best not to read them one after another, but it is absolute pleasure and always a delight to read anything by this author. No wonder he is most quoted... "I can resist everything except temptation." "Taking sides in the beginning of sincerity, and earnestness follows shortly afterwards, and the human being becomes a bore."We in the House of Lords are never in touch with public opinion. That makes us a civilised body." "So much marriage is certainly not becoming. Twenty years of romance make a woman look like a ruin; but twenty years of marriage make her something like a public building."... So irreverent, so politically incorrect, so cleverly blatant...scary funny.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nick boisson
The Importance of Being Earnest is a very well written play, told by the one of the greatest authors from the Victorian Era. The play describes and depicts many aspects of Victorian Culture by relating each issue about the culture with a character in the play and displaying the problems that upper class men and women of the time may experience. The way he characterizes and creates speech patterns for each character makes them each unique but all similar at the same time. On the other hand, this literary work has a comical side due to the amount of satire Wilde fixes into the play to poke fun of the various pillars of Victorian Culture. One example of this in the text is the wide use of epigrams throughout the play and the elevated language used by all characters. But what makes this play a must read is the fact that he intertwines these characters so easily and fluidly as to where it becomes a giant web of relations between characters. Each character in the play compliments the others views and actions throughout the play. Even the imaginary characters that Jack and Algernon create for themselves compliment the other characters and themselves as to where it makes the work and the characters a little more sophisticated and developed in multiple aspects that relate back to the culture of the time. He even invents characters that have played roles in his own life as a child, as seen with Miss Prism who represents his own childhood teacher that he despised greatly growing up. Furthermore, let it be known that Oscar Wilde grew up in this era of elevated culture, which would place him in the foremost position to judge its basis and its overall benefit on the people it affected. All in all, the play is such a pivotal catalyst among comedies and love stories that it's importance can not be ignored since many love/comedies derive their very roots from this play. There are serious issues that are portrayed in the story but he is such and expert with a pen that he finds a way to make all of these issues comical while keeping the base message alive throughout the play. In the end, this book is a must read due to the importance of its literary value.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
john fifield
One of Oscar Wilde's most famous works, this play is a must read for anyone that is even remotely interested in English theater at any level.
"Comedy of Manners," Wilde's play is on the very shallow surface, a funny play that is full of some of his greatest epigrams.
At a deeper level, this play is full of political commentary, social satire and a look at the upper class British of a hundred years ago.
Using his world renound style and wit, Wilde, wrote a play that brought to light the majors flaws of the idle rich and the hypocracy that lived right on the surface of their every day lives.
Often immitated but never surpassed, Wilde had a way with words and an ability to get to the heart of matters while protecting himself; by making the people he was pointing his finger at, laugh at themselves.
This play should be bought, even if one has seen one of the many film versions, or a live revival of the show. The jokes are piled so thickly on top of each other, that in real time, it is imposible to catch everything, or to digest all of the deeper meanings that this play attempts to expose.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
richie schwartz
I read this when I took the Comic Vision in school. In all honesty this is a phenomenal piece of literature. Wilde offers comedy of several sorts. The bickering between Jack and Algernon and the bickering between Gwendolen and Cecily is well drawn. Lady Bracknell is a dominating figure in herself. Miss Prism and the Priest are also memorable supporting characters. Wilde also offers a funny repetition of events when first Jack tries to woo Gwendolen under an alias identity and then Algernon tries to woo Cecily under the same alias identity. This makes the scene where they all meet together hilarious! But Wilde DOES NOT stop here! After the 2 men and 2 women bickered with each other, Jack and Algernon team up to win the love of their lives, and Gwendolen and Cecily team up to determine the integrity of Jack and Algernon. The end of this defines dramatic irony! (I don't want to spoil it.) Perhaps the greatest thing about this book is that Wilde skillfully balances subtle humour and major dramatic irony. If you like this book, you MUST see the Paramount Production. Most video stores should have it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lanea
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 of Wilde is that there is a lot more going on here than comedy. With a sharp eye, Wilde cleverly satirizes all aspects of aristocratic life. For all their cleverness, these are despicable people. They are petty, vain, arrogant, and vapid. And hysterical.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
josiah
If you like a story of perseverance, creativity and inspiration then you will love The Importance of Being Earnest in Oscar Wilde’s, play. In this revealing sports autobiography, you see the man everyone knows on the countryside, as Jack Worthing and the man everyone knows as Earnest in London become the man that we all know, Earnest John. Jack Worthing is just your average male in his twenties who happens to be a major landowner in charge of farmers, slaves, and employees, while also having the luxury to travel between the countryside and London during the 19th century. But his journey from being found in a bag to being found by a wealthy man to being in control of all these people is one of true dedication and hard work and a little of inheritance. Honestly, who knew he had such a hard life? Yet, all these attributes make Jack Worthing, an inspiration to all, his meteoric rise symbolizes that being found by the right person can truly bring you success in life, something I learned that everyone should strive for.
If you are one of those people who love to know the “behind the scenes” of someone’s life, this book is for you. One thing that I was amazed by was Earnest’s true effort to get the love of his love Gwendolen, to agree to the engagement. From having a relationship with her, to attempting to engage with her, but getting rejected by Lady Bracknell, to then being rejected because his name is not believed to be Earnest, is all part of the process in finally being engaged to Gwendolen. Who knew that this man went through so much adversity and has so much fight in him? This not only shows heart (pun!), but also shows that Earnest John never quits and has never quit. Something that I know after reading this book I will never do again. Not only is this an inspiration but also demonstrates the fight that Jack shows for his marriage, much like the one he shows in life and in his career.
Throughout the book we get to go behind the scenes into the true story of Earnest really is? Does Earnest actually exist? Why Algernon and Jack are both named Earnest at one point? The revealing of these mysteries is one that gives the reader a perspective they could never imagine to see. This is something that by simply seeing Jack and Algernon, you would never guess. And then there is the controversy in his life. The scene in the book where the readers witness the muffins is otherworldly. Algernon on eating muffins states, “Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them”. Although this may be good advice it proves that Earnest John definitely had trouble with the crowd he spent time with, something that he overcame to become who he is today.
Earnest Jack, throughout this book, encompasses all the qualities that a boy in his twenties should have and even though he almost doesn’t get what he wants, he did have to work really hard for it. For any child looking into the advantages of lying about your name and where you go, this book is perfect for you and don’t forget, liars always prosper.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mahdieh
Oscar Wilde here excels in wit. Its funnier that any piece ever written, or maybe funnier than anything I have ever encountered. The play is very interesting comedy of errors, full of hilarious suspense, and by the end, when everything falls into place, one happily bows to the Importance of being earnest. The dialogue is full of anecdotes worth citing, and trust me you would return to read this play more than once.
Some examples to give you the flavor:
ALGERNON The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!
or this dialogue:
JACK Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.
LADY BRACKNELL I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind. There are far too many idle men in London as it is. How old are you?
JACK Twenty-nine.
LADY BRACKNELL A very good age to be married at. I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing. Which do you know?
JACK [After some hesitation.] I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.
LADY BRACKNELL I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square. What is your income?
or maybe this one:
JACK I have lost both my parents.
LADY BRACKNELL To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
or try this:)
JACK Well, will you go if I change my clothes?
ALGERNON Yes, if you are not too long. I never saw anybody take so long to dress, and with such little result.
JACK Well, at any rate, that is better than being always over- dressed as you are.
ALGERNON If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
gabriel jaraba
Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays

Penguin Classics Paperback, 2000.
8vo. xxx, 432 pp. Edited with an Introduction [vii-xxvi], Commentaries and Notes [pp. 364-432] by Richard Allen Cave. Excised scene from The Importance of Being Earnest [pp. 359-363].

First published thus, 2000.

Contents

Introduction
A Note on the Texts
Select Bibliography

Lady Windermere's Fan
Salome
A Woman of No Importance
An Ideal Husband
A Florentine Tragedy
The Importance of Being Earnest

Appendix: The excised scene

Notes

===========================================

Now this is what I call a classic: so far as I, personally, am concerned this a book that I pick up with very high expectations, yet they are far surpassed by what I find between the pages. I did expect a lot from Wilde's plays, but I certainly wasn't prepared for so enthralling a read. I cannot but be amused at those people who continue to rant that Oscar Wilde was a perfect example of style over substance, that he never wrote anything serious, or if he did it will be forgotten at expense of his social comedies, and that he was nothing but tons of epigrams. First of all, it doesn't require a brilliant intelligence to realise that most of Wilde's epigrams are dead serious - indeed, that's where their enduring value lies; on the surface it's all fun of course, but just a little below there is a fierce social satire and just about unparalleled insight into human nature. As Bernard Shaw wisely observed once, ''nothing is more serious than great humour.'' He might well have spoken about Oscar. Unfortunately, there are two major disappointments that detract from the value of the book as a whole. But everything in time.

The Penguin Classics edition is an almost complete one. It contains six plays written between 1891 and 1895, at the time when Wilde was growing more and more famous as a dramatist, and it omits only his two early attempts from the 1880s, Vera; or, The Nihilists (1880) and The Duchess of Padua (1883). The six plays in this volume fall into two strikingly different categories: four of them are the classical social comedies Oscar Wilde is most famous for, namely Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest, whereas Salome and A Florentine Tragedy can be broadly and ineptly described as historical and rather tragic plays. Before going into some detail about the plays themselves, few words about the editorial work.

The introduction of Richard Allen Cave is dull and tedious stuff one may skip without fear of missing anything of any importance. It starts promisingly, with the famous dichotomy between Wilde the brilliant wordsmith and Wilde the subversive homosexual, but than Mr Cave unfortunately switched to, and continued to be concerned with until the end, abominably mundane matters like Wilde's stage directions and the spatial relationships between his characters. The best I can say about this introduction is that Mr Cave is certainly very capable of extracting a good deal of tenuous and ultimately unimportant, not to say preposterous, relationships between the visual side of Wilde's plays and their force as social satire. I confess the first time I read this introduction I skipped half of it. But then I was ashamed and read it again, this time completely and conscientiously. I wish I hadn't. Perfect waste of time.

Be warned also that the introduction is rife with spoilers and should be read - if at all - only after the plays.

A word about the editor's meticulous notes must be made too. It is of course extremely annoying to constantly consult them when they are in the end of the book, but I daresay the notes could not have been printed otherwise: they are much too copious for that. Well, one doesn't really need to consult them; indeed, one must not do this. The notes are sometimes insightful, but more often than not they are concerned with largely irrelevant matters like publication history, revisions of certain passages or long-winded and pompous speculations about Wilde's apparent allusions. Worst of all, the notes often make explicit crucial details of the plots long before Wilde intended to reveal them. To say that such cases spoil the pleasure of Wilde's meticulous craftsmanship is a spectacular understatement. I imagine the best way is to read the plays once without referring to the notes at all and only then, on second reading when one is already reasonably familiar with the plots, one should peruse the plays more carefully together with constant excursions to the end of the book. For all verbose junk they contain, the notes are occasionally highly revealing in terms of specific meaning of some words in the vastly different social context of those times, or elucidating Wilde's elaborate, yet subtle and subversive, network of hints, allusions and metaphors.

Salome was my first major disappointment in the volume. Written originally in French in 1891 and later translated into English by Lord Alfred Douglas himself if the dedication is to be believed (actually, scholars now believe, Wilde himself did the job), the play was for many years banned and attacked as immoral, indecent and other such adjectives that are more likely to stimulate audience's interest more than anything else. With its extravagant metaphors, fantastic imagery and verbose repetitions, Salome is more akin to Wilde's second volume of fairy tales, but the play has neither their power nor their affecting quality. The story is the well-known and perfectly gruesome one from the Bible about Salome, the stepdaughter of Herod Antipas, and John the Baptist (here named in Hebrew fashion, Jokanaan). The play has some nice satirical touches, mostly in the character of the very practical Herodias, with her memorable line ''I do not believe in miracles. I have seen too many.'', and there are some hints of serious discussions about religion and God, but on the whole it is a lame sruff and makes a tedious read; fortunately it's one-act affair, and rather short at that. Perhaps I have read it in the wrong mood.

A Florentine Tragedy is a very singular piece. It is written in blank verse and apparently set in Renaissance Italy; ''apparently'' because nothing is mentioned in the stage directions and one must rely on subtle hints in the text. Scholars have argued that the play is just a fragment from an unfinished work, but it's perfectly sufficient as it is. I can't say that I find reading blank verse easy, but the play is very short (less than 20 pages) and it makes a very absorbing read indeed. There are but three characters - the merchant Simone, his wife Bianca and the Florentine prince Guido - who form a chilling love triangle that leads, predictably considering the title, to a tragic conclusion. The amazing thing is that Wilde has managed to achieve a very neat twist in the end. In combination with the swift exchange of blunt remarks, the play makes a very enjoyable read.

The rest four plays in this book are (mostly) Oscar Wilde at his absolute best as a playwright; I call these superb pieces of drama ''social comedies'' only with trepidation, for they are as much concerned with the individual as with society, and they are far more serious than they are comic. The only exception, regrettably, is the most famous of them. Although each of the plays has a special character, all of them share several remarkable similarities.

They are all set in the present, 1890s that is, and the action is limited in time to no more than 24 hours during which dark passions and shady secrets from many past years relentlessly surface. They all contain tons of amusing epigrams as only Oscar Wilde, the scintillating wordsmith, can forge but none of them is on the whole a flippant or superficial affair; as for Wilde's pace of action and sense for dramatic climax, they are invariably well-nigh perfect. Perhaps what impresses me most strongly in these plays is the large diversity of characters that each one of them contains. Virtuous and vicious form a sublime counterpoint here, if I am allowed a musical analogy. Both among the male and the female characters the variety is impressive, if repetitive. Usually there are those who talk almost entirely in epigrams and take a decidedly flippant attitude towards life but in fact turn out to have a more secure grip of it than all other characters; and of course there are also prigs and prudes, moralists and cynics, social climbers and social outcasts, people in love and people in lust: you name it, separately or in various combinations. The verbal skirmish is guaranteed and so is the engrossing entertainment. When it comes to hypocrisy, conceit, shallowness, snobbishness, prejudice or stupidity - social or individual - Oscar Wilde is charmingly witty and devastatingly merciless. In both directions.

For the most part Wilde's stage directions are very sparse and consist almost entirely of characters' movements and brief descriptions of the surroundings; usually he also gives the reactions of all participants in the most dramatic scenes, but otherwise there is next to nothing about appearance, clothing or the manner in which certain lines are spoken. Yet the characters come to life with astonishing vividness and verisimilitude, entirely through dialogue. Another amazing thing about these plays: no character speaks out of character, ever. Now that is quite an achievement. Considering the severe stringency of drama, Wilde's character are remarkably complex and alive. Last but not least, actually most important of all, there are always several points of view, often conveyed by different characters but sometimes adroitly combined in one. The awesome collision of values, morals, fears and feelings is absolutely never one-sided, no matter whether one agrees with Wilde's conclusions or not. Unfortunately, I repeat, The Importance of Being Earnest is rather an exception from most of the above.

Perhaps the most striking, and surprising, overall conclusion to draw about all four of Wilde's ''social comedies'' is that Oscar is unabashed sentimentalist. Now such an attitude is not exactly my cup of tea, but in this particular case it seems that it doesn't matter a bit. I certainly haven't used it to degrade Wilde's plays and have nothing but contempt for those who do. In conclusion of the general part, it might be worth noting that the plays are printed in the order of their writing but in no way need they be read so; from the very beginning of his four years of theatrical success, Oscar Wilde was a supreme master of his craft. Now let's look more carefully into each of these gems.

Lady Windermere's Fan is my greatest favourite. It is superb on all fronts. For once, the blend of wit and wisdom, flippancy and profoundness, is brought to utmost perfection. The play is extremely clever in its construction, with all improbabilities masterfully handled and with simply mind-blowing dramatic climaxes. Oscar certainly knew very well how to pace and construct drama in a most gripping manner. In this play he has also surpassed himself as regards to variety of characters. None of the next three works, fine as they are, may offer so vast a range of completely different personalties, all of them brilliantly conveyed by sparkling dialogue. Nor has Wilde ever again succeeded in creating so convincing a bundle of contradictions as Mrs Erlynne. I can certainly say that she is one of the most charming and lovable characters ever put down on paper in drama, fiction or non-fiction; considerable achievement since in the beginning of the play she is definitely despicable. Her transformation in the course of these four acts is unbelievable - from a heartless creature to one with a golden heart - yet absolutely convincing and deeply affecting. Last but not least, the play has an astounding finale which is in itself a masterpiece: it is neither happy nor unhappy, everybody is sincere and at the same time hiding something behind his or her guilty conscience.

A Woman of No Importance has a fabulously disappointing conclusion, appallingly melodramatic and sentimental. Sometimes I do hanker for a more seriously cynical attitude in Wilde's plays; it would have made them so much more real and relevant. But no matter how much I may baulk at Oscar's attitude, I can't find any fault with his integrity even here. His characters act thoroughly in character, bizarre whims and all, and he gives - as usual - a great deal of thought-provoking stuff on both sides of a conundrum. On the one side of the baricade are Mrs. Arbuthnot, her son Gerald and above all the american girl Hester Worsley; they are obviously the virtuous characters with high moral principles, and though they may look somewhat one-dimensional, or even ridiculous, they are as alive as it is possible for any character in drama to be. On the other side are the somewhat cynical, but full of common sense, Mrs. Allonby and above all Lord Illingworth, one of those pleasure-seeking whose only aim in life is to get as much fun of it as possible. The clash is tremendously effective and beautifully executed. One of the greatests assets of the play are the remarkably vivid minor characters such the brutally foolish Lady Stutfield, the kindly class-conscious Lady Hunstanton and mercileslly irreverent Lady Caroline are quite a treat to enjoy; Oscar has done a wonderful job with all of them. Despite the nauseating affectation and rhetoric of the finale, the play is stimulating enough to guarantee unforgettable experience. It will be re-read in future with great pleasure.

An Ideal Husband constitutes an interesting exception among Wilde's plays, for it has unusually detailed stage directions ranging from the manner of speaking to complete descriptions of the appearance and the character of the characters. As it might be expected these are stupendous fun to read; imagine a woman looking like ''a work of art, on the whole, but showing the influence of too many schools''. Downright brilliant! The only slightly annoying detail in these descriptions is that Wilde cannot resist the temptation to like any of his characters to those of one painter or another; it looks like cheap show-off of ''culture''. Nevertheless, the plays is a very powerful one, perhaps the darkest and most intense of all. It is a little unusual because it is a variation of ''a man with a past'' theme, rather than the more traditional variant where it is woman who has to hide some ignominious secret from her wild youth. At any rate the play raises a number of profoundly important questions. Is blameless life blemished by a single dishonesty? Should one be judged so harshly because of one's wild youth? Should one love to the point of idealisation? Should one be blind for the faults of the the loved ones? What is the nature of true love? Does it make any sense in this world? Is it powerful enough to overcome pity or moral horror? There are many more such questions in this play - and quite a few answers too.

By the way, I take issue with reviewers who label this play as ''sexist''. It is nothing of the kind. Lord Goring does have one or two rather sexist lines but neither his character nor the play on the whole have anything to do with sexism. Indeed, since the last word and the noblest act are saved for one of the main heroines, the play is more like a feminist one actually, or a sexist one reversed if you like. Certainly there are in these four acts a great deal more important things than that.

The Importance of Being Earnest is generally considered Wilde's best play. I really don't know why. It is significantly inferior to the three previous ones in a number of aspects. To begin with, it is no comedy but pure farce, which is already a severe limitation. It is by far the most flippant, artificial and improbable of them all, and far less convincing too. Nor does it match any of the other three masterpieces in terms of wit and wisdom. The range of characters and the depth of characterisation cannot hold a candle to any other member of the quartet either. The dialogue is vastly amusing, of course, but the pointless banter often continues for a little too long and it gets tedious; and fun for fun's sake hardly makes any more sense than art for art's sake. The play has a pleasant twist in the end which, however, sounds unpleasantly contrived and unnatural, not to say inane and ridiculous. It is hardly a coincidence that it is the only one in three acts for it is certainly the least substantial of all. I daresay it is a riveting spectacle on the stage but a truly great play surely must be great on paper as well. In short, The Importance of Being Earnest, even if it may pass for a comedy, does lack precisely what makes a great comedy: seriousness. It is a very good play but it is very far from a great one. Alone, it might earn five stars for the deliberately light, though wonderful, entertainment which in fact it is; but compared to the three social comedies, pointless yet inevitable as such comparisons are, it deserves no more than three stars. I understand it is supposed to be the zenith of Oscar's masterpieces for the stage. So far as I am concerned, it is definitely the nadir.

That said, The Importance of Being Earnest is a riot to read, if one can somehow detach it from Oscar's great plays of course. It has a lot of swift action and, as might be expected, the embarrassing situations of double-identity mischief are brilliantly handled. I suppose the play looks way better on the stage than on paper, which is, perhaps, how it should be for plays are written to be staged, not read. But I remain convinced, perhaps irrationally, that a truly great play must be great on paper as well. Though in that particular case this is certainly not the case, Oscar's sharp wit shines through and makes it a worthwhile read; alas, it is only occasionally allied to anything like wisdom. Wilde's superb characterisation still reigns supreme, even in his slightest efforts. The young ladies are somewhat colourless, but Lady Bracknell is all but unforgettable. The contrast between the two young man - the bohemian Algie and the priggish Jack - is conveyed as only Oscar Wilde could.

When all is said and done, taken as a whole body of work, Wilde's plays only convince me once more in his extraordinary genius, literary and not only. Despite two major flaws, one of them appallingly unexpected, this volume of Wilde's plays is a book to be treasured.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
declan
That's right - if it isn't the single wittiest, funniest play ever, it's as close as you can get. Oscar Wilde had a great talent for dialogue and writing, but the real fun comes in the ingenious plotting and the side-splitting comments. "The Importance of Being Earnest" is absolutely filled with insightful, humorous barbs that take jabs at society - you'll literally be laughing out loud every page.
Not only is the play brilliantly ironic and witty, it's quite cheerful and good-natured. The characters are likable, the plot never takes itself too seriously, and the ending is happy. It seems that Wilde knew exactly what he wanted: to write a light-hearted, amusing play without serious overtones, and he succeeded wildly. This isn't to say that he sacrificed any literary qualities, as the play is recognized for the marvelous writing, but it is considerably more fun and entertaining than many other literary works.
In sum, Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" is a classic in every sense of the word, and it's tremendously fun to read. I can't recommend any comedy more highly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amy hearth
"The Importance of Being Earnest," by Oscar Wilde, is one of the great comic masterpieces of the theater. According to the introductory note in the Dover edition, the play was first performed in London in 1895. More than a century later, "Importance" is still a sparkling delight. Although I suppose the play is best experienced as a theatrical performance, it also makes a wonderful read.
In "Importance" Wilde has fun with the customs and attitudes of well-to-do 19th century English people. As the plot of mistaken identity and romance unfolds, Wilde's characters let loose a string of memorable witticisms and sarcastic comments. One of my favorites: "Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone." Another one: "My duty as a gentleman has never interfered with my pleasures in the smallest degree."
Along the way, Wilde's characters reveal the benefits and drawbacks of being a "Bunburyist" (don't bother looking it up in a dictionary; you have to read the play!). So pour yourself a cup of tea, stuff yourself silly with cucumber sandwiches, and enjoy "The Importance of Being Earnest."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
devika
The live performance of Oscar Wilde's last play is charming, funny, and epitomizes Wilde's sharp wit and hilarious social commentary for which he was famous. The one-liners flow non-stop, making the play filled with constant laughs. More importantly, the entire cast is superb, and the easy banter of each interchange is made particularly effective by their apparent camaraderie - which is surprisingly apparent on the audio. Even better, the earnestness with which each person delivers his or her lines only highlights the satirical dialogue. The entire experience is completely wonderful, so much so that I want to listen to it repeatedly.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hanindyo
Here is a rare thing -- a comedy that is enough in and of itself. It is funny-- genuinely funny, without being naughty or "sophisticated" or cynical, without being overly goofy, without being sad at the same time, or profound, or stupid. It is light without making you wish it was deeper or think maybe it is and you missed it somehow.
I was forced to read a fair number of comedies throughout English lit classes, and my clearest memory was that most jokes, though alive on stage, are dead on the page. Even in Shakespeare, often. Here, though, I really was laughing, enjoying the wordiness and wit. Makes me really wish and hope to see it performed someday.

The word that comes to mind is pure. Like if there really are Platonic forms, essences of things, this is the platonic form of comedy. Or at least approaches it more closely than anything else I've ever read.
It's simple. It's short. It's beautiful -- in that it is fully formed within itself, wanting nothing, leaving nothing. It's a classic.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
draya
The Importance of Being Earnest is a hilariously absurd comedy that shows the magnificent wit of Oscar Wilde. It describes an embarrassingly hilarious conundrum between two friends revolving around the name Earnest.
Below the level of pure hilarity, however, there is a serious point to be made. That is, through the comically absurd situations and statements, the play demonstrates the comical absurdity of Victorian English Society as a whole. All of high society is shown to be a quite ridiculous bunch through this brilliant parody.
It is well worth your time to read this.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shasta
In this play, Wilde teases the public with words and names in a turn of the (20th) century Irish country setting. The characters reflect the social customs of their times in a clever comedic combination of wordplay and misunderstandings. I am convinced his Lady Bracknell must have been the character model for Downton Abbey's Dowager Countess: that sharp-tongued sourpuss with the dead-on acerbic remarks. All in all I enjoyed this clever script, and felt a certain thrill reading Wilde while traveling through his country.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
aline ayres
A pathologically witty play--signaled immediately by the pun lurking in the title--which punctures the trivial bubble of Victorian society. The text reads with the rapidity of Voltaire's Candide, so the comedy's pace must be absolutely white hot in performance. The actors would have to wait for the laughter to die down, a real challenge with this farce. One should, of course, see it on the stage, and I must admit that I've never had that pleasure. I will try to remedy that omission before I die! My favorite line from the play: "To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tendril
I loved this! Generally I detest reading plays for some reason, but I enjoyed every minute of this one. The characters were excellent, and the plotline creative. Actually, the plot alone is amusing. The dialogue (ooooh, the dialogue!) is absolutely hilarious. I laughed out loud many, many times while reading this. I found Lady Bracknell to be one of the more entertaining characters, with her stereotypically lopsided priorities. Algernon and Jack's many angry (well, on Jack's part, at least) exchanges were marvelous (the bit with the muffins is an absolute classic, in my opinion). The satirical side of this was well-done and rather interesting for those interested in such things, but "The Importance of Being Earnest" is, overall, a superb read just for the entertainment value of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
corinne
Even over a hundred years after its original publication, this tale of mistaken identity and silly social farce continues to not only entertain, but you will be laughing out loud! Jack and Algernon are best friends, who amusingly get tangled in the web of being mistaken for Earnest and falling in love with women who are mesmerized by the name Earnest, which as Jack's object of affection Gwendolen puts it: "it inspires absolute confidence". When the four lovers visit Jack's country home at the same time, the proverbial custard hits the fan. But never fear, a convenient twist resolves matters to everyone's satisfaction all with wit, fun, farce and its hilarious!

Just read it! It's just funny, funny, funny!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bogdan
"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.
Is that clever?
It's perfectly phrased! and quite as true as any observation in civilized life should be."
This is just one of the many jocular exchanges and epigrams in this short but brilliant social satire. Wilde wryly and cleverly gets his claws into the upper caste and its twisted moral etqieuette, romantic relationships, and self-critically the propensity for sententious moral (and aesthetic) self-guidance.
Dispensing with politeness and social convention through his farcical dialogue, Wilde unleashes his comic criticism on all types of hypocrisies and spurious norms. The Importance of Being Ernest is always subversive and funny, but never crude or sophomoric.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
carrie cameron
I am trying to read through some of the "classics". This is very short, but I bought it because I recently read , "The Picture of Dorian Gray", and I thought it was well written. I wanted to read something else by Oscar Wilde and this was short and lighthearted.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
daniel hamad
A quick and entertaining read, Oscar Wilde's comic portrayal of 19th century upper-class intrigue is filled with witty, bantering dialogue. Two friends, Algernon and Jack, perfect the art of "Bunburying," which consists of inventing ill or troublemaking friends and relatives in order to get out of social engagements. Of course, this can only backfire and lead to confusion, particularly as Jack's fictitious brother Ernest shows up unexpectedly at the home of Cecily, Jack's ward and the woman Algernon hopes to marry. As Wilde pokes fun at the upper class and the deceptiveness inherent in its elaborate social protocol, the final irony comes when the hapless deceivers find they may have been inadvertently earnest all along.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ian macarthur
I have never laughed harder or louder, I have never read more delicious, cynical, intellectual, twisted and poignant book than this. "In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing." " it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?" The painfully sarcastic humor in this play mocking the seriousness about life's triviality is brutally relevant to our culture, and I am sure we can all relate to 'bunburyism'. I just finished this book but I am going right back to read it again, that's how good it is!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
linda weisholtz
This is the first play I have ever read just as a book, and I have never burst out laughing reading anything before. Little wonder why The Importance of Being Earnest is still a hit in theatres and cinemas to this day.
Any theatre lover or anyone who enjoys a good comedy should read this play. There is a lot of reference to the lifestyle at the time of this plays performance (around the 1800s) and a lot of political and social talk. Throughout the three act play, it shows how funny fooling everyone, then getting caught can be, as well as finding love, and how friends can either help, or hinder your fooling of everyone. I thoroughly recommend this play to anyone who needs a good read and a good laugh.Highly contrasts Oscar Wilde's best work: the novel 'The Portrait of Dorian Gray', but still a very enjoyable script to read
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kim langille
Still extremely popular 110 years after being first produced at the St James Theatre.
Full of Oscar Wilde's characteristic repartee, sparkling wit and epigrams.

The humour is as current today as it was in 1895. Two young man, Jack and Algernon, woo their respective young sweethearts by claming the name of Ernest, creating great confusion.
Due to his seemingly dubious birth, Jack is prevented from marrying his beloved Gwendolyn, by her insufferable guardian, Lady Bracknell, while Jack is not quite happy about the debonair Algernon wooing his charge, the charming young Cecily.

But all is well that ends well and circumstances; through a remarkable twist work out just fine.

One of the best loved works of the master, Oscar Wilde.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joe lopez
This is Wilde's best play, it is fast moving, has wonderful characters (especially the women), and funnily enough is still a pretty accurate observation of society. Perhaps nothing ever really changes! At the core of the play is the name Earnest, and all that it means to the various characters, and how their white lies and complicated lives catch up with them. And the lines - wonderful ones like "I always carry my diary - a lady should always have something scandalous to read on the train", and "if you are not too long, I shall wait for you forever!". Be assured, all works out well in the end, and all shall be revealed as to how important it is to be Earnest.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amy rose
Wilde's plays hold up incredibly well and provide some of the most quotable one-liners in literature. A master of satire, in these selections the upper classes and the social conventions they adhered to are skewered through the ingenious use of word play ,mistaken identity and farce. The Importance Of Being Earnest is as fine an example of the genre apart from Shakespeare's comedies that you are likely to come across. Since Wilde's work is of more recent vintage the language is very accessible and the nuance easier to perceive. Great stuff.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joseph
This is an undeniable classic that I've enjoyed seeing over the years in both theatrical and film productions. Upon reading the work, I find that it doesn't suffer in the reading as well. Wilde is likely the most witty person to have ever lived. He claimed he was at least. His works, of course, reflect that genius. In particular, "The Importance of Being Ernest" does. If you're going to experience only one of Wilde's plays, this is the one. The plot is delightfully silly and turns on itself several times. And the word-play is hilarious, and still fresh after more than a century. I'm pretty sure that this play will never grow old.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
neelz
While Oscar Wilde is not Shakespeare unarguably the best playwright, he is incredibly good and all three plays show it. Salome is a short 'biblical' play, Lady Windermere's Fan is a bit longer and with the exception of the naivete suffered by the Lady of the title incredibly well written as well. However, The Importance of Being Earnest is by far the best play in this collection. Two men whom are trying to get away with pulling a fast one on their girlfriends and two women who think they know whats going on. Throw in a misplaced bag with a baby inside, an overbearing British matriarch, and a Governess with a past and you have a laugh out loud comedy. Who knew the British could be so funny...when written about anyway.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
maggy
"The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" is one of the first plays written in English since the works of Shakespeare that celebrates the language itself. Oscar Wilde's comedy has one advantage over the classic comedies of the Bard in that "The Importance of Being Earnest" is as funny today as it was when it was first performed at the St. Jame's Theater in London on February 14, 1895. After all, enjoying Shakespeare requires checking the bottom for footnotes explaining the meaning of those dozens of words that Shakespeare makes up in any one of his plays. But Wilde's brilliant wit, his humor and social satire, remain intact even though he was a writer of the Victorian era.
Wilde believed in art for art's own sake, which explains why he emphasized beauty while his contemporaries were dealing with the problems of industrial England. "The Importance of Being Earnest" is set among the upper class, making fun of their excesses and absurdities while imbuing them with witty banter providing a constant stream of epigrams. The play's situation is simple in its unraveling complexity. Algernon Moncrieff is an upper-class English bachelor who is visited by his friend Jack Worthing, who is known as "Ernest." Jack has come to town to propose to Gwendolen Fairfax, the daugher of the imposing Lady Bracknell and Algy's first cousin. Jack has a ward named Cecily who lives in the country while Algernon has an imaginary friend named "Bunbury" whom he uses as an excuse to get out of social engagements.
Jack proposes to Gwendolen but has two problems. First, Gwendolen is wiling to agree because his name is Ernest, a name that "seems to inspire absolute confidence," but which, of course, is not his true Christian name. Second, Lady Bracknell objects to Jack as a suitor when she learns he was abandoned by his parents and found in a handbag in Victoria Station by Mr. Thomas Cardew. Meanwhile, Algernon heads off to the country to check out Cecily, to whom he introduces himself as being her guardian Jack's brother Ernest. This meets with Ceclily's approval because in her diary she has been writing about her engagement to a man named Ernest. Then things get really interesting.
Wilde proves once and for all time that the pun can indeed be elevated to a high art form. Throughout the entire play we have the double meaning of the word "earnest," almost to the level of a conceit, since many of the play's twists and turns deal with the efforts of Jack and Algernon to be "Ernest," by lying, only to discover that circumstances makes honest men of them in the end (and of the women for that matter as well). There is every reason to believe that Wilde was making a point about earnestness being a key ideal of Victorian culture and one worthy of being thoroughly and completely mocked. Granted, some of the puns are really bad, and the discussion of "Bunburying" is so bad it is stands alone in that regard, but there is a sense in which the bad ones only make the good ones so glorious and emphasize that Wilde is at his best while playing games with the English language.
But if Wilde's puns are the low road then his epigrams represent the heights of his genius, especially when they are used by the characters in an ironic vein (e.g., "It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal" and "I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance"). Jack is the male lead, but it is Algernon who represents the ideal Wilde character, who insists he is a rebel speaking out against the institutions of society, such as marriage, but with attacks that are so flamboyant and humorous that the cleverness of the humor ends up standing apart from the inherent point.
In the end, "The Importance of Being Earnest" is the wittiest play every written, in English or any other language, and I doubt that anything written in the future will come close. Wilde was essentially a stand-up comedian who managed to create a narrative in which he could get off dozens of classic one-liners given a high-class sheen by being labeled epigrams. Like a comedian he touches on several topics, from the aristocracy, marriage, and the literary world to English manners, women, love, religion, and anything else that came to his fertile mind. But because it is done with such a lighthearted tone that the barbs remain as timely today as they were at the end of the 19th-century and "The Importance of Being Earnest" will always be at the forefront of the plays of that time which will continue to be produced.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kenyon vrooman
I listened to an audio performance of this hilarious farce. Even over a hundred years after its original publication, this tale of mistaken identities and silly social interactions continues to entertain.

Jack Worthing and his irreponsible friend, Algernon, both pretend to be named Earnest as they pursue love with Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew.

When the four lovers visit Jack's country home at the same time, the proverbial s**t his the fan. But never fear, a convienient twist resolves matters to everyone's satisfaction.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dean liapis
"The Importance of Being Earnest" seems to start as a play about truth, but quickly becomes a play about the false through the classical `simple misunderstanding.' The two male leads, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, use imaginary friends they both invent to avoid the boring and weekly family engagements. These imaginary friends lead to eventual confusion between them and the women they love. This Shakespearean misunderstanding is only half the fun though. Wilde, always witty, mocks the ill portrayed English Aristocracy of the late 19th century - poking constant fun at not only their etiquette, but also their stubborn and unpractical tendencies, their immoral behavior, and their exploitation of the lower classes. Very rarely do comedies strike to the heart of the matter and say something meaningful as Oscar Wilde did with this last great play of his.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
happy
There is just no reason to not like this play! I've seen it many times, (whenever there is even a high school production I like to support it, and go), so I read this play from time to time, and each time laugh out loud as much as the first time.

No need to review Earnest as if its a new book, you already know how good it is, I just wanted to say that I had purchased this new edition for a friends birthday, and I was very happy with it - nice cover, delightful edition!

Enjoy!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
margaret moller
It is Wilde's last play. The play concerns visiting Mr. Bunbury. I am being facetious, of course. It is words masking the confused identities of two young men in search of amusements and loves. The names baffle even the chief characters. Wittily it is allowed that it is possible to make an accommodation to the prospect of a considerable fortune. Character is considered, but more in the breach. Wilde wanted the charm to be in the dialogue, and it is.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
larry carter
I had no knowledge of Oscar Wilde and had only seen ten minutes of the movie, The Importance of Being Earnest, as I flipped through the cable channels on my television. However, due to a class that I am enrolled in, not only do I now know who he is but I am blessed to have been introduced to his work.
The Importance of Being Earnest, makes a very humorous yet profound commentary on money, marriage, status and image as it pertains to the aristocracy of that time. It seems that Oscar Wilde utilized this medium of artistic expression to cleverly expose the twisted way that those with wealth perceived themselves and the lengths they would go to the preserve that perception. It has been referred to as a "comedy of manners" because so much of what defined or distinguished the aristocracy from the common man was not necessarily the wealth that they actually had but what men and women did to appear like they had it.
Ernest, who is the main character in the play, has done all of what is necessary to appear as though he comes from wealth. He wears the clothing, keeps the company and talks the talk of the aristocrat. However what he soon finds out is that all of those whom he is trying to impress and fit in with, have more unresolved issues in their closet than he does. I believe Wilde addresses this social paradox with impeccable wit and an amazing sense of human psychology. He not only challenged those who belonged to the aristocracy to examine what they placed value in, but continues to challenge each reader today, that these superficial values might not stand as valuable at all.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nando villa
This is the Theater Guild on the Air condensed version with this great cast, but there is a double LP box set on Angel in America that is perhaps the greatest audio recording of an English comedy, and it should be issued at once. It makes you pine for Gielgud in the movie. This set does include some poetry recordings by Gielgud and Evans, which is a wonderful bonus, but why the perfect sound and complete version wasn't issued is no doubt a legal issue. Get over it, someone, please.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mike sager
One of the best books on earth in a volume that is properly printed. Love it.
This book is full of quick witted dialogue and humorous situations. You can go back again and again to enjoy tidbits, even if you don't want to reread the volume all the way through. Wilde makes life fun.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
bunty
LA Theatre Works very wisely chose to present this play the way Wilde intended -- straight, no campiness, no condescension to the audience. I saw the play being recorded at LATW and have purchased the CD to be able to continue to enjoy it. I grew up on the 1950s Edith Evans/John Gielgud/Joan Greenwood version, generally regarded as the gold standard, and I will say that LATW's is the first I have seen or heard to come anywhere near that classic. Well done!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
loretta
The Importance of Being Earnest is my favorite non-musical play. Oscar Wilde is humorous and comical in his use of language in this play. This play teaches the importance of truth and honesty while giving a comical representation of what would happen if one tells a lie. I love both the use of language and the plot structure in this play. Oscar Wilde should be and IS praised for this masterpiece.
Zachary B. Medina
Author of Decador
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
novall
(not a review of the sudio cassette, which I haven't heard) I've read this play many times. It is a great companion in times of trouble -- boredom, sadness, Weltschmerz. I saw it first at summer camp in 1968, where we -- a bunch of 15- and 16-year olds -- put it on. I was 13. I fell in love. It was the wittiest thing I had ever seen. More recently (2001) I saw it at the Fleetwood Stage in New Rochelle, New York. Again, it knocked the audience flat, we were laughing so hard. Wilde's silliness, combined with his brilliance and social insight, makes for a kind of humor that is practically inimitable. That he should have suffered in a hard-labor prison is an outrage.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
valeriya
The Importance of Being Earnest is probably one of the funniest works I have ever been witness to; it definitely takes the cake when it comes to plays. The witty English humor is practically side splitting when read, so i can imagine how well it works when actually preformed on stage or film. The characters are so perfectly created within their aristocratic society. Lady Bracknell is the epitome of a lady and her humor, though she is not trying to be funny, is classic. The words do all the work. The characters just speak and as long as the lines are taken/given as canversationalthe entire play is nonstop laughs. The satire dealing with issues of class, love, money, and character has probably never been written as subtle or as well as Wilde has done with this play. The plot is humorous in its self. The whole concept of "Burnburying" to get around your obligations as a Gentleman and the problems it causes for Algernon and Jack. The shifty love story that carries the play is at times unbelievable but if you consider the farcicalnature of the play it is easily overlooked. The ending, although I won't give it away, is another classic example of a well written play. The twists and turns along the way that end up confronting the truth make the finish well worth your time. That's not to say that the rest of the play isn't great. If you're a fan of this type of comedy I would highly recommend not only buying this book but seeing it preformed as well.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
charles theonia
I still smile when I think about this play. It was my first sampling of Oscar Wilde, and I found it pretty enjoyable. It's also been my only sampling of Oscar Wilde. I've been meaning to get into some more of his work, I really have. It's a tale of mistaken identity, of love, of three volume novels, of "Bunburyists" and of fashion. Everyone claims to be Earnest, but they're all rather trivial about it. It's pretty funny too, with a lot of wit and the like through it.

This particular edition is particularly cheap, and it seems like its worth a look.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
julia magdalena
The Importance of Being Ernest is Oscar's finest work that I have ever read. After sitting through a seemingly unbearable adaptation of The Ideal Husband, it was refreshing to once again discover the wit of Oscar Wilde. All of the social criticism and delightful cynicism that is always prevelant in Wilde's work is masterly employeed in this play. The play was compelling in that it always keeps the reader interested. There is never a dull moment in the story of Algernon Moncrief and John Worthing, two members of the English upper class who get entangled in their own lies. Each man assumes the Identity of Ernest Worthing, a fictional creation used to escape the dreariness of everyday life, an act which catches up to them eventually. These two men are then forced to explain their deceptions to their fiances who know them only as Ernest. The story is filled with clever plot twists that make it a real enjoyment to read. The Importance of Being Ernest is a masterpiece of intelligent comedies. To compare it to anything else would be to do it an injustice. This classic is timeless and I would recommend it to anyone. It makes reading pleasurable and leaves you wanting more which is the importance of great literature.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alex dicks
In Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest", he answers this question in the form of brilliant comedy. The play, full of witty dialogue such as Lady Bracknell's answer to her daughter's suitor saying he does smoke; "I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind."; says, yes, it is important to be Earnest.
One of the more remarkable details of this play is in the title itself. While attending or reading the play, you learn, that the two heroine's of the piece, Gwendolyn and Cecily, are determined to marry men named Earnest; unfortunately, Jack wants to marry Gwendolyn, and Algernon would like to settle down with Cecily. What is the reasonable solution? To tell them that their name's are Earnest. However, Earnest is not only a name, but also a word meaning: an intensely serious state of mind. Why would Oscar Wilde choose the name Earnest for this seemingly ridiculous play anyway?
Why ridiculous you may ask. The answer comes in not only the ingenious dialogue, but in the plot itself. Without giving away the entire story, one can say that the two main characters live, however innocent, deceptive lives and still end up with the fair maiden's in the end. One of them even ends up really being Earnest, to which he answers, "... it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but truth..."
Wilde called his piece, "A trivial comedy for serious people." If the word earnest means serious and the play itself is joyfully absurd, this writer imagines that the characters in the play although exceptionally serious about themselves and their lives, they are trivial or ridiculous. In conclusion, I would say that this play is not only suited for the serious mind, this play is uproariously fun for all of us who appreciate good humor.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ferry herlambang
Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" is one of the funniest plays that I have ever read. It explores the British upper society at the beginning of the 20th Century. It concerns two best friends and their attempt to marry two women. The only reason that the women want to marry these men is if their first name is Earnest. The main character of the play is Jack. He goes under the assumed name of Earnest because he really does not know who his parents are. The situations and banter between Jack and his friend Algernon is the funniest since Shakespeare. This is interesting in the fact that it is very anti tragic play. It is anti tragic in the fact that by the end of the play, Jack finds out that his name is really Earnest and his is upset about it. Extremely funny play for anyone who knows anything about the British sense of royalty and nobility.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
toby murphy
As a high school student reading this play for educational purposes, my first impression was that it would be long and boring. I was, however, corrected within the first few pages as I encountered the hilarious discussions between Jack and Algernon. The language and wit is so dry its hard not to find something amusing. This line said by Algernon is one worth saving, "The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!" Contrary to popular belief, this play is not one thats difficult to get into. Right from the start there is a conflict that grabs the readers attention and carries them through the mix up of fiances with Cecily and Gwendolen, also a scene that is sure to amuse even the most serious of readers. Lady Bracknell could seemingly be a thorn in the readers side in the beginning, but not to worry, the old woman set in her ways becomes if nothing else a source of comic relief. This play is not only a quick read but also has the perfect combination of characters that makes it delightfully funny.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
noelia
This is a great book. It has a beautiful, meaningful cover and is full of all the brilliant wit you'd expect from Oscar Wilde. The great thing about this book is the non-stop flow of humorous discourse and situations. It's just great stuff to read over and over and over. Enjoy!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
bucephalus
I resisted reading this for the longest time just because the topic didn't excite me. However, after spending a little over an hour reading this, it was actually pretty enjoyable. There were some areas that I openly laughed and got these weird looks from people in the coffee shop. I didn't care, I enjoyed the read and the good laughs. Wilde wrote and edited a nice story.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
adam sanderson
Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," is a superb comedy that will keep you wondering what could possibly happen next. Wilde manages to keep the readers entertained while at the same time keeping their feet on the ground. The use of the "old" language helps the readers identify with the characters. The characters themselves constantly have you laughing at their absurd antics. You never know what lie is going to pop up next and you are continually wondering how the characters are going to get out of the pickle they've gotten themselves into. The constant twisting of the plot keeps the reader happy, excited, and surprised. The different settings keep it interesting and the steady flow of new characters keep a person guessing who really is being "earnest." The dialogue is truly inspired and the choice to have the words "play" on each other manage to keep the play flowing. Oscar Wilde's play is truly brilliant and I would recommend this play to anyone who enjoys a good laugh.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tim hannon
This is absolutely the greatest comedy I have ever read! Its humor appeals more to the mind than the slapstick humor of American comedies. It's set in England, in and outside of London, and is a perfect example of a Comedy of Manners play, though written in the mid-1800s. It involves two men who make up a friend or relative that just "happens" to get into a bad situation whenever they want to go to town (or out in the country). Through extenuating circumstances, one comes to be known as Ernest in the town, and the other becomes the very same person out in the country.
This is the greatest comedy play ever written, and I would recommend it to anyone who finds Shakespeare too bland at parts, and the farce of the Three Stooges unbearable. It is probably one of the most well-written plays I have read or seen in my life, rising above most Shakespeare plays and such modern plays as "Inherit the Wind."
"The Importance of Being Earnest" holds a message behind the satire of the 19th century that crosses all time; it is better to be honest than to be caught as Ernest.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
philip keymer
The Importance of Being Earnest is a clever little play that’s bound to cause more than a few laughs. It does, however, sacrifice depth to stay light and charming.

Click link for full review: [...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
doblemdesign
This book has remained one of my favorites since reading it in high school ~5 years ago. I have re-read it multiple times, seen it live & as a movie, and never seem to tire of Wilde's excellent knack for satire.

It is a quick & fun read full of irony and hilariously awkward situations. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys play-format comedies with strong irony.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chitra gopalan
'The Importance of Being Earnest' is the greatest piece of literature I have ever read. We were forced to read many books in school, but why this play was never mentioned is something I don't understand. Simply, this play is the most clever, witty, and entertaining thing I have ever read in my life, period. You definitely won't find any great meaning or significance in this work, but so what. You'll simply laugh your butt off for most of the 70 to 75 pages.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lauren forte
The plays of Oscar Wilde sum up, even moreso than The Picture of Dorian Gray, all his flaws and talents and his propensity for playing the role of Oscar Wilde. If you're new to his world, I can't recommend a better introduction than the Oxford World's Classics edition of five of his most important plays.

"Lady Windermere's Fan" is an engaging start, high quality (excepting some rather awkward soliloquies), artificial and with a complex antagonist in Mrs. Erlynne. Lady Windermere evolves as a character, the pacing is well set and everyone walks away with one illusion...except Mrs. Erlynne. It walks the line between comedy and drama, and serves as a most enjoyable start.

"Salome" is atypical of the set, an aethetic work of art for art's sake. It's a heavy drama in one act, with overwrought, yet strangely believable phrases. I had to play "spot John the Baptist" for a while, not realizing that he was referred to as Iokanaan. It's a mood piece, weaving a fabulous spell, full of rapturous descriptions of jewels and wealth, dark imagery and a fantastically macabre climax.

"A Woman of No Importance" is the worst of the set. Dandy as VILLIAN was a bit strained, but alright. The real problems came from A: recycling witticisms. Some of the best lines in this play were also copied verbatim in The Picture of Dorian Gray, completely jarring me out of the story. B: the melodrama. Standards of melodrama are utilized shamelessly; the finale is a great mess of characters weeping at each others feet, lots of "I am not worthy of this and thats" abound, and I didn't care one jot about anyone. C: Hester, our heroine, was nauseatingly Puritanical. Unlike Lasy Windermere and Lady Chiltern, she never evolves, never learns to see the shades of gray in sin and morality.

"An Ideal Husband" is easily my favorite. A ripping good yarn, full of hero (or husband) worship, blackmail, a Wodehouseian butler, a perfect pace, and the marvelously endearing dandy Lord Goring. Most of the dandies Wilde created wind up rather unappealing in the long run, so meeting a complete charmer was a treat. It also manages to be romantic, albeit frivolously so, and is a perfect blend of comedy and drama.

"The Importance of Being Earnest" really didn't do it for me. Highly ridiculous, with completely unbelievable characters and dialogue. His most artificial work (and coming from Oscar, that is saying something!) It was alright, of course, but the dramatic edge was removed and all the scuffles over food look far better on stage or screen.

Despite the flaws in all these plays, and in pretty much anything Oscar Wilde set his name to, reading this set was so heartily enjoyable that it caused me to pick up The Complete Oscar Wilde. The Oxford World's Classics contains expansive notes, always readable, if not always terribly relevant. A good edition that I fully recommend.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lynda howe
By looking at the cover I didn't think I would like this book : a dirty brown with an Old English illustration. But once I read the first few pages I was hooked. The book is based on Oscar Wilde's play of the same name, one I only vaguely had heard of. Although the story takes place in 19th century England, the humor transcends time. It starts off when one gentleman meets up with another. Questions arise to the identity of the visiting man, named Ernest, which leads to a mini-mystery. The two men banter humorously throughout the book accompanied by the leading ladies and a very accomodating butler. The reason for the title becomes apparent when the name Ernest is the central cause for the hilarity. I absolutely loved this book! It was a quick read and made me laugh out loud. I was surprised that noone else had written a review for it. I was glad I took a chance with something that, on the surface, didn't look very appealing. You won't be disappointed if you did, too.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alana saxe
I bought this script because I have so enjoyed the movie based on it. The English humor is brilliant and it is delightful to get to read it in probably less than an hour. This was pure enjoyment for me for no other reason than not missing a syllable of the dialogue (sometimes in the movie the actors speak a little too fast, so in order to savor the humor behind the lines having them in print allows you to enjoy them at your own pace)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
roseann
This must be one of the greatest comedic plays of its time. The way the personalities come together in a serious, yet evolving, Victorian society has you laughing the whole way through. It reveals many prejudices toward relationships, marriage, gender, and birthright and is a quick and easy read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
madhav nair
The play "The Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde is a very funny play on British society in the late 1800?s and early 1900?s. The verbal barbs and jabs thrown by friends Jack and Algernon are quite amusing and quick-witted throughout the play. The idea that two women would be shallow enough to only want to marry a man named Earnest is just mind boggling, since the word earnest is almost 180° opposite the shallowness of the ladies. The mother is an interesting character in that she will not let her daughter marry the son of a "hand bag", this adds a little break from the gentlemen?s verbal assault on one another and allows the reader to catch their breath. The ending is quite funny but I will not give it away, you must do yourself a favor and read the play.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
joe huennekens
This fellow gives new meaning to irreverence and "farce".

His views on the virtues of having a satirically empty head

as written by one appears to be the well written best example?

His characterization of the English upper class as both idle

and clueless came too close to the truth.

Yet he mostly has happy endings and a good laugh for all.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
esmael
Still very vibrant and still amazingly witty for today. Every sentence has a rejoinder and there are no extraneous words.

It is hard to believe it was written over 100 years ago as it seems so relevant.

Wonderful and funny - what more can one want?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
scott mcgreal
I love this play; I cannot imagine not having read it, not being able to revel in its insane logic of plot and a script that consists almost entirely of epigrams. Even though the play is given over to a frenzy of wit, the characters are likable and well-drawn, not mere vehicles for gag lines. The only problem with this play is that it is too short.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
heidi corcoran
The Importance of Being Earnest is a clever little play that’s bound to cause more than a few laughs. It does, however, sacrifice depth to stay light and charming.

Click link for full review: [...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
diann
The Importance of Being Earnest is a clever little play that’s bound to cause more than a few laughs. It does, however, sacrifice depth to stay light and charming.

Click link for full review: [...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
susanv3
The Importance of Being Earnest is a clever little play that’s bound to cause more than a few laughs. It does, however, sacrifice depth to stay light and charming.

Click link for full review: [...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
nannie bittinger
The Importance of Being Earnest is a clever little play that’s bound to cause more than a few laughs. It does, however, sacrifice depth to stay light and charming.

Click link for full review: [...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
meghan duff
The Importance of Being Earnest is a clever little play that’s bound to cause more than a few laughs. It does, however, sacrifice depth to stay light and charming.

Click link for full review: [...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
travis brown
Jack Worthing is engaged to lady named Gwendolyn and they are soon to get married. Jack had to find away to escape from Miss Prism because she disapproved of him so he created a brother named Earnest. While Jack was in London he feel in love with another women named Cecily Carden. Over time his fiancée's mother started to see that there was more to Jack than what he was letting on to. The only reason that Cecily wants the marry Jack is because she thinks that his name is really Earnest. Jack/ Earnest has a fiancée but is in love with another women at the same time.
This is a very short book but at the same time it is very easy to get in to because of the conflicts that occur. This book is very funny especially the conversations between Jack and Algernon. The story is a political and social satire and a look at the upper British society. I thought that the story was great because of the humor but at the same time the story was kind of sneaky which drew me into the story even more. I would suggest the book to anyone.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
teree
This has always been a favorite of mine since I first experienced it in high school. I now use this version in the British Literature Class I teach at that level. It includes a glossary, divided by Act, in the back, too.

I tell my students this is the original sitcom, and they actually have to get out of their chairs and "act it out" as we read. They love the puns and the sniping comments and often tell me after we've read it, that it was their favorite book of the semester.

A laugh out loud book even if not used in the classroom!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
loris
I have just read Mr Wilde for the first time, though I am a prolific quoter of one-liners taken from my 'Wit of Wilde'. I urge you to read him. This book was the funniest thing I have read in a long time. It certainly brightened up a very dark and depressing end of semester for me. Mr Wilde is a genius! He has got himself another devoted fan!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amy rollo
Although I was required to read this book for English class and at first thought it weird and boring, I grew to love the characters and the plot as the story progressed. The whole thing is terribly witty, cute, and overall just an easy read. I adored it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sze zin
I mainly appreciated this version of the play in audio format because of its length. It runs just under 2hrs as compared to one of the other ones that is almost 40 minutes longer. I was having to read the play again (I've read it several times for different theatre classes), and it was a great way to refresh myself with the text and to shine new light on some of the ideas. I enjoyed Lady Bracknell and Jack's performances more than the rest of the company, but overall, I feel it was true to the text of the play itself.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
marcia
A fun read with a quick pace. The humor is present on every page, written with a detail that fuels the image of the time. Pay attention to the the British style quips - you will laugh and smile. A lot!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
remmy
This is possibly the most amazing work to come out of English literature and the English language. How can something so inane and senseless be so captivating, intriguing, and darling? The play makes one happy. And best to see it well-performed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
linnea crowther
A great play with an amazingly good cast. Everyone is absolutely fantastic. This is the best play I've ever listened to! No movie version can compare...I wish they would make a movie with this exact cast.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
clgallagher5
I am not a very big fan of plays, but I picked this up while in Dublin and couldn't put it down. It is very amusing and can easily be read in one sitting. The story is quite clever: through hilarious twists and turns two socialites somehow become engaged to the same man. And the kicker is, he doesn't even exist!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
ami wight graham
This play is quite amusing and it is not very difficult to read. I think it does not earn more stars because you already know at the beginning how this play probably will end. Sometimes I had to wonder about the stupidity of the personnages, I mean they act in such a stupid mannor. I do not like the end because the author did not think about a fitting end before writing the book and so I had the impression that he just invented the end. This play is quite amusing to fill up time, but it is not so good that I would read it twice.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rohith jyothish
My father was never much of a reader, but after having told him I was planning to read this play, he confessed it was one of the few books he had read for his own enjoyment. I'm not surprised now, after reading it, to hear that it was also his very favorite. I was laughing practically non-stop from Jack's originating from a handbag, to the scene where all is discovered about their names. It's witty, charming, and absolutely brilliant. Plus, it's inexpensive and short, so if you aren't much of a reader, like my dear old dad, this is the book for you!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alissa thomson
This has to be one of the funniest things I have ever read. I have read it a dozen times at least. You can read this little piece of heaven in 3 hours or less. The dialogue is great and is never boring or drawn out. I don't think this play will ever get old. Now if only I could find it being performed somewhere...
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sara august
This was a quick and entertaining read. The character are very witty, and the plot moved quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot twists, and the ending was very interesting. I have read this multiple times, and I still laugh reading it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
micki macdevitt
This is one of the CLASSICS!

I remember acting in this at school, I've seen it in professional theater and recently heard the audio book presentation.

Very funny, even more so when you consider it is now 100 years old, and was probably the scandal of the day when it came out. It ages not at all, it could have been written yesterday and would be just as funny.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ren edde
I was never a fan of Oscar Wilde's until I read The Importance of Being Earnest. His words crackle and fly off of the page, full of humor and fluency. I was never bored with this text, from its very start to the crazy, chaotic end. Wilde made me writhe in my seat with anticipation, wondering what loony character I'd be introduced to next, and with what sub-plot they'd fit in. The dialogue of The Importance of Being Earnest snaps, addressing social ideas and mores that, in its time, weren't exactly spoken aloud. What a clever and creative man Wilde truly was.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
rich taylor
Funnier and more entertaining than you ever thought reading a play could be, and absolutely more relevant now than ever, The Importance of Being Earnest is Oscar Wilde at his best. Thankfully short ( you can read it in an hour or so ) and filled with brilliant, biting humor.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
joerg
Oscar Wilde was an obnoxious, pompous aesthete but he was able to write this perfect situation comedy full of great one liners, absurd situations, sparkling dialogue, and laugh out loud jokes. It is a brilliantly silly situation comedy. Lots of fun!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
albert enriquez
Dr. Gladden provides tremendous insight not only into Oscar Wilde's life as the ultimate dandiacal Victorian writer but also into the Victorians as a people, culture, and era in British history. This book bridges the gap between Wilde's life and his work, making those otherwise imperceptible connections available and accessible to any reader interested in literature, history, drama, or any combination of the three. This book represents the manifestation of true scholarship at its finest.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carol duff
A wonderful collection! One could sit down and read this book from start to finish in one sitting and remain enthralled. You will find yourself quoting Wilde for weeks. By the end, I had a firm grasp of what "the season" was and how polite society functioned from Wilde's point of view. A must-read if you've read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: you will finally understand why Fenchurch is always asked if she was found in a handbasket! Wilde's writing is, as always, witty and beautiful. "You will call me sister, won't you?"
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
becki
Sous des apparences délibérément frivoles, une comédie d'une incroyable finesse, ciselée par la prose inimitable d'Oscar Wilde, beaucoup plus convaincant ici que dans ses oeuvres plus "sérieuses". Renouvelant le cadre classique de la comédie victorienne, l'auteur décoche brillamment une volée de flèches contre la morale bourgeoise de son époque. Un grand plaisir, qui n'a pas pris une ride depuis plus d'un siècle.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
stephen connolly
Oscar Wilde is a wonderful playwright--truly a literary genius. Earnest is probably his best play because he has developed past the Problem Play genre and focuses all his talent on pure wit and the criticism of the frivolity of Victorian England. Where his other plays have a touch of serious Melodrama (though they, too, have their wonderful aspects), The Importance of Being Earnest is Melodrama and Comedy of Manners at its height, providing humor for all generations.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
armand
I was first introduced to this play when I was in college. It is a funny and warm story on how important it is to know who you are. It was because of this play that I got into reading plays by various writers, but this one will always be my favorite. I have read this book so many times, that I lost count and I still get the same thrill out of it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
saleh
The "Importance of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde is a marvelous play that still holds it humor to this day. It's ludicrous dialogue and extravagant style makes for a remarkable read. Some of the language is difficult to read in our modern vocabulary, but the humor of the story is very well conveyed. Superficiality, humor and a distinctly Victorian wit makes the "Importance of Being Earnest" a very easy play to enjoy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
doina
Very smart conversations are had in this book. I think some of it was lost on me through the language. I liked this book regardless. The men were funny. The women were also funny. This was a kind and gentle book. I liked reading it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amber enzen
Oscar Wilde never fails to intrest me. This is his most acclaimed and recognized work. The plot was everyday and trite, but with meticulous details Wilde was able to overplay the happily ever after concept-of-a-plot. I'd definitely read this again. If I could only pick one play to read by Wilde, this one would be it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
melissa wuske
I have recieved the "honor" of portraying Gwendolyn in our High School's production of The Importance of Being Earnest. I can honestly say that it is the funniest,wittiest play I've ever experienced. The cases of confused identities, backhanded remarks, shallow character, and outright ignorance makes this play a must for anyone who finds Shakespeare just a little above their heads. Although nothing can compare to a live performance, this play is a delight simply to read!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
debbie jones
The Importance of Being Earnest is a fantastic play. It is an easy read, and is not only well thought out, but hilarious.

I liked this book of the play especially, because it includes helpful notes in the beginning, but more because it has a glossary of difficult terms in the back. Every time I came to a word that I did not know, it was sure to be defined in the back.

If you love theatre, this is a great play to read. I would highly suggest this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
carrie hinterthuer
I just got finished reading this for class, and it's simply one of the best works I have read in the past year. It was such a joy to read, no dread factor at all (and there was no trouble keeping up with the characters). It is so witty and so well-written, it's just great. I recommend this to anyone who wants a good laugh. I can't see how anyone would not love it. This was the first time I was introduced to Wilde, and I look forward to reading more.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
bad penny
The Importance of Being Earnest is a clever little play that’s bound to cause more than a few laughs. It does, however, sacrifice depth to stay light and charming.

Click link for full review: [...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hannah kaplan
Perhaps it is my unique sense of humor, but I found this book incredibly funny. I wasn't rolling on the floor or anything, but it is funny in an Oscar Wilde way. My personal favorite is The Importance of Being Earnest, although all the others are very good also. Get this book. There are great quotes and good characters.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jean luc groulx
I've seen most of these as film adaptations before, but the plays themselves are quite
an entertaining read. Sometimes these read just like a vehicle for Wilde's aphorisms,
but even then they are very entertaining.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
misery cordia
It's hard to believe how long ago this play was written, as the wit and sarcasm used by Wilde back then can easily be understood and appreciated by today's readers. If you're looking for a quick but highly entertaining introduction to the world of Oscar Wilde, read this play. One of his absolute best.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
angela tripodiseaboldt
I recieved this script within three days of ordering. Well packaged inside and out this book was without even a dent (being paperback).

The script itself is fabulous! Very witty and entertaining. Keeps the audience interest and the ending is very satisfying.

Thanks! Very happy with my purchase!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kathy shaw
An extraordinary play; witty, profound and beautiful. And even better if you read all of it. Which you won't if you buy the Penguin copy with Edith Evans on the front, since this version is heavily abridged. Which is fine except the publishers make no mention of this at all in the volume. And cultural vandalism of this kind should, I feel at least be acknowledged.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
kristi barbosky
Oscar Wilde is a witty man. The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde's most well-known work, is dripping with sharp humor and clever epigrams. But let's face it, it's fluff. The "social satire" that most reviewers cite to hold this book up as High Art is as pointed as a teaspoon and as sincere as a used-car salesman. Wilde was a libertine dandy who admired the snobbery and elitism of blue-blooded Britons. The Importance of Being Earnest is, in many ways, like MTV--stylish and entertaining, with some pretensions, but ultimately just a vacuous time-killer. If you need to read it for class, or even better want some literary [bathroom] reading, fine. If not, don't waste your time.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
peacelovebeth
I have decided that since so many people are obviously blind to how dumb this play is, I should write a review to enlighten anyone that might read it. The humor is dated and because of that, very boring. The situations are completely inconceivable and it makes no sense! The characters are flat and serve no real purpose. I suggest that no one else ever ever read this play.
Please Rate The Importance of Being Earnest
More information