Characters and Stage Directions in "The Importance of Being Earnest"

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In Earnest, Wilde does not include very many stage directions but whenever he does it is significant. At the beginning of act one, it says, “the flat is luxuriously and artistically furnished.” This description connotes to wealth and luxurious lifestyles. However, it is ironic because Algernon, despite being an aristocrat does not have any money. Similarly, at the beginning of act two, the countryhouse is described as “a flight of grey stones leading up to the house. The garden, an old-fashioned one, full of roses.” This setting connotes to a typical romantic atmosphere, one found in a typical Jane Austen novel. This is again ironic because neither love stories in this play have any real love or passion. Thus, the setting contributes to the main themes of appearance and reality and superficiality, both essential themes to this play.

In Earnest, mere characterization is used to convey a significant theme in this play. Two of the main characters, Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are characterized similarly by Wilde. This can be seen when Gwendolen says “we live in an age of ideals…says in expensive monthly magazines.” She basically tells Jack, her “lover” that ideals come from magazines and not society itself. This makes her seem quite foolish and superficial, Wilde demonstrates the same superficiality with Cecily, where she says “I’ve always dreamt of marrying a man named Ernest.” This tells the audience that Cecily is quite artificial because she wants to fall in love because of a name and not because of attraction to a man. Even the more minor characters show this superficiality. For example, Lady Bracknell tells Jack Worthing that he should go find some relatives before he can be considered for marriage with her daughter, Gwendolen. Wilde takes a lot of care to clearly show the superficiality, only in the upper class, aristocratic characters of this play. He does this to show how superficial the Aristocratic class was during the Victorian Era. This is one of the main themes of the play demonstrated through the repeated personality traits in Wilde’s Aristocratic characters.

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In Earnest, the whole narrative is repeated again to show Gwendolen and Jack’s supposed love story is not an anomaly. However, Wilde first shows the audience that their love story lacks any true love or passion since Gwendolen is only in love with the name ‘Ernest’ and Jack says things like “May I propose to you now?” These elements of their love story are not romantic and reiterate how superficial the Aristocrats were during the Victorian Era. To show that this was not an anomaly, Wilde sets up the same love story with Algernon and Cecily in the second ...

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