Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Importance of Being Earnest


A Trivial Comedy for Serious People
by Oscar Wilde



You must not laugh at me, darling, but it had always been a girlish dream of mine to love some one whose name was Ernest. There is something in that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence. I pity any poor married woman whose husband is not called Ernest.
Cecily
Ernest Worthing is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax. The girl reciprocates the passion, but for a very particular reason: the name Ernest. With a name like that Gwendolen is sure she can trust him. Mr. Worthing wouldn't mind about this oddity of his beloved, if there wasn't one little detail: his name is not Ernest, it's Jack!


This was the third time I read this book. The first was when I was in high school, the second in November 2009, both translated in italian. Now I finally read it in english!


I would say the plot is quite typical for a comedy, with two love stories, misunderstandings, secrets, discoveries, coincidences, and a happy ending. The setting is Wilde's England, both London and the countryside, with all the corollary of social rules that the characters have fun with mocking. In fact, in this context rather common there are the characters which are absolutely "wildian": cynical, ironic, selfish and absurd, they compete in shooting more and more nonsense with the most seriousness possible. And in fact some of the most famous Wilde's aphorisms come from comedy!


What most of all, however (in my opinion) is the greatest beauty of this work, what makes it a masterpiece, is the unmistakable Oscar Wilde's style.
Even the material he discarded, when it was rediscovered in the 1950s made James Agate, a critic, say that the scene Wilde judged not good enough was more fun than any living British author would have been able to produce.
(From the Introduction og my italian edition, by Masolino d'Amico)


Overall review.
Funny, hilarious, a laugh on every page, ironic, bitter, even compelling towards the end, with characters so real and yet so absurd, wich speak very naturally phrases that seem meaningless, but on closer inspection are the best of Wilde's aphorisms. A glimpse of Victorian society always topical... in short: the work of a genius!
And then, who would not want a friend like Bunbury?!?!?! XD


Book Info

Importance of Being Earnest by ~Altermentality on deviantART
Title: The Importance of Being Earnest
Subtitle: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People
Author: Oscar Wilde
Italian title: L'importanza di essere Onesto
First publication date: 1895
Links: ANOBII - GOODREADS



Adaptations

The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) by Oliver Parker, with Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor and Reese Witherspoon

Quotes



Algernon: Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?
Lane: I didn't think it polite to listen, sir.
Algernon: I'm sorry for that, for your sake. I don't play accurately - any one can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.
[incipit]


The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!
Algernon
(Page 6)


[The sound of an electric bell is heard.] Ah! that must be Aunt Augusta. Only relatives, or creditors, ever ring in that Wagnerian manner.
Algernon
(Page 7)


Lady Bracknell: Are your parents living?
Jack: I have lost both my parents.
Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.
(Page 14)


Never met such a Gorgon... I don't really know what a Gorgon is like, but I am quite sure that Lady Bracknell is one. In any case, she is a monster, without being a myth, which is rather unfair...
Jack
(Page 15)


Jack: I beg your pardon, Algy, I suppose I shouldn't talk about your own aunt in that way before you.
Algernon: My dear boy, I love hearing my relations abused. It is the only thing that makes me put up with them at all.
(Page 16)


Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven't got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.
Algernon
(Page 16)


It is awfully hard work doing nothing. However, I don't mind hard work where there is no definite object of any kind.
Algernon
(Page 18)


Algernon: I hope to-morrow will be a fine day, Lane.
Lane: It never is, sir.
Algernon: Lane, you're a perfect pessimist.
Lane: I do my best to give satisfaction, sir.
(Page 20)


I don't like novels that end happily. They depress me so much.
Cecily
(Page 22)


Chasuble: Your brother Ernest dead?
Jack: Quite dead.
Miss Prism: What a lesson for him! I trust he will profit by it.
(Page 27)


Dr. Chasuble is a most learned man. He has never written a single book, so you can imagine how much he knows.
Cicely
(Page 35)


The home seems to me to be the proper sphere for the man. And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes painfully effeminate, does he not? And I don't like that. It makes men so very attractive.
Gwendolen
(Page 37)


Mamma, whose views on education are remarkably strict, has brought me up to be extremely short-sighted; it is part of her system.
Gwendolen
(Page 37)


Jack: How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can't make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.
Algernon: Well, I can't eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.
(Page 44)


Jack: You have been christened already.
Algernon: Yes, but I have not been christened for years.
Jack: Yes, but you have been christened. That is the important thing.
Algernon: Quite so. So I know my constitution can stand it.
(Page 45)


Gwendolen: The fact that they did not follow us at once into the house, as any one else would have done, seems to me to show that they have some sense of shame left.
Cicely: They have been eating muffins. That looks like repentance.
(Page 46)


In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.
Gwendolen
(Page 47)


Algernon: The doctors found out that Bunbury could not live, [...] so Bunbury died.
Lady Bracknell: He seems to have had great confidence in the opinion of his physicians.
(Page 49)


To speak frankly, I am not in favour of long engagements. They give people the opportunity of finding out each other's character before marriage, which I think is never advisable.
Lady Bracknell
(Page 51)


Algernon is an extremely, I may almost say an ostentatiously, eligible young man. He has nothing, but he looks everything. What more can one desire?
Lady Bracknell
(Page 51)


Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.
Lady Bracknell
(Page 52)


If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.
Gwendolen
(Page 55)


It is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth.
Jack
(Page 57)

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