- Slides: 20
The Importance of Being Earnest
Aspects of Victorian society that Wilde mocks Triviality Frivolousness Money-mindedness Hypocrisy
The Importance of Being Earnest From the title alone, what do you think this play will be about? Consider more than one interpretation of the title.
Discussion Points When spelt ‘Ernest’, the word is a boy’s name. What does the word mean when spelt ‘earnest’? With this in mind, what does the title suggest about the play? Explain your ideas. The tagline of the play is ‘A Trivial Comedy for Serious People’. Explain the significance and implications of this, i. e. what does Wilde mean by ‘trivial’ and ‘serious’. How would the meaning and implications change if this sentence was reversed (i. e. ‘A Serious Comedy for Trivial People’)? Two of the central themes of the play are APPEARANCE & REALITY and SOCIAL STATUS & EXPECTATIONS. For each theme, do a brainstorm to show these themes could be presented.
The Importance of Being Earnest: Discussion Starters What qualities do you look for in friends and loved ones? Which of these standards are truly important? Which could you let go of for the right person?
The Importance of Being Earnest: Discussion Starters What do you do when a social obligation conflicts with what you really want to do? Have you ever gotten into a scrape over a seemingly harmless white lie? How did you resolve the situation?
Satire The play is a satirical comedy: SATIRE - a literary tone used to ridicule or make fun of human vice or weakness, often with the intent of correcting, or changing, the subject of the satiric attack. Satirical comedies are very common on television. ‘The Simpsons’ satirizes the ‘American Dream’; programmes such as ‘Family Guy’, ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘I’m Alan Partridge’ also contain satirical comedy. Watch this clip from ‘The Office’ and see if you can identify WHY it is an example of satire. http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=I 9 LLZJFBWdc
The Simpsons Homer’s character is a sweeping generalisation of the patriarch in an American family. List at least seven of his attributes and write why they are exemplified to show satire. Eg 1) He is portrayed as simple minded. This is poking fun at males between 30 -50 in American society by saying that they are not clever, yet still function in society with little difficulty.
Class is very significant in this play. Do you think class is still significant? If so, how? How are classes defined these days? How can you tell if somebody is upper or lower class? Do people from different classes mix? In pairs, come up with answers for each of the questions above and write a list of bullet points for each answer.
Customs and Manners The Importance of Being Earnest is called a comedy of manners. Today, many people seem to feel that the customs and manners that serve as a guide to social behaviour have been forgotten. What do customs tell us about society? Is it important to have rules that govern how we interact socially with people? What customs and manners do you follow? Copy the questions above and write full answers for each.
Marriage There are many memorable quotations about marriage in this play. Before reading, consider what your own opinion of marriage is: Do you want to get married some time in the future? Why/Why not? What qualities do you think make the perfect marriage? What are the good points about marriage? What are the downsides of marriage? Are there people who should not marry? Answer the questions above in the form of a diary entry (to yourself). Be realistic and honest in your answers. Answer each question fully.
Analysis of how Act 1 serves its purpose as an opening to the play
Introduction of Characters: Which characters do we meet? What are our impressions of them? Has a protagonist and an antagonist emerged? Who? Where should the audience’s sympathies lie at this point? For each character presented so far, find at least two quotations that ‘sum them up’ and explain why (try to find at least four for Jack and Algernon).
protagonist n. 1. The main character in a drama or other literary work. antagonist 1. One who opposes and contends against another; an adversary. 2. The principal character in opposition to the protagonist or hero of a narrative or drama.
Setting the Scene Where/When is the play set? What information are we given about the specific locations? What impression do we get of the society in which the play is set? How is it presented? What other places are referred to? Draw/Design the set for the first act, using information from the text. Think about the props, the layout and the colour etc.
Establishing the Plot What is the play about, e. g. what is the problem? What obstacles have been suggested so far? What possible solutions can you predict at this point? Begin a flow chart of key events in the play’s plot development. Make sure you focus on cause & effect. What themes have arisen in this first act?
Act 1 Task 1 Up to the arrival of Lady Bracknell: How are the characters of Algernon and Jack/Ernest created for the audience? What is the effect of the interchange between Algernon and Lane? Task 2 Draw up a list of statements made about marriage by different characters and comment on the impressions given.
Comedy in Act 1 Task 1 Give examples of different types of humour and how they work (quote and comment) Task 2 ‘A trivial comedy for serious people’- list words/ phrases where trivial events are treated with overblown seriousness. Identify comic methods. Also identify points when serious events are made to seem trivial. Where do the moments of comedy in Act 1 belong on the Comic Ladder. Task 3 How are women in Act 1 shown to have the upper hand? (Explore more than simply what happens on stage. )
Proposal Think of a good example of a proposal that you know. What qualities make a good proposal? Should the man always be the one to propose?
Gwendolen The scene in which Jack proposes to Gwendolen portrays a reversal of Victorian assumptions about gender roles. Propriety demanded that young women be weak and ineffectual, helpless vessels of girlish admiration and passivity, while men were supposed to be authoritative and competent. Here, however, Jack stammers ineffectually, and Gwendolen takes the whole business of the marriage proposal out of his hands. Wilde has some fun with the rigidity of Victorian convention when he has Gwendolen backtrack and insist that Jack start the whole proposal process over again, doing it properly. The social commentary in this scene goes deeper than the Victorian concern with propriety. In the figure of Gwendolen, a young woman obsessed with the name Ernest, and not with actual earnestness itself, Wilde satirizes Victorian society’s preoccupation with surface manifestations of virtue and its willingness to detect virtue in the most superficial displays of decent behavior. The Ernest/earnest joke is a sendup of the whole concept of moral duty, which was the linchpin of Victorian morality.