The Importance of Being Earnest (2)

by Oscar Wilde

‘Earnest’ is probably Wilde’s most famous and certainly most widely and frequently produced play. It is a classic featherlight farcical comedy of manners with a paper-thin plot that serves mainly as a vehicle to demonstrate his wit and to satirize the conventions of the day (originally late 19th century). If there is a theme it is parodied in the title, as Wilde trivialises serious topics such as marriage, against the conventions of the time.

Algy and Jack are friends. Algy, who lives in town, has invented an imaginary invalid friend Bunbury, which allows him to escape to the country whenever he likes to visit him on his sick bed, so avoiding boring social engagements, especially with his fierce and disapproving Aunt Agatha (Lady Bracknell). Jack lives in the country and has invented a brother (Ernest) in Paris, which allows him to escape to London (going under the name of Ernest), to see Algy and other delights, away from his naïve young ward, Cecily.

Jack is in love with Algy’s cousin Gwendolyn. She is in love with him too, mainly because his name is Ernest (except it’s not). She would never marry anyone not called Ernest and her mother (Lady B) is extremely disapproving of Jack’s (lack of) parentage, found, as he was, in a handbag at Victoria Station.

Once Jack mentions his pretty ward Cecily in the country, Algy sneaks off to meet her, posing as Jack’s imaginary brother Ernest. Gwendolyn turns up too and finally Jack arrives to announce the death of his brother Ernest (currently wooing Cecily in the garden). Confusion and fun ensue until everything ends happily. A pair of middle aged unrequited lovers (Miss Prism and Canon Chasuble) are great parts, and a couple of dour manservants make up the happy ensemble.

I expect this to be done in period costume (tho I am still thinking about exactly which period!), and it should be a light, bright summery piece, just right for Christmas!

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Algernon Moncrieff

A young man about town, later in love with Cecily. He takes nothing seriously (except perhaps cucumber sandwiches)

Jack Worthing

A young man from the country with limited parentage. He is in love with Gwendolyn.

Lady Bracknell

Algy’s Aunt Agatha and mother to his cousin Gwendolyn. A dominating, imperious figure. Must be able to deliver ‘A Handbag?’ in a suitable tone.

Gwendolyn Fairfax

A young woman in love with Jack, but only because she thinks he is called Ernest.

Cecily Cardew

A young (18 in the script, tho can be older) heiress, Jack’s ward, and destined to be married to someone, anyone, called Ernest. Algy seems to fit the bill.

Miss Prism

Cecily’s schoolmistress – a spinster with the hots for the Reverend.

Canon Chasuble

A local rector with his eyes on Miss Prism.


Algy’s manservant (a small part with several very funny lines right at the start of the play)


The butler at Jack and Cecily’s house (minor character role).


Director - Mark Humble