Mittwoch, 13. Juni 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

"I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever."
In my opinion Oscar Wilde himself would be the only one truly worthy of writing a review about The Importance of Being Earnest. For in this play he works the miracle of writing more than 70 pages and entire dialogues about - in fact - absolutely nothing at all. And how delightful this nothingness is!
Unfortunately, Mr Wilde's services as a critic are currently not at my disposal, so you will have to content yourself with my humble thoughts.

I said the play was about nothing at all, but that is not entirely true: it is a farce built upon the fact that two young gentlemen  (of course dandies, since we are reading Wilde) have both created a fictional alter ego to escape boresome social obligations. There is a lot of spontaneous love and confusion, and the characters are all the very opposite of earnest. This alone, especially if combined with Wilde's almost heavenly wit, would be enough to make a very enjoyable comedy, but the way it mocks Victorian conventions and hypocrisy
makes it downright hilarious.

We read the whole play aloud in English class and not only did every single student love it, but several teachers who heard us suggested that we should perform it on stage. It was amazing: I read the role of Lady Bracknell who is, to put it into Wilde's own words, a real Gorgon:
“Never met such a Gorgon . . . I don't really know what a Gorgon is like, but I am quite sure that Lady Bracknell is one. In any case, she is a monster, without being a myth, which is rather unfair.”
Superficially she is the very picture of Victorian respectability, but in fact she satirises London society at least as much as the young men who openly admit how little they think of earnestness. For example, she states that:
"Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years. Lady Dumbleton is an instance in point. To my own knowledge she has been thirty-five ever since she arrived at the age of forty, which was many years ago."
Now that I think of it, she is not so very different from my real character at all!
The characters of Jack and Algernon who are, as I have heard is typical for Wilde, the very incarnation of the word dandy, I am glad to have rediscovered in The Picture of Dorian Gray, which I will finish soon; especially Algernon reminds me a lot of Lord Henry. They take nothing seriously, except for pleasure.
"I love scrapes. They are the only things that are never serious."
"Oh, that's nonsense, Algy. You never talk anything but nonsense."
"Nobody ever does."

Honestly I think that everyone should read this play. It was the first work of Wilde I've ever read and while it is primarily profoundly entertaining, there are many universal truths about society to be found in it. My class has started with An Ideal Husband, so we'll see if he will be able to live up to my expectations a second time, but I am not too worried about that: relying on the words of my teacher, Oscar Wilde probably was the closest to God that ever visited our earth.

Kommentare:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful experience reading the whole thing aloud in class. I haven't read this one but I have enjoyed The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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    1. It was fantastic, I think I will love Oscar Wilde now forever simply because I connect him with these memories :)

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  2. Tee-hee! I can't help but chuckle. I love Oscar Wilde & his works - this being one of my favorites (after Dorian Gray). I also read "Teleny or The Reverse of the Medal" which was published anonymously but generally attributed to Wilde, and it is very... whoa. Everything Wilde REALLY wanted to say, but couldn't. Except, apparently, he did.

    He was bold, gutsy, daring, and hilarious... and ultimately lost his life and livelihood because of it. But, goodness, he sure left us some great treasures!

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    1. Ooh, now I want to read Teleny of The Reverse of the Medal!

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    2. Dorian Gray simply blew me away. I can hardly say anything about it because all the new impressions I gained from it still confuse me a bit, but I am certainly a new devoted admirer of Wilde!
      And now I have to read "Teleny of The Reverse of the Medal". Wilde himself was an incredibly fascinating person I think and I'd love to read a good biography about him. It is so cruel and such a waste that he lost everything for loving the wrong persons.

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  3. Seems a good choice to pick after Picture of Dorian Gray...

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    1. It is of course different since it is a play and treats much lighter subjects, but I enjoyed comparing the two nonetheless. One notices clearly that they have sprung from the same mind.

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  4. I've never read this, but it does sound delightful! I hope you enjoy the next one as well.

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    1. You should! I'm sure you would love it :)

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  5. I thoroughly enjoy An Ideal Husband, so I have high hopes that you will like it as well.

    I'm currently making my way through Lady Windermere's Fan, just got a bit sidetracked by this month's book club selection. But now, back to the Wilde!

    Okay, somebody should host an Oscar Wilde event and call it Back to the Wilde or Into the Wilde or something. It makes me giggle. :)

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    1. Up to now I'm enjoying it a lot, although the multitude of similar (and French sounding) names is quite confusing.

      I'm totally for Into the Wilde! That's the best!
      You don't want to organise it by any chance, do you? I'd sign up immediately! :)

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