Play Reading in English – The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde


HK English Speaking Union
  • Mon 21-09-2015 7:15 PM - 2 h

Colette Artbar

Free admission


This is Oscar Wilde’s most famous and often staged play, and the one that was being performed to critical acclaim and commercial success in London when Wilde’s life suddenly took a downward turn.

His trial, public disgrace and subsequent prison sentence signaled the end of a brilliant and all too short-lived career. In this lightheartedly satirical comedy, however, there is no hint of the author’s own personal tragedy waiting 'in the wings.' The plot is delightfully contrived in the comic plot tradition. But Wilde’s epigrammatic humour, frequently based on the mischievous inversion of snobbish received ideas and clichés in his class-ridden society, retains its power to amuse and entertain.

His farcical plot, concocted during a weekend break in Brighton and inspired by recent news events, is as follows: two young gentlemen living in 1890's England use the same pseudonym ("Ernest") on the sly, which is fine until they both fall in love with different women using that name, leading to a comedy of mistaken identities. Whenever Jack Worthing slips away to London from his Hertfordshire estate he says he is going to see his (fictitious) wayward brother ‘ Ernest'. Once there, he maintains his incognito identity by calling himself Ernest - fortunately, as the object of his romantic interest, Gwendolen, declares to him she could only love a man named Ernest. Her cousin Algernon (Algy) is the one person who knows Jack's secret, and one day he travels down to Jack's estate in the country, announcing himself to Jack's attractive ward Cecily as his bad brother Ernest. Cecily is much taken with him and with his name, so on Jack's return home and Gwendolen's unexpected arrival it becomes clear there are both too many and too few Ernests earnestly courting their respective beloveds.

At this point both ‘Ernests’ are shamed when their deceptions are uncovered by the ladies, thereby threatening prospects for connubial bliss. When Algernon’s fierce and extremely snobbish Aunt Agatha (Lady Bracknell) arrives and expresses her snobbish disapproval of both Jack and Cecily the romantic pursuits and hopes of all four are seriously threatened. However Wilde's play was written as an improbable comedy, so - in sharp contrast with Wilde’s own life - surely things must work out happily? Come to the reading and find out!


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