The Importance of Being Earnest

by Oscar Wilde
ages: adult
First sentence: “Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?”
I’d tell you to go buy it, but you can get this one online for free.

I really don’t have much idea what to say here. I’ve been a fan of the play for ages: my mom had a copy of a BBC production while I was growing up, and I remember watching and finding it hilarious. And I own the Colin Firth/Rupert Everett version which still makes me laugh. Judi Dench is so fabulous as Lady Bracknell.

So, I don’t really know what I expected to get out of reading the play, if I expected anything. I guess I was kind of curious to see how the movie version held up to the actual play, and I also figured since I loved it so much I should actually read the play. That, and I have decided that I really like Wilde’s writing. So, I wanted to read more of him.

And, the long and short of it: I like it better performed. That shouldn’t have come as a surprise; I have a terrible track record reading Shakespeare, and I don’t see why any play should be different. The lines weren’t as funny, the silliness of it all came off as banal rather than hilarious. I’m terrible at reading inflection and timing; I need narration. And while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it like I love the movie. I did find out (and it’s to be expected) that the movie does take some liberties with the play, giving Lady Bracknell a past, and switching the ages of Jack and Algy around as examples, it’s really quite faithful to the original.

The play itself is a delightful spoof on Victorian England, on class restrictions, and on love in general. No matter how you get it, whether reading or watching, it’s quite worth your time.

4 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Earnest

  1. I love reading plays, I suppose because I used to be involved in theatre and it's not difficult for me to hear them narrated in my head. I had watched the movie version of this years ago and it was all right but not memorable. The play, on the other hand, I adored!


  2. So, Amanda, out of curiosity: why was the movie just “all right but not memorable”? (I fully acknowledge that my long-standing crush on Colin Firth my have influenced my judgment of it.)


  3. I'm still waiting to get it from my library (I don't have an e-reader and don't really read books on my computer). I haven't read a play since my college days so this should be an interesting experience.


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