January 28, 2013 – DRAMA LECTURE
Essay on a play -> Can work on either “Age of Arousal” or “Death Clowns in
Guantanamo” th th
Essays due on either March 27 or 28 . This will be a review of the play.
Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest: “A Sort of Honorable Selfishness”
Lady Bracknell makes the worst scathing comments about the classes.
Rather than having a lot of sex we have an obsession with food and eating.
Quote from Algernon: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be
very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility”.
Wilde’s life is reflected in plays. th
What does the term dandy mean? Used widely in late 20 Century England. Refers to
men who consider themselves to be arbiters of culture and refinement and wit. Similar to
today’s metrosexual. Most of Oscar Wilde’s plays contain dandy’s, and Oscar Wilde
himself is a dandy.
Dandy: Within a 19 century tradition of mannered individualism that included the
Rejected the middle class values of work and purity through a display of conspicuous
idleness, moral skepticism and effeminacy.
World in which wit, pleasure and superficiality is the norm = Importance of Being
Earnest’s world. Here, in a time of crisis, it is important to eat a muffin correctly.
Play obsessed with public and private documents. They are actually quite lengthy in
number (novels, birth certificates…) In an age of surfaces, categories such as truth and
identity remain illusive.
“The play on the word Ernest in the comedy’s title reflects a society where who one is
may hinge on a name, and where Sincerity is the stepchild of Accident”.
“Though we can sense a solid substance beneath the frothy surface, the nature of that
substance remains an enigma”
Obscure paradox that goes on in play: Play owes something to restoration comedy
(coming out from restoration drama -> from 1668-1710s).
Jack: Your duty as a gentleman calls you back
Algernon: My duty as a gentlemen has never interfered with my pleasures in the smallest
One of key moments: Act one, p. 790. We understand how truth plays out in relation to
society. Aristocratic young men had to get back to basic impulse. Their roguishness was a
symbol of their freedom, as well as an excuse for escaping bourgeoisie. In Wilde’s
vision, an honorable selfishness becomes a virtue and a moral condition.
Standard paradox: Only libertines can see the truth, that’s why only Algy can be happy at
Identity in the play:
Jack: “Lady Bracknell, I hate to seem inquisitive, but would you kindly inf