Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

"It is exquisitely trivial, a delicate bubble of fancy, and it has its
philosophy...that we should treat all the trivial things of life seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality." ~Oscar

This quote introduces this play at its beginning. Right away, this caught my attention and I found myself thinking of this philosophy as I read this play. Often I have wondered about why is it that small unimportant things invade my thoughts and at times the more important things don't seem like a very big deal? I don't know why I do this and without even realizing it because I have had times in my life when I have been serious of trivial things and almost unaware of serious things in my life without even knowing why or rationalizing it easily. Of course, the danger and the difference in doing this was that my outcome in my life usually didn't come out this brilliant and comedic. In fact, mine would be considered a tragedy. To me, this is one of the amazing things about Wilde's writing of this play. How he captured this very thing in a comedy!
In this play are intricately woven themes, i.e., the aristocracy, marriage, the literary world, English manners, women, love, religion etc..., among a cast of characters that will not easily be forgotten. Jack is the male lead in the play and Algernon is in a great supporting role and as these two characters play off each other and the women, Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen, it ends up in a comedic adventure! I love Wilde's thought-process and his portrayal of our subjectable human nature and of societal conflicts that are still generally true.

Some of my favorite lines (possible spoiler alert!):

Algernon: I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It ... is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty.
Lady Bracknell: I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance.
Gwendolen: I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
Gwendolen: If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.
Lady Bracknell. [Pencil and note-book in hand.] I feel bound to tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible young men, although I have the same list as the dear Duchess of Bolton has. We work together, in fact. However, I am quite ready to enter your name, should your answers be what a really affectionate mother requires. Do you smoke?

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.
Algernon: Oh! It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.

Ever since I've read this play, I really do want to see a live performance. It would be a nice experience and I hope to be able to have this opportunity one day. Until then, I'll re-read this play and eventually find a copy of my own.

178 pages, My rating: 5 stars

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JaneGS said...

Seeing the play live is wonderful, and I did a couple of summers ago. However, the original movie version (1952) with Michael Redgrave and Joan Greenwood is absolutely hilarious. Better than the version with Colin Firth in my opinion.

Julie said...

Thanks, Jane! I'll need to find this movie and watch it now. I do love classic movies!

L said...

oooo there's a version with colin firth?? Must see, must see. I have tickets to An Ideal Husband, another Wilde play in August. It's supposed to be funny too. Great quotes Julie!

Julie said...

Ooo, Lula let me know what you think of An Ideal Husband. Thanks for liking the quotes I chose. :)