“The living always think that gold can make them happy”
― Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince
Vocab handout for this Friday.
We’ll watch the rest of this
We will read this:
We’ll look at this:
And I’ll hand out the text for you.
Tomorrow, we start.
“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.”
What is a parody, satire or farce?
What is comedy?
Jack (Earnest) :
Lady Bracknell :
We will be starting the play. If we finish act 1 today, then these questions will be due by tomorrow for discussion. I’ll collect your answers after.
1. Why does Jack Worthing call himself “Ernest” instead when he is in “town”
2. Why has Algernon invented an invalid friend named “Bunbury”?
3. Jack has an insurmountable impediment to marrying Gwendolen in his
background: what, as Lady Bracknell sees it, is this problem? How does she
propose that he resolve this problem? What is Wilde satirizing in this
4. How does Wilde use the subject of cucumber sandwiches to reveal the
characters of Jack and Algy?
5. How does Wilde satirize the vacuous mentalities and lifestyles of the British
aristocracy in Lady Bracknell’s interview with Jack?
6. How does Wilde use the cigarette case to facilitate the exposition of the
7. The character of Algernon Moncrieff reflects the public persona of the
dramatist himself: in what ways in Algy like Wilde? Refer to background
8. Why is the classical allusion in which Wilde compares Lady Bracknell to the
Gorgon particularly apt? Look up this allusion if you don’t know.
9. What point is Wilde making about journalism in general and reviewers in
particular when Algernon remarks, “You should leave that [literary criticism] to
people who haven’t been at University. They do it so well in the daily papers”?
10. What tools of satire –irony, juxtaposition, understatement, paradox –are
apparent in this opening act?
“Men always want to be a woman’s first love. Women have a more subtle instinct: What they like is to be a man’s last romance.”
“Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.”
I’d like for you to take some time in getting your thoughts in order and complete these Importance of Being Earnest questions
1. “Gwendolen and Cecily are not so much opposites as complements.” Explain this remark by reference to their speeches and actions.
2. Early on in Act One Jack Worthing articulates the difference between city lifeand country life. Show three ways in which the life of the country (as
exemplified by the Manor House, Woolton, Herfordshire) is very different from the bachelor life of The Albany, London.
3. Like Jack, Algy leads a double life, utilizing an escape mechanism when
necessary to free himself of a life of social obligation and lead a life of
unrestrained pleasure. Explain their differing motivations, but how both are
“confirmed Bunburyists,” nevertheless.
4. The comedy of mistaken identity is a very old dramatic form – as old, in fact, as comedy itself – which Wilde manages to revitalize in The Importance of Being Earnest. The key mistaken identity in this play, of course, is that of “Ernest” himself. What comic consequences result from Algernon’s assuming the role of Ernest Worthing?
5. In what ways would the terms “hedonist,” “aesthete,” and “gourmand” be
suitable descriptors for Algernon?
6. How would you characterize Canon Chasuble and his relationship with Miss Prism? Why does Wilde include them at this point in the play?
7. Give five examples of Wilde’s wit, comedy and/or satire in this act. How
does this further his satirical purpose?
8. A subtle sub-theme of the play is readers, publishers, fiction, and
censorship. What points by implication is Wilde making about contemporary
9. What role does food have within the play? (Notice how Jack and Algy are
eating muffins at key points – and then those pesky cucumber sandwiches in
10. Based on the types of comedy discussed, how would you define The
Importance of Being Earnest thus far? Defend your selections using textual
Act 2 actors:
1. Lady Bracknell has been described as “the perfect embodiment of the
attitudes and rules of conduct of the British aristocracy.” How does Wilde
unmask the mercenary motives of Lady Bracknell to reveal her essential
snobbishness and hypocrisy in the final act?
2. To a certain extent, Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble are also satirical figures
through whom Wilde attacks British institutions, namely education and the
Church of England. Explain briefly what aspects of these institutions Wilde is
3. Define the term “bunburying,” and explain its significance in the play. How
does bunburying relate to Wilde’s critique of Victorian earnestness? How are
even Cecily and Dr. Chasuble “bunburyists”?
4. The play has a number of objects that acquire additional meanings as the
action develops. Explain how three of the following symbols in The Importance of Being Earnest relate to the plot and especially to the characters: cucumber sandwiches, bread-and-butter, the German language, French music and language, bottles of champagne, teacake, muffins, and the capacious handbag.
5. “Although we see little of them, each of the butlers has a back story and
serves as a vehicle for Wilde’s satire of the aristocracy.” Explain.
6. If the principal characters will go to any lengths to avoid their
responsibilities and place self- interest at the top of their own agendas, then a resolution of the conflicts in the play would be impossible: somebody has to make concessions. How does the resolution scene in the third act resolve the conflicts between Lady Bracknell and Jack? Jack and Algernon? Gwendolen and Cecily?
“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I’m not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you’ve felt that way.”
Here is what can help you with your one act play:
This is called the Playwright’s handbook. It is a good start for ideas.
Here is a way that I start:
First I find the setting. Where is the action taking place? Since this is only a scene, then there will only be one place.
Second, I want to find a conflict.
There are many conflicts that can help with the excitement of a plot. Check the playwright’s guide.
Third, I want you to come up with a character sheet. This is the main focus of today. I will print out a package, but here it is if you want the online version.
Here is the rubric for the final piece: