The Importance of Being Earnest, Essential Revision Notes

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Table of Contents

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde 4

Context 4

Summary 6

Characters 9

John (Jack/Ernest) Worthing, J.P. 9

Algernon Moncrieff 9

Gwendolen Fairfax 9

Cecily Cardew 9

Lady Bracknell 10

Miss Prism 10

Rev. Canon Chasuble, D.D. 10

Lane 10

Merriman 10

Themes and Symbols 11

Themes 11

The Nature of Marriage 11

The Constraints of Morality 11

Hypocrisy vs. Inventiveness 12

The Importance of Not Being ‘Earnest’ 12

Symbols 13

The Double Life 13

Food 13

Fiction and Writing 14

Important Quotations Explained 15

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Context

Oscar Wilde, celebrated playwright and literary provocateur, was born in Dublin on October 16, 1854. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford before settling in London. During his days at Dublin and Oxford, he developed a set of attitudes and postures for which he would eventually become famous. Chief among these were his flamboyant style of dress, his contempt for conventional values, and his belief in aestheticism – a movement that embraced the principle of art for the sake of beauty and beauty alone. After a stunning performance in college, Wilde settled in London in 1878, where he moved in circles that included Lillie Langtry, the novelists Henry James and George Moore, and the young William Butler Yeats.

Literary and artistic acclaim were slow in coming to Wilde. In 1884, when he married Constance Lloyd, Wilde’s writing career was still a work in progress. He had gone on a lecture tour of North America and been lampooned in the 1881 Gilbert and Sullivan operetta Patience as the self-consciously idiosyncratic philosopher-poet Reginald Bunthorne, but he was celebrated chiefly as a well-known personality and a wit. He may have been the first person ever to become famous for being famous.

During the late 1880s, Wilde wrote reviews, edited a women’s magazine, and published a volume of poetry and one o...

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