Dramas from BBC Learning English

Intermediate and above level

The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 7: The Misunderstanding

Episode 150828 / 28 Aug 2015

Journey back to Victorian London with us for the seventh episode of The Importance of Being Earnest, based on the original comedy by Oscar Wilde.

Cecily and Gwendolen both think they're engaged to someone called Ernest. When they meet it can't go well, can it?

Narrator
Algernon and Cecily are engaged. But Cecily thinks his name is Ernest and so Algernon has rushed off to change his name. Meanwhile, Gwendolen has arrived and is about to meet Cecily for the first time. Gwendolen also thinks she's engaged to someone called Ernest.

Cecily
Hello, my name is Cecily Cardew.

Gwendolen
What a sweet name! I like you already. I think we are going to be great friends. My first impressions of people are never wrong.

Cecily
How nice of you to like me so much when we have only just met. Please sit down.

Gwendolen
May I call you Cecily?

Cecily
With pleasure!

Gwendolen
And you can call me Gwendolen… You are here on a short visit, I suppose.

Cecily
Oh no! I live here.

Gwendolen
Really? Your mother, no doubt, lives here, too?

Cecily
Oh no! I don't have a mother or father - in fact, I don't have any relations.

Gwendolen
Really?

Cecily
My dear guardian looks after me.

Gwendolen
Your guardian?

Cecily
Yes, Mr Worthing.

Narrator
She means Jack, of course.

Gwendolen
Oh! That's strange - he's never mentioned to me that he was a guardian. And I'm not sure, that this news fills me with great delight... I have liked you ever since I met you, Cecily. But now that I know that Mr Worthing is your guardian, I can't help wishing that you were... well… just a little older, and not quite so... well... attractive. In fact, if I may speak honestly...

Cecily
Please do...

Gwendolen
Well, to be honest, Cecily, I wish that you were 42 and unattractive. Ernest would never lie to me. Though I don't always trust him, [to herself] especially with beautiful women.

Cecily
I'm sorry, Gwendolen, did you say Ernest?

Gwendolen
Yes.

Cecily
Oh, but it isn't Mr Ernest Worthing who is my guardian. It's his brother - his elder brother.

Narrator
By Ernest Worthing, she means Algernon.

Gwendolen
Ernest never mentioned to me that he had a brother.

Cecily
Well, they haven't been getting along well for a long time.

Gwendolen
Ah! that explains it. Cecily, you have greatly reassured me. I was beginning to get anxious. You are quite sure that it is not Mr Ernest Worthing who is your guardian?

Cecily
Quite sure. In fact, I am going to be his.

Gwendolen
 I beg your pardon?

Cecily
 Dearest Gwendolen Mr Ernest Worthing and I are going to get married.

Narrator
Now when Cecily says Ernest here, she, of course, means Algernon, who she thinks is called Ernest.

Gwendolen
My darling Cecily, there must be some mistake. Mr Ernest Worthing is engaged to me.

Narrator
And when Gwendolen says Ernest here, she, of course, means Jack.

Gwendolen
The announcement will appear
 in the paperon Saturday.

Cecily
 You must be mistaken. Ernest proposed to me ten minutes ago. I've written it in my diary.

Gwendolen
That's very strange, because he asked me marry him yesterday afternoon. Here, it's in my diary. I never travel without my diary. You should always have something excitingto read in the train. I'm sorry, dear Cecily, but I'm afraid he was mine first.

Cecily
It upsets me, dear Gwendolen, but I have to point out that since Ernest proposed to you, he has clearly changed his mind.

Gwendolen
If the poor fellow has been trapped I intend to rescue him at once.

Cecily 
Whatever entanglement my dear boy has got into, I will never blame him.

Gwendolen
Are you referring to me, Miss Cardew, as an entanglement? 

Cecily
Do you suggest, Miss Fairfax, that I trapped Ernest into an engagement? How dare you? 

Gwendolen
Miss Cardew…

Merriman 
 Ahem!

Narrator
But they are interrupted by Merriman who arrives with the tea. The two women look angrily at each other. They can't continue their argument in front of him.

 

Gwendolen
 Are there many interesting walks around here, Miss Cardew?

Cecily
Oh! Yes! Several. From the top of the hills you can see five counties.

Gwendolen
Five counties! I wouldn't like that; I hate crowds.

Cecily
 I suppose that is why you live in London? 

Gwendolen
 Quite a well-kept garden this is, Miss Cardew.

Cecily
So glad you like it, Miss Fairfax.

Gwendolen
I had no idea there were any flowers in the country.

Cecily
Oh, flowers are as common here, Miss Fairfax, as people are in London. Would you like some tea, Miss Fairfax?

Gwendolen
 Thank you. 

 Awful girl! 

Cecily
 Sugar?

Gwendolen
[Superciliously] No, thank you. Sugar is not fashionable any more.

Narrator
Cecily puts four lumps of sugar into the cup, which she gives to Gwendolen, who does not notice as she is short-sighted.

Cecily
[Severely] Cake or bread and butter?

Gwendolen
Bread and butter, please. Cake is rarely seen at the best houses nowadays.

Narrator
Cecily cuts a large slice of cake and hands it to Gwendolen. Gwendolen drinks the tea and shudders. She puts down the cup, reaches out for the bread and butter and finds it's cake.

Gwendolen
You have put sugar in my tea, and though I asked quite clearly for bread and butter, you have given me cake. I usually have a gentle and sweet nature, but I warn you, Miss Cardew, you may go too far.

Cecily
I would do anything to save my poor, innocent boy from the secret plansof another girl.

Gwendolen
From the moment I saw you I distrusted you. My first impressions of people are always right.

Cecily
It seems to me, Miss Fairfax, that I am wasting your valuable time. 

Narrator
And here comes Jack.

Gwendolen
Ernest! My own Ernest!

Jack
Gwendolen! Darling! 

Gwendolen
[Draws back] Wait! May I ask if you are engaged to this young lady? 

Jack
 To dear little Cecily! Of course not! 

Gwendolen
Thank you. 

Cecily
  I knew there must be some misunderstanding, Miss Fairfax. This gentleman is my guardian, Mr Jack Worthing.

Gwendolen
I beg your pardon?

Cecily
This is Uncle Jack.

Gwendolen
Jack! Oh! 

Narrator
And now Algernon arrives, too.

Cecily
Here is Ernest.

Algernon
Cecily, my love! 

Cecily
Wait, Ernest! May I ask you - are you engaged to this young lady?

Vocabulary

first impressions
opinion of someone or something you make quite quickly

guardian
someone who is legally responsible for someone else, such as a child whose parents cannot look after them (perhaps because they have died)

reassured
made to feel less worried about something

trapped
(here) caught by a trick

entanglement
(here) a complicated situation

blame
say or think that someone did something wrong

counties
the UK is divided into counties, which are political regions

short-sighted
unable to see things that are not close

shudders
shakes very suddenly

Credits

Miss Cecily Cardew: Alice Brown

Miss Gwendolen Fairfax: Sophie Napleton

Merriman: Michael Harrison

Jack Worthing: Tim Gibson

Algernon Moncreiff: Darren Benedict

Narrator: Finn Aberdein

Original play written by: Oscar Wilde

Adaptation by: Sue Mushin

Illustrator: Magdolna Terray

ELT consultant: Catherine Chapman

Producer: Finn Aberdein