Theme Of Comedy In The Importance Of Being Earnest

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The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) by Oscar Wilde, conforms to a traditional comedy of manners including its use of verbal wit spoken by stock characters that hardly have any depth to them. This allows Wilde to poke fun at the Victorian upper classes by exposing their ridiculous and hypocritical views on society.

A typical trait in a comedy of manners is exploring the theme of love and marriage which inevitably leads to conflict between the characters2. In The Importance of Being Earnest, the otherwise slow moving plot is accelerated by various scenes of conflict, for example Lady Bracknell’s consistent disapproval of Jack. During her interview with Jack held in the first act, Lady Bracknell is quick to ridicule herself as a result of her obvious hypocrisy in not
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Accordingly, in Wilde’s play, the characters hardly have erratic physical movements, not even in scenes of conflict where tension is highest, for example during the interview and catfight scenes respectively, these heated conversations are held sitting down often whilst eating. In the play, the dialogue is dominated by light hearted witty remarks. For example, Algernon and Lane’s conversation in the opening scene of act 1.

Algernon: Why is I that at a bachelor’s establishment the servants invariably drink the champagne? I ask merely for information.

Lane: I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand.

Algernon: Good heavens! Is marriage so demoralizing as that? (Wilde. 1)

In this exchange Algernon and Lane both link the quality of the wine as being related life after marriage, which Algernon sees as restraining his freedom. In addition to this Cecily and Gwendolen engage in repartee3 during their quarrel over the imaginary
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