The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays Paperback
by Oscar Wilde
Edited by Richard Cave
Combining epigrammatic brilliance and shrewd social observation, the works collected in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays are edited with an introduction, commentaries and notes by Richard Allen Cave in Penguin Classics. 'To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness' The Importance of Being Earnest is a glorious comedy of mistaken identity, which ridicules codes of propriety and etiquette.
Manners and morality are also victims of Wilde's sharp wit in Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance and An Ideal Husband, in which snobbery and hypocrisy are laid bare.
In Salome and A Florentine Tragedy, Wilde makes powerful use of historical settings to explore the complex relationship between sex and power.
The range of these plays displays Wilde's delight in artifice, masks and disguises, and reveals the pretentions of the social world in which he himself played such a dazzling and precarious part. Richard Allen Cave's introduction and notes discuss the themes of the plays and Wilde's innovative methods of staging.
This edition includes the excised 'Gribsby' scene from The Importance of Being Earnest. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was educated in Dublin and Oxford and became the leading exponent of the new Aesthetic Movement.
His work, including short fiction such The Happy Price (1888), his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), gradually won him a reputation, which was cemented by his phenomenally successful plays, including A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895).
Imprisoned for homosexual acts, he died after his release, in exile in Paris. If you enjoyed The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays, you might like George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, also available in Penguin Classics. 'Beneath the wit there is always an intense emotional reality.
He criticised his audience while he entertained it' Peter Hall, Guardian
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 464 pages, illustrations
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 25/05/2000
- Category: Plays, playscripts
- ISBN: 9780140436068
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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by NativeRoses
Wilde is the master of comic irony in verbal and dramatic forms. Non-stop wonderful, ironic wit permeates these plays. For example, in Earnest, a character remarks about a recent widow, "her hair has gone quite gold from grief." Very highly recommended.
Review by stillatim
Sometimes your reading habits look completely nonsensical. Why would I have read any Wilde? Sure, he was a socialist, elitist wit. But why would I like such a thing? <br/><br/>Anyway, I'm glad I got around to reading some of his plays. 'Lady Windemere's Fan' is very clever, and feels to me almost like a mythical allegory: social outsider takes on herself the 'sins' of society. Only the social outsider can do this, because only she is willing to recognize that those sins aren't particularly sinful. Happiness ensues, due to one woman's sacrifice. 'A Woman of No Importance' was my least favorite here; in the other plays the wittiest, most fun characters are also the upright ones. Here I wanted to slap the morally upright characters in the face. By contrast, in 'An Ideal Husband' the most attractive character is the one who ends up being the ideal husband. And it's funnier. Of course 'Earnest' is far and away the best piece here. Wilde makes his moral points without moralizing, and definitively chooses silliness over sententiousness. The characters might not be as impressive as Lord Goring in 'Husband', but the play as a whole is far better. The two symbolist works, 'Salome' and 'A Florentine Tragedy,' show Wilde's range, for the better in 'S', for the worse in AFT, which is almost unreadable. Anyone who enjoys Strauss' opera will enjoy reading Wilde's play. <br/><br/>As for the edition, the apparatus is a little overwhelming: there's no distinction between a note that you really need to know for reading the play (i.e., I imagine few will get the joke about the aristocracy suffering from 'agricultural depression' without the note about economic fluctuations of the time) and notes that will just irritate you (i.e., textual variations that are clearly less effective than the established text). <br/><br/>This is all very humorless, I know. And in matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.