Aubrey Beardsley cover art <3
The first play I've read all year! And probably since college. Seems crazy that I haven't read The Importance of Being Earnest before. I think I saw part of a movie adaptation once. I knew it had something to do with the fact that a bunch of guys pretend to have the name Ernest.
Did Jim Varney's Ernest character every do a parody of this? Something like "Ernest Goes to 19th Century England"? Or "Ernest Scared Witless?" No? He should have.
This was one of the funniest things I've read all year. It so fun to read something that is just outright hilarious. A nice break from all the depressing and murder obsessed literature that's been populating my "have read" list. Wilde's play manages to make the trivial serious, and the serious trivial. Cucumber sandwiches and muffins are more consequential than marriage. Or death. Thus the play's subtitle: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People.
Here are some passages:
...it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.
...I know perfectly well whom she will place me next to, tonight. She will place me next Mary Farquhar, who always flirts with her own husband across the dinner-table. That is not very pleasant. Indeed, it is not even decent...and that sort of thing is enormously on the increase. The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one's clean linen in public.
Algernon: Do you really keep a diary? I'd give anything to look at it. May I?
Cecily: Oh no. [Puts her hand over it.] You see, it is simply a very young girl's record of her own thoughts and impressions and consequently meant for publication. When it appears in volume form I hope you will order a copy.
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 calmly. It is the only way to eat them.
Lady Bracknell: Dead! When did Mr. Bunbury die? His death must have been extremely sudden.
Algernon: [Airily.] Oh! I killed Bunbury this afternoon. I mean poor Bunbury died this afternoon.
Lady Bracknell: What did he die of?
Algernon: Bunbury? Oh, was was quite exploded.
Lady Bracknell: Exploded! Was he the victim of a revolutionary outrage? I was not aware that Mr. Bunbury was interested in social legislation. If so, he is well punished for his morbidity.
Algernon: My dear Aunt August, I mean he was found out! The doctors found out that Bunbury could not live, that is what I mean--so Bunbury died.