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The Importance of Being Earnest - Killeen

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The Importance of Being Earnest - Killeen

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The Importance of Being Earnest - Killeen

  1. 1. ¨ A ‘modernist’ play? ¨ The Dandy ¨ The nature of the ‘Comic’; ‘multiple realities’ ¨ Subverting/Laughing at conventions of gender ¨ Is the play Utopian?
  2. 2. ‘relaxing into laughter if, in listening to a joke, we are for a short time ready to accept the fictitious world of the jest as a reality in relation to which the world of our daily lives take on the character of foolishness.’ ‘On Multiple Realities’(1935).
  3. 3. ‘I cannot say that I greatly cared for The Importance of Being Earnest. It amused me, of course; but unless comedy touches me as well as amuses me, it leaves me with a sense of having wasted my evening. I go to the theatre to be moved to laughter, not to be tickled or bustled into it; and that is why, although I laugh as much as anybody at a farcical comedy, I am out of spirits before the end of the second act, and out of temper before the end of the third, my miserable mechanical laughter intensifying these symptoms at every outburst. If the public ever becomes intelligent enough to know when it is really enjoying itself and when it is not, there will be an end of farcical comedy. George Bernard Shaw, ‘An Old Play and a New Old One’, Dramatic Opinions and Essays with an Apology, vol. 1 (New York: Brentano’s, 1916).
  4. 4. ‘like a mirage-oasis in the desert, grateful and comforting to the weary eye – but when you come up close to it, behold! It is intangible, it eludes your grasp. What can a poor critic do with a play which raises no principle, whether of art or morals....?’ William Archer, on. The Importance of Being. Earnest. Signed review in the World, 20 February 1895
  5. 5. ‘In The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde succeeded – almost, it would seem, by accident, for he never realised its infinite superiority to all his other plays – in writing what is perhaps the only pure verbal opera in English. The solution that, deliberately or accidentally, he found was to subordinate every other dramatic element to dialogue for its own sake and create a verbal universe in which the characters are determined by the kinds of things they say, and the plot is nothing but a succession of opportunities to say them’. W. H. Auden, "An Improbable Life." Rev. of The Letters of Oscar Wilde. The New Yorker 9 March 1963.
  6. 6. “I had no idea that there were any families or persons whose origins was a Terminus.”
  7. 7. ‘The Army Lists of the last forty years are here. These delightful records should have been my constant study. (Rushes to bookcase and tears the books out). M. Generals ... Mallam, Maxbohm, Magley – what ghastly names they have – Markby, Migsby, Mobbs, Moncrief! Lieutenant 1840, Captain, Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel, General 1869, Christian names, Ernest John. (puts the book down very quietly and speaks quite calmly). I always told you Gwendolen, my first name was Ernest, didn’t I? Well, it is Ernest after all. I mean it is naturally Ernest’.
  8. 8. ‘it is very painful for me to be forced to speak the truth. It is the first time in my life that I have ever been reduced to such a painful position, and I am really quite inexperienced in doing anything of the kind’
  9. 9. ‘here on the lock are my initials. I had forgotten that in an extravagant mood I had had them placed there. The bag is undoubtedly mine. I am delighted to have it so unexpectedly restored to me. It has been a great inconvenience being without it all these years’
  10. 10. ‘ Man for the field, and woman for the hearth; Man for the sword, and for the needle she; Man with the head, and woman with the heart; Man to command, and woman to obey; All else confusion.’ Tennyson, ‘The Princess’ (1847).
  11. 11. ‘The Queen is most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of Woman’s Rights,’ with all its attendant horrors, on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and propriety ... It is a subject which makes the Queen so furious that she cannot contain herself. God created men and women different – then let them remain each in their own position. Tennyson has some very beautiful lines on the difference of men and women in ‘The Princess.’ Woman would become the most hateful, heathen, and disgusting of human beings were she allowed to unsex herself; and where would be the protection which man was intended to give to the weaker sex?’ Queen Victoria on calls for female suffrage.
  12. 12. Behrendt, Patricia Flanagan, Oscar Wilde: Eros and Aesthetics (London: Macmillan, 1991). Bristow, Joseph, Effeminate England: Homoerotic Writing After 1885 (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1995). Dollimore, Jonathan, Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991). Kiberd, Declan, Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation (London: Verso, 1996). Sammells, Neil, Wilde Style: The Plays and Prose of Oscar Wilde (Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2000). Schutz, Alfred, ‘On Multiple Realities’, in Collected Papers, vol.1 (The Haugue: Nijhoff, 1962). Sinfield, Alan, The Wilde Century: Effeminacy, Oscar Wilde, and the Queer Movement (London: Cassell, 1994).

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