Review: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

PENGUIN, 1986/1895

Here is Oscar Wilde’s most brilliant tour de force, a witty and buoyant comedy of manners that has delighted millions in countless productions since its first performance in London’s St. James’ Theatre on February 14, 1895. The Importance of Being Earnest is celebrated not only for the lighthearted ingenuity of its plot, but for its inspired dialogue, rich with scintillating epigrams still savored by all who enjoy artful conversation.
From the play’s effervescent beginnings in Algernon Moncrieff’s London flat to its hilarious denouement in the drawing room of Jack Worthing’s country manor in Hertfordshire, this comic masterpiece keeps audiences breathlessly anticipating a new bon mot or a fresh twist of plot moment to moment.

In my September Reads and October Plans post I mentioned that I wanted to get back into reading more plays and about a week ago I picked my collection of Wilde’s plays called The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays. I read only the title play, but I plan on reading the rest of the plays in the coming months as well.

The Importance of Being Earnest start with the conversation between two friends, Mr. Ernest Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff. Ernest is visiting his friend with the intention of proposing marriage to his cousin, who he knows will be visiting later that day. Algernon is rather skeptic about the marriage, because he is suspicious of his friends character. As he questions the young man, he finds out that his friend’s name isn’t Ernest, but Jack. In order to get away from the countryside, Jack has invented himself a persona, a brother of the name Ernest, who can live the life of pleasure, while his name still stays untainted. However, problems arise when Algernon decides to borrow this persona to visit the countryside. The play is filled with comedic turns and twists, so it’s best not to reveal too much.

I loved, loved, loved this play. I started reading it during a break at the university and ended up finishing it later on the same day. The pacing is wonderful, the levels of comedy and satire are fabulous, and you can’t help but to laugh at all the characters. Some jokes might be a bit too redundant, but I felt that the overall satire is spot on. The characters in The Importance of Being Earnest all play a vital part, and none is spared in terms of ridiculousness. I enjoyed reading the play immensely and now regret that I didn’t go to see the adaptation that was running in the student union theater a few years ago. I highly, highly recommend this play to everyone who enjoys a good English satire. It is a quick read and definitely not one of the hardest classics out there.


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. If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.

4 thoughts on “Review: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

  1. Funnily, I read the play on Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was nothing “extraordinary” in terms of plot (I’ve read many Marivaux plays and it’s the same kind of story ;)), but the characters were great, and the tone so ironic that I couldn’t help but laugh :).

    • Agreed, the plot isn’t perhaps the most original one (though I haven’t read any Marivaux – Should I?). However, for me the execution made up for that, and it was just what I needed to cheer me up on a dark and rainy autumn evening 🙂

  2. Haha,the premise is funny!! 😀
    67 pages only?? I think I will buy it!!
    I’m glad it got a great rating as I’m much looking forward to reading it! 🙂

    Now,I guess you want to read Salome? 😉

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