Comedy of Manners – The Importance Of Being Earnest

Comedy of Manners – The Importance Of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest is an excellent example of a Comedy of Manners as it mocks the behaviours of Victorian aristocracy, it explores the social conduct of upper-middle class society. The plot revolves around lust between characters, the play features verbal wit and Algernon acts as an unscrupulous character – these are all main features of a Comedy of Manners.

One traditional convention Wilde uses in the first Act of The Importance of Being Earnest is by exploring the social conduct of the Victorian upper-middle class society. He does this with Lady Bracknell’s character as she behaves as though she behaves as a male role in choosing who Gwendolyn should marry; “Pardon me, you are not engaged to any one. When you do become engaged to some one, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement ¦ And now I have a few questions to put to you Mr Worthing. While I am making these inquiries, you, Gwendolyn, will wait for me below in the carriage. ? This implies that Lady Bracknell will choose who Gwendolyn marries as it was seen as women were too feeble and foolish to chose their husbands for themselves. Lady Bracknell will not let Gwendolyn marry without her approval, she asks Jack a series of questions which gives Jack the opportunity to gain Lady Bracknell’s approval of him. ” ¦ Should his health permit him ¦ ? Suggests that males are the weaker gender. The fact that she has taken on the fathers duty to approve his daughters marriage shows that Lady Bracknell is a strong willed woman and doesn’t need a male to tell her what to do, she is very free willed and very independent who enjoys being the person in control. Lady Bracknell seems to be the sort of woman who trusts her own judgment and will do whatever she believes is the right thing, she will not listen to anyone but herself. This goes against the common behaviour of society as normally, the male is in charge and in control and the women follow what they have been instructed to do. “Inquiries ? refers to the whole act of marriage, proposal and engagement being business rather than social. It makes the whole procedure seem formal and terribly unromantic. Also, using the word “Inquiries ? gives the impression of aggression from Lady Bracknell towards Jack, as if she’s sending him a warning or trying to strike a certain fear in him. Furthermore, “Inquiries ? implies Lady Bracknell will be interrogating Jack, making it even more formal and unromantic. This also supports the idea of the women taking the male roles as normally the father of the daughter will do all the asking of the questions whereas in this case, it is Lady Bracknell.

Another traditional convention Wilde uses is by using the concept of lust in the plot of the play. He shows this through Jack’s lust for Gwendolyn; “Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you were going to eat it all. You behave as if you were married to her already. You are not married to her already, and I don’t think you ever will be. ? This is a metaphor Algernon is using to describe the lust Jack has for Gwendolyn. The bread and butter Jack hurriedly eats resembles how Jack is so obsessed and eager to marry Gwendolyn.

Verbal wit is another traditional convention used in Comedy of Manners which Wilde uses in The Importance of Being Earnest. Wilde uses play on words to create this verbal wit; “My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a dentist. It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn’t a dentist. It produces very false impressions. ? This is Jack attempting to change the subject off Cecily by using play on words to tell Algernon he’s getting the wrong impression about Jack’s cigarette case and his use of the name “Ernest ?.

One traditional convention Wilde uses is the creation of an unscrupulous character, who in this case is Algernon. “But why does she call herself little Cecily if she is your aunt and lives at Tunbridge Wells? (Reading) ?From little Cecily with her fondest love.’ ? Algernon is very much the witty fool in this play. In this scene he is dragging out the situation with the cigarette case for humorous purposes. He is purposefully winding up Jack and mocking him purely for his own entertainment. Algernon deliberately asks questions and strings out events to cause chaos and disruption for his own entertainment.

In conclusion, Wilde uses many traditional conventions of a Comedy of Manners in The Importance of Being Earnest. This creates an unconventional twist on Victorian society views and behaviours, making it a popular play for its time.

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