How does Wilde Create Comedy in this Scene of "The Importance of Being Earnest"?

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Re-read from page 290, line 691 ‘GWENDOLEN: You have filled my tea…’ to page 291, line 745 ‘GWENDOLEN: You will call me sister, will you not?’ How does Wilde create comedy in this scene?

The Importance of Being Earnest is considered by many to be a comedy of manners, focusing on the love lives of aristocratic young people, and relying on the use of verbal wit, stock characters and humour over developing a deep plot and sense of character. In this scene, Gwendolen and Cecily have just gotten into a fight over their alleged fiancés mistaken identity. Through his use of hyperbolic language, dramatic stage directions, character role and theme, Wilde creates a comic scene.

Wilde use dramatic stage directions to create humour in this scene. For example: “CECILY: (very sweetly)” and “GWENDOLEN: (slowly and seriously)”. Given the context of the scene, these stage directions reverse the audience’s expectations to offer a surprising, yet humorous twist on what would otherwise happen. As Cecily replies “sweetly” to Gwendolen, there seems to be an immediate and unexpected juxtaposition with her behaviour from moments before, when they are verbally sparring each other over their relationships to ‘Ernest’. This sudden change in tone and attitude allows for the dramatic irony of Jack and Algernon not knowing about them fighting earlier, as they adopt a façade of liking each other. This façade is continued when Gwendolen replies “slowly and seriously” and asks Cecily if she will call her a sister. Again, the juxtaposition between the two adversaries moments before, to ‘sisters’ creates a dramatic and humorous twist in the plot of this scene.

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Wilde utilises hyperbolic language to create drama and comedy in this scene. For instance, when Gwendolen says, “My poor wounded Cecily!” to which Cecily replies “My sweet wronged Gwendolen”. Like the use of stage directions, there is an immediate juxtaposition from the earlier spar that the two had with each other – the two had no definitive reason to suddenly describe each other as “wounded” and “sweet” after Gwendolen had voiced her distrust only moments beforehand. Additionally, the use of exclamatory language amplifies a layer of artificiality in their voices – adding to the façade that they adopt in ...

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