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In What ways does Wilde Attempt to amuse His Audience in Act Three of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’?

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Beth Sharratt In What ways does Wilde Attempt to amuse His Audience in Act Three of 'The Importance of Being Earnest'? Prior to the third act, Wilde sets the scene and establishes the main character's idiosyncrasies and particularities. This knowledge the audience has already received contributes to the humour in the third act. The importance of being earnest is seen to be one of Wilde's most farcical comedies. Both the storyline and many of the characters are totally ridiculous, yet the play is written with a high degree of wit and intelligence. An example of this wit lies in the title of the play, which is a pun itself. With 'earnest' being both a male Christian name and a word describing honesty and sincerity. An important element, which adds to the humour of the third act, is the absurdity of some of the characters themselves. Characters such as Lady Bracknell, who is a very pedantic character, seem to be unrealistic characters as their manners are so extreme. ...read more.


There is an example of dramatic irony in the third act. 'The christenings, sir! Is that not somewhat premature?' In this situation the audience is aware of the situation, but the character on stage (Lady Bracknell) is not. This creates humour as the character that is not aware of what is going on is made to look foolish. Much of the humour in the third act is evoked by satire. The most common victim of Wilde's mockery is the upper class. This play was written in 1895, when class boundaries divided society very distinctly. This means that the jokes that mock the upper class would have been more relevant when it was first performed. However, these jokes are still appreciated in theatres today. Another example of this mockery occurs in the third act. One way the mockery is shown is in the speech of the characters. Most speech is over-exaggerated and not true to how the upper class would have spoken at that time. ...read more.


Her initial line 'Gwendolen! What does this mean?' Brings the audience back to the theme of conflict that has been established in the play. Wilde has used stage direction wisely to add humour to the play. One example of this is in the third act, when Jack goes upstairs to collect the handbag he had been left in as a baby. (Another preposterous addition to the storyline) At this point there is a large amount of crashing and banging heard on stage as he smashes the bag from its glass case. It is amusing to watch the characters on stage become baffled and bemused by Jack's actions, as he is seen as a calm, respectable man. This unexpected behaviour provides a contrast from the polite and reserved nature displayed by most of the interactions during the play. Typically, a comedy has a happy ending. The Importance of Being Earnest reflects this convention, with Jack's epigrammatic utterance; 'I've now realised for the first time in my life the vital importance of being earnest.' ...read more.

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