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The role of comedy in oscar wildes the importance of being earnest

PDF Send by e-mail 1The Importance of Being Earnest 1895 by Oscar Wilde is a popular play that is still widely performed in English-language theatres and also in many different languages. However, the writing of the play relies on a creativity and richness that combine different styles. Oscar Wilde was gay in a society stifled by social conventions and governed by very tough laws on homosexuality. Nevertheless, some critics have argued that the playwright dared include homosexual connotations in the text.

He often used this convenient formal frame to structure his society comedies. By importing a popular and successful French form he could thus conceal his attack on official order and discourse while making English audiences laugh at their own values and beliefs. In so doing Wilde keeps the appearances of a genre the audience is familiar with but subverts it with great subtlety. However, he manages to combine commercial success with conservative audiences whilst mocking the very conventions that these audiences are supposed to live by.

The Importance of Being Earnest as a Comedy of Manners

It is cleverly done so that the audience may ignore the subversive politics in the play if it chooses to. It has all the elements of a comedy of manners: The play thus looks like a comedy of manners but it is something else.

What is it then? It can be argued that by refusing a specific genre Oscar Wilde produces a discourse on theatrical art.

He rejects the naturalist style and the traditional forms of drama of his time. So, is it a modernist experimental drama?

Wilde was influenced by Walter Pater, the co-founder of the aesthetic movement in art, literature and criticism for whom all art forms are self-sufficient. Connell, Gender and Power, Polity, Cambridge, 1987, p.

Phelan edPlaying with Fire: In the play Jack and Algernon are not Ernest, but they can become Ernest through baptism. They will also imitate a model with no origin since Ernest never existed in the first place. Wilde also plays with the illusions created by appearances and mocks the expressive model of gender and the notion of true gender identity.

Jack and Algernon are men, but they are effeminate dandies. Algernon spends money extravagantly on clothes and is greedy, qualities often associated with women. Here, and throughout the play, Oscar Wilde asks the following question: The tension between the body as real and the body as discursive remains a key axis of the debate within gender studies.

  • In so doing Wilde keeps the appearances of a genre the audience is familiar with but subverts it with great subtlety;
  • Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness;
  • Therefore, Oscar Wilde rebels against the artificial and hypocritical social codes of his class and suggests that anybody can pass for an aristocrat with a bit of practice;
  • On the other hand, nothing is trustworthy about her because she uses clothes as would an actress to fit her role, talks nonsense, however with the right kind of accent, and can utter the most cruel things but in a very proper language;
  • The direction lacked creativity and boldness, maybe because P.

For example, for R. It could be argued, though, that this production only emphasized the superficial and camp side of the play, hardly touching the idea of what J. In other words, it must arouse curiosity and stir traditional feelings and ideas about gender. If it is trivial it thus means that it has no important message to convey.

  1. Laville may have understated the dimension of the play in terms of disruption of norms—or chosen to ignore this aspect.
  2. It could be argued, though, that this production only emphasized the superficial and camp side of the play, hardly touching the idea of what J.
  3. Wilde also plays with the illusions created by appearances and mocks the expressive model of gender and the notion of true gender identity. Was it because they had chosen to overlook the questionings of the play or simply because they had completely misunderstood the undertones in the first place?
  4. If he is, he does not seem to want to push it too far.

Oscar Wilde tells us that our world is absurd and that it is pointless to try to find any meaning to it. Life is simply like a bubble of champagne: Cecily and Gwendolen rebel against sexual roles by mastering the language and being witty—qualities often associated with men—but in fact, they talk nonsense.

These qualities are often associated with women who are supposed to be volatile and not able to experience friendship like men—women are seen as rivals, which is a conformist view. Lady Bracknell is portrayed as a greedy and arrogant aristocrat.

On the other hand, nothing is trustworthy about her because she uses clothes as would an actress to fit her role, talks nonsense, however with the right kind of accent, and can utter the most cruel things but in a very proper language.

Therefore, Oscar Wilde rebels against the artificial and hypocritical social codes of his class and suggests that anybody can pass for an aristocrat with a bit of practice.

Lord Bracknell is blatantly absent from the play, is referred to as a sick man, almost an invalid, and plays in fact the role of the mother.

Here it has to be said that a lot of Victorian women had psychosomatic diseases—like Lord Bracknell who has little appetite and often retires to his bedroom—mostly because they were unhappy and frustrated by their assigned impotent roles as daughters, wives and mothers.

As for Lady Bracknell she has the power of decision, the power of money and the power of language. The play makes extensive reference both implicitly and explicitly to this debate, thus conforming to the fashionable discussion of his time.

For example, at the end of the play, Jack says: Two years later J. Oscar Wilde, who was well educated, had probably read it or at least heard about it. In the play, Algy and Jack are idle and lazy, but morally the women are not better than them: Actually, the play portrays real anxiety about gender because it raises the difficult question about the meaning of masculinity and femininity, yet always in an ironical and derisive tone.

Upper-class women were idle but sometimes did some volunteer work or some craftswork at home. But what do we know about what men and women are supposed to do, like and dislike?

Yet, she then adds unexpectedly: If it is destined for serious people this implies that serious people might find an interest in it. Indeed, there are serious themes in the play but Oscar Wilde does not treat them seriously, thus debunking the very notion of seriousness. Then, why not play with this subtitle and reverse it? What if, in fact, it were a serious play for trivial people?

The Importance of Being Earnest

In that case it would mean that Wilde chose to tackle serious subjects but that he did not believe his public would understand his attempts at turning traditions and preconceived notions upside down.

One can also wonder whether he really cares about those notions. Is he really aware of his own discourse on gender? If he is, he does not seem to want to push it too far. Is it because he is afraid of losing his readership and audience? In the role of comedy in oscar wildes the importance of being earnest, we do not really know the intentions of Oscar Wilde, except perhaps that, and to paraphrase Jack in the play, when he is in town he amuses himself p.

It is delightful to see, it sends wave after wave of laughter. More reviews of that time would be required in order to determine if other critics were also ill-at-ease when they saw the play. However, only a few weeks after its opening, Oscar Wilde was involved in the scandal that led him to prison. The audience that had laughed so much during the performances shunned his company and work.

Equally, it would have been interesting to have interviews of members of the audience to find out why they had enjoyed the play. Was it because they had chosen to overlook the questionings of the play or simply because they had completely misunderstood the undertones in the first place? Later, why did they really turn away from Oscar Wilde?

Was it because they were really shocked by his homosexuality or just to conform to the new trend that was to despise him? The Historical construction of femininity in Twentieth Century A. This way of viewing things seems to suggest that the gender order may be disrupted and changed, and Oscar Wilde was certainly one of the first ones to do so in his life and by using theatre as a means of expression for his questioning and mockery of both the social and gender orders.

When the public saw the actors and actresses on stage they underwent an identification process because they lived in the same flats, wore the same clothes and spoke the same apparent language.

How does Oscar Wilde produce humour in The Importance of Being Earnest?

The Victorian audience then laughed at itself. The scenes would have seemed so exaggerated that they could not possibly have recognized themselves and have taken the play seriously.

  1. Here, and throughout the play, Oscar Wilde asks the following question.
  2. For example, at the end of the play, Jack says. But what do we know about what men and women are supposed to do, like and dislike?
  3. If it is trivial it thus means that it has no important message to convey. The artificiality and paradox embedded in the dialogue well matches the sham and hypocritical values and pretensions of the people targeted by satire.
  4. Wilde was influenced by Walter Pater, the co-founder of the aesthetic movement in art, literature and criticism for whom all art forms are self-sufficient. Matthews Jill, Good and Mad Women.

They actually laughed at social and sexual relationships that, as far as they were concerned, could not exist.

Exaggeration and nonsensical dialogues probably helped Wilde get away with the more troubling questions he raised. This was partly because she only focused on the serious aspects of the play and found Wilde nihilistic. The direction lacked creativity and boldness, maybe because P.

Laville may have understated the dimension of the play in terms of disruption of norms—or chosen to ignore this aspect. It is the performance that is emphasized, not the subversive content.

Can we then say that Oscar Wilde paved the way for contemporary authors like Frank McGuinness for example? However, butterflies are short-lived whereas his play has survived for more than a hundred years so far, conforming to the tastes of many different people and resisting both time and analysis.

Butler Judith, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, Routledge, Londres, 1990. Matthews Jill, Good and Mad Women: