Dramas from BBC Learning English

Intermediate and above level

The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 2: The Proposal

Episode 150724 / 24 Jul 2015

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

Jack and Algernon are two wealthy, young, unmarried men - but Jack plans to change that. He's in love with Algernon's cousin Gwendolen. He plans to propose to her when she comes to visit later that day. But first, he has to explain to Algernon why he's leading a double life.

While you listen to the audio, see how many examples of the passive voice you can spot. Then take a look at the transcript to see them in bold.

Narrator
Algernon has just asked his good friend Jack to explain why he calls himself Jack in the country but Ernest in London. Jack says it's because he is the guardian of a girl called Cecily, who lives with him in the country. She looks up to him and he feels he should behave well when he's with her, so he pretends he has a younger brother called Ernest so that when he comes up to London, he can enjoy himself.

Jack
That, my dear Algy, is the whole truth.

Algernon
So, Ernest, you are a Bunburyist!

Jack
What on earth do you mean?

Algernon
You have invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest, so that you can come to London as often as you like. I have invented a sick friend called Bunbury so that I can go to the country whenever I like. Bunbury is invaluable. For example, if Bunbury didn't have such bad health, I would have to have dinner with my aunt Lady Bracknell tonight. And I have no intention of doing that.

Jack
Why not?

Algernon
Well, to begin with, I had dinner with her on Monday - once a week is quite enough to eat with your own relations. Secondly, I know I will be seated next to Mary Farquhar, who always flirts with her own husband - most unpleasant! Besides, I want to have dinner with you and talk about Bunburyism.

Jack
I'm not a... Bunburyist. In fact I think I am going to kill my brother Ernest. Cecily is a little too interested in him. And I strongly advise you to do the same with Mr... with your sick friend.

Algernon
I will not be separated from Bunbury...  (a bell rings) Ah! That must be my aunt now. Now, if I keep her busy for ten minutes so you can propose to Gwendolen, will you have dinner with me tonight?

Jack
Alright Algy...

Lane
Lady Augusta Bracknell and Miss Gwendolen Fairfax.

Narrator
A well-dressed, elderly woman and her daughter, a pretty, young lady enter the room.

Lady Bracknell
Good afternoon, dear Algernon. Oh, hello, Mr Worthing.

Jack
Hello, Lady...

Lady Bracknell
Now, Algernon... I'd like a nice cup of tea, and one of those cucumber sandwiches you promised me.

Algernon
Certainly, Aunt Augusta. Good heavens! Lane! Why are there no cucumber sandwiches?

Lane
There were no cucumbers in the market this morning, sir.  

Algernon
No cucumbers!

Lane
No, sir. 

Algernon
I am very sorry, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell
It doesn't matter, Algernon. Pour me some tea.

Algernon
Here you are.

Lady Bracknell
Thank you. Now, Algernon, about tonight - you will be seated next to Mary Farquhar. 

Algernon
I'm afraid, Aunt Augusta, I won't be able to have dinner with you tonight.

Lady Bracknell
But why not, Algernon?

Algernon
Well, I have just heard that my poor friend Bunbury is very ill again. I'll have to go and see him.

Lady Bracknell
It's very strange. This Mr Bunbury seems to have curiously bad health. I think it is time that he made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die. And I would be very grateful if you could ask Mr Bunbury to please not be ill on Saturday, because I need you to organise my music at my soirée.

Algernon
I'll speak to him, Aunt Augusta, and I'm sure he'll be well by Saturday. But why don't we go next door to look at the programme of music I've prepared.

Lady Bracknell
Thank you, Algernon. It is very thoughtful of you.

Narrator
Algernon and his aunt go into the music room, leaving Jack and Gwendolen alone.

Jack
It has been a lovely day, Miss Fairfax.

Gwendolen
Please don't talk to me about the weather, Mr Worthing. Whenever people talk about the weather, I am sure they mean something else. And that makes me nervous.

Jack
I do mean something else.

Gwendolen
I thought so. 

Jack
Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you...

Gwendolen
Yes, I realised that. Actually, I have always been fascinated by you... even before we met.  

Jack
Really?

Gwendolen
Yes, I've always wanted to love someone called Ernest. That name inspires complete confidence. When Algernon first mentioned that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.

Jack
You really love me, Gwendolen?

Gwendolen
Passionately!

Jack
But you don't really mean that you couldn't love me if my name wasn't Ernest?

Gwendolen
But your name is Ernest.

Jack
Yes, I know. But what if it was something else? Do you mean you couldn't love me then? Personally, I don't think the name suits me.

Gwendolen
It suits you perfectly. 

Jack
But there are lots of other much nicer names. Jack, for instance, is a charming name.

Gwendolen
Jack? Oh, no, Jack does not have the same sound at all. It's not exciting. The only really safe name is Ernest.

Jack
Gwendolen, I must get christened at once - I mean, we must get married at once.

Gwendolen
Married, Mr Worthing?

Jack
Well... surely. You know that I love you, and you led me to believe, Miss Fairfax, that you felt the same.

Gwendolen
I adore you. But you haven't proposed to me yet. Nothing has been said at all about marriage.

Jack
Well... may I propose to you now?

Narrator
And so Jack kneels down and asks Gwendolen to marry him. She accepts and Jack is still on his knees when Lady Bracknell returns.

Lady Bracknell
Mr Worthing! Do get up! 

Gwendolen
Mamma! Please leave us. Mr Worthing has not quite finished yet.

Lady Bracknell
Finished what, may I ask?

Gwendolen
I am engaged to Mr Worthing, mamma. 

Lady Bracknell
Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged, I, or your father will tell you. A young girl should be surprised by an engagement, pleasantly or unpleasantly. It is not something that she is allowed to arrange for herself... And now I would like to ask you a few questions, Mr Worthing. Gwendolen, can you wait for me below in the carriage.

Gwendolen
Mamma!

Vocabulary

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

Bunburyist
an invented word meaning someone who invents a fictitious person (either themselves or someone else)

invalid                    
a person who is ill or disabled and is unable to look after themself

invaluable    
extremely useful or valuable

flirts   
to behave towards someone as if you are romantically or sexually interested in them

soirée           
a small party in someone's house, usually with music

fascinated    
very interested or attracted

inspires        
makes someone enthusiastic about something

destined       
certain because of fate

passionately
with great feeling or enthusiasm

christened    
named in a ceremony that usually takes place in a church

kneels                    
in a position with one or both knees on the floor

Credits

Algernon Moncreiff: Darren Benedict

Jack Worthing: Tim Gibson

Lane: Neil Edgeller

Lady Bracknell: Miranda Jaquarello

Gwendolen Fairfax: Sophie Napleton

Narrator: Finn Aberdein

Original play written by: Oscar Wilde

Adaptation by: Sue Mushin

Illustrator: Magdolna Terray

ELT consultant: Catherine Chapman

Producer: Finn Aberdein

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    The White Elephant: Episode 14: Clever

    Episode 160311 / 11 Mar 2016

    The White Elephant restaurant is struggling to stay in business. It's up to the staff to think of an idea that will bring in enough money to save the restaurant! But, as usual, their grumpy chef Gordon needs some persuading. What will change his mind? Find out in this episode - and listen out for phrases related to being clever

  • The White Elephant: Episode 13: Resilience

    The White Elephant: Episode 13: Resilience

    Episode 160304 / 04 Mar 2016

    The White Elephant restaurant has had so few customers it might have to close down. Ceilia comes up with an idea to attract more diners, but there's one person who's not convinced... Will Gordon the chef change his mind? Find out in this episode and listen out for the phrases related to resilience that are used.

  • The White Elephant: Episode 12: Shock!

    The White Elephant: Episode 12: Shock!

    Episode 160226 / 26 Feb 2016

    When Mary and Ceilia arrive early for work they get the shock of their lives when they discover Gordon sleeping in the kitchen. What's caused him to spend the night there? Find out in this episode and listen out for shock-related phrases

  • The White Elephant: Episode 11: Success

    The White Elephant: Episode 11: Success

    Episode 160219 / 19 Feb 2016

    What is the secret of Gordon's success? Even when Mary gets an important qualification, he claims his experience is much more important. However, something happens which proves who has the most experience. Who will succeed?

  • The White Elephant: Episode 10: Angry

    The White Elephant: Episode 10: Angry

    Episode 160212 / 12 Feb 2016

    Gordon, the chef, is usually an angry man but something in the kitchen has made him angrier than usual. Who can calm him down and get him cooking again before another customer disappears?

  • The White Elephant: Episode 9: Secrets

    The White Elephant: Episode 9: Secrets

    Episode 160205 / 05 Feb 2016

    Ceilia, the boss, has some news she can't keep to herself but as soon as she tells someone the news spreads. However, as the secret gets passed on, the information becomes less reliable. Find out what the secret is in today's episode

  • The White Elephant: Episode 8: Lucky

    The White Elephant: Episode 8: Lucky

    Episode 160129 / 29 Jan 2016

    Gordon is preparing something special for the customers but there's one ingredient that might not be to everybody's taste. Find out what happens and see why Mary's washing-up skills come in very useful

  • The White Elephant: Episode 7: Late!

    The White Elephant: Episode 7: Late!

    Episode 160122 / 22 Jan 2016

    Oh no, there are three customers in the restaurant and no chef to cook any food. While Peter panics, Ceilia tries to find a solution and Mary helps get the kitchen ready. But when Gordon finally turns up, will there be any customers to cook any food for? Find out in this episode

  • The White Elephant: Episode 6: Kindness

    The White Elephant: Episode 6: Kindness

    Episode 160115 / 15 Jan 2016

    Peter's just had a nice surprise - his first ever tip - but he doesn't hold on to it for long. Gordon the chef gets a surprise too, when everyone realises what's happened to Peter's money. Watch this episode to find out what makes Gordon grumpy this time - and listen out for phrases related to kindness

  • The White Elephant: Episode 5: Happy

    The White Elephant: Episode 5: Happy

    Episode 160108 / 08 Jan 2016

    Welcome back to the kitchen of The White Elephant restaurant. Gordon is unusually happy. What's making him so cheerful - and how long will it last? Watch and learn some useful everyday phrases related to being happy

  • The White Elephant: Episode 4: Annoyed

    The White Elephant: Episode 4: Annoyed

    Episode 151225 / 25 Dec 2015

    The kitchen of The White Elephant restaurant is a busy place and Gordon the chef doesn't like it. Watch and learn some useful everyday phrases related to being annoyed

  • The White Elephant: Episode 3: Broken

    The White Elephant: Episode 3: Broken

    Episode 151218 / 18 Dec 2015

    Find out what's going on in the kitchen of The White Elephant restaurant. There's a problem with the cooker and Gordon the chef isn't happy. Watch and learn some useful everyday phrases related to things that are broken

  • The White Elephant: Episode 2: Quick!

    The White Elephant: Episode 2: Quick!

    Episode 151211 / 11 Dec 2015

    Welcome back to The White Elephant. The staff at the restaurant are still waiting for their first customer, but when one eventually arrives they have to work quickly to make sure this one doesn't escape

  • The White Elephant: Episode 1: Panic!

    The White Elephant: Episode 1: Panic!

    Episode 151204 / 04 Dec 2015

    Welcome to The White Elephant - the restaurant with no customers. How will they cope when someone finally comes for a meal?

  • Gulliver's Travels: Part 10: The journey's end

    Gulliver's Travels: Part 10: The journey's end

    Episode 151127 / 27 Nov 2015

    Can Gulliver remain in the land of the horses he loves so much?

  • Gulliver's Travels: Part 9: In the land of the houyhnhnms

    Gulliver's Travels: Part 9: In the land of the houyhnhnms

    Episode 151120 / 20 Nov 2015

    Gulliver finds himself on an island of talking horse-people

  • Gulliver's Travels: Part 8: Horrible science

    Gulliver's Travels: Part 8: Horrible science

    Episode 151113 / 13 Nov 2015

    Gulliver visits the Great Academy of Lagado

  • Gulliver's Travels: Part 7: Island in the sky

    Gulliver's Travels: Part 7: Island in the sky

    Episode 151106 / 06 Nov 2015

    Gulliver has left the giants of Brobdingnag behind and begun a new adventure. An attack by pirates leaves him alone on an empty island, until something huge appears in the sky…

  • Gulliver's Travels: Part 6: Gunpowder

    Gulliver's Travels: Part 6: Gunpowder

    Episode 151030 / 30 Oct 2015

    Gulliver is in the land of the giants, Brobdingnag. He fears for his life and wants to return home to England. But first, he'll have to persuade the King to let him go

  • Gulliver's Travels: Part 5: Palace of the giants

    Gulliver's Travels: Part 5: Palace of the giants

    Episode 151023 / 23 Oct 2015

    Gulliver is in the land of the giants, Brobdingnag. He is forced to perform every day in front of crowds of villagers, but his luck changes when a visitor from the royal palace arrives.

  • Gulliver's Travels: Part 4: Voyage to Brobdingnag

    Gulliver's Travels: Part 4: Voyage to Brobdingnag

    Episode 151016 / 16 Oct 2015

    After his adventures in the land Lilliput, Gulliver takes to sea again. This time he arrives in a country where he's not the largest, but the smallest... What will happen in the land of Brobdingnag?

  • Gulliver's Travels: Part 3: Treachery and treason

    Gulliver's Travels: Part 3: Treachery and treason

    Episode 151009 / 09 Oct 2015

    Gulliver is a hero after helping Lilliput defeat their enemy Blefuscu. But when fire breaks out at the palace, can Gulliver help?

  • Gulliver's Travels: Part 2: War with Blefuscu

    Gulliver's Travels: Part 2: War with Blefuscu

    Episode 151002 / 02 Oct 2015

    Gulliver goes to war against Lilliput's enemies

  • Gulliver's Travels: Part 1: Voyage to Lilliput

    Gulliver's Travels: Part 1: Voyage to Lilliput

    Episode 150925 / 25 Sep 2015

    Gulliver arrives in the land of Lilliput

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 10: The real Ernest is discovered

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 10: The real Ernest is discovered

    Episode 150918 / 18 Sep 2015

    All is revealed in the final episode

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 9: A reunion and a death

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 9: A reunion and a death

    Episode 150911 / 11 Sep 2015

    Lady Bracknell makes a surprise appearance

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 8: The truth about Ernest

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 8: The truth about Ernest

    Episode 150904 / 04 Sep 2015

    It's time for the men to admit they're not called Ernest

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 7: The Misunderstanding

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 7: The Misunderstanding

    Episode 150828 / 28 Aug 2015

    Cecily and Gwendolen both think they're engaged to someone called Ernest

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 6: Cecily's confession

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 6: Cecily's confession

    Episode 150821 / 21 Aug 2015

    Algernon and Cecily's relationship takes an interesting twist

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 5: Jack meets Ernest

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 5: Jack meets Ernest

    Episode 150814 / 14 Aug 2015

    Jack returns home to find his friend Algernon there. Algernon's pretending to be Jack's brother so he can win Cecily's heart

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 4: A visit from Ernest

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 4: A visit from Ernest

    Episode 150807 / 07 Aug 2015

    Algernon secretly goes to visit Cecily. He's pretending to be Jack's wicked younger brother, Ernest

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 3: Lost and found

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 3: Lost and found

    Episode 150731 / 31 Jul 2015

    Jack has proposed to his darling Gwendolen, and she has accepted. But her mother is not happy.

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 2: The Proposal

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 2: The Proposal

    Episode 150724 / 24 Jul 2015

    Algernon and Jack reveal they both lead double lives. But can Jack win the heart of the woman he really loves?

  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 1: Earnest or Ernest?

    The Importance of Being Earnest, Part 1: Earnest or Ernest?

    Episode 150717 / 17 Jul 2015

    A young man visits his wealthy, young friend in Victorian London. But he's not exactly who he says he is…

  • Jamaica Inn: Part 10: The truth is out

    Jamaica Inn: Part 10: The truth is out

    Episode 150710 / 10 Jul 2015

    The Vicar of Altarnum knows the awful truth about who killed Mary's uncle and aunt. She has a dangerous journey ahead now, but help comes from an unexpected place.

  • Jamaica Inn: Part 9: The Vicar of Altarnum

    Jamaica Inn: Part 9: The Vicar of Altarnum

    Episode 150703 / 03 Jul 2015

    Mary has gone to vicar's house. She wants to talk to him about the murder of her uncle but he's not there. But later he arrives and he has some important news to tell her. What can it be?

  • Jamaica Inn: Part 8: A shocking discovery

    Jamaica Inn: Part 8: A shocking discovery

    Episode 150626 / 26 Jun 2015

    After the shocking events on the coast, Mary's uncle is now planning to escape from Jamaica Inn. He fears that someone is coming to kill him – someone who has been giving him the orders to wreck ships. She has to escape first to tell someone what she has seen but who can she trust?

  • Jamaica Inn: Part 7: Shipwreck

    Jamaica Inn: Part 7: Shipwreck

    Episode 150619 / 19 Jun 2015

    Mary has been forced by her Uncle Joss to travel with him and his drunken men on Christmas Eve. She fell asleep but she's about to wake up and discover what Joss and his gang of bad men really get up to at night.

  • Jamaica Inn: Part 6: The horse market

    Jamaica Inn: Part 6: The horse market

    Episode 150612 / 12 Jun 2015

    Following Mary's uncle's shocking confession - how he lures ships onto the rocks and drowns women and children - she escapes from the Inn and goes with his brother, Jem, to the horse market in Launceston. But things don't go to plan.

  • Jamaica Inn: Part 5: Lost on the moor

    Jamaica Inn: Part 5: Lost on the moor

    Episode 150605 / 05 Jun 2015

    Joss has returned to Jamaica Inn and is very angry about Mr Bassat's visit. He storms out of the house and sets off across the moor. Mary decides to follow him.

  • Jamaica Inn: Part 4: The horse thief

    Jamaica Inn: Part 4: The horse thief

    Episode 150529 / 29 May 2015

    Mary finds herself attracted to a visitor to Jamaica Inn. But who is he - and can he be trusted? Meanwhile, another visitor discovers some suspicious objects in an upstairs room...

  • Jamaica Inn: Part 3: Strange goings-on

    Jamaica Inn: Part 3: Strange goings-on

    Episode 150522 / 22 May 2015

    Mary has to work in the bar of Jamaica Inn on Saturday night. She gets to meet a group of rough and drunk men. Later that night there are some strange goings-on in the yard outside. What's happening - and why are people talking about murder?

  • Jamaica Inn: Part 2: A cold and lonely place

    Jamaica Inn: Part 2: A cold and lonely place

    Episode 150515 / 15 May 2015

    Mary arrives at Jamaica Inn and meets her Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss. Immediately she discovers what a mean and scary man her uncle is. He sets the rules and tells her what to do. On her second day there she discovers a locked room – what is inside?

  • Jamaica Inn: Part 1: Meet Mary Yellan

    Jamaica Inn: Part 1: Meet Mary Yellan

    Episode 150508 / 08 May 2015

    When Mary's mother dies, she goes to live with her aunt and uncle who run the Jamaica Inn. It lies in a remote and bleak corner of England. On her journey there she is warned to keep away. But why?

  • Alice in Wonderland: Part 10: Alice's evidence

    Alice in Wonderland: Part 10: Alice's evidence

    Episode 150501 / 01 May 2015

    Alice is at the trial of the Knave of Hearts - and she is taller than ever before. The King asks the jury to give their verdict - but will the Queen let Alice escape without a punishment?

  • Alice in Wonderland: Part 9: Who stole the tarts?

    Alice in Wonderland: Part 9: Who stole the tarts?

    Episode 150424 / 24 Apr 2015

    Alice finds herself at a trial. Did the Knave of Hearts steal the Queen's tarts? What does the Hatter know about it - and what's that funny feeling Alice is having?

  • Alice in Wonderland: Part 8: Croquet with the Queen

    Alice in Wonderland: Part 8: Croquet with the Queen

    Episode 150417 / 17 Apr 2015

    Alice plays croquet with the Queen. But what are the rules - and how can Alice play croquet when the ball is a hedgehog?

  • Alice in Wonderland: Part 7: A mad tea-party

    Alice in Wonderland: Part 7: A mad tea-party

    Episode 150410 / 10 Apr 2015

    Alice finds the Hatter and the March Hare having a very strange tea-party. They manage to make Alice angry - but how? And do riddles always have answers?

  • Alice in Wonderland: Part 6: Pig and Pepper

    Alice in Wonderland: Part 6: Pig and Pepper

    Episode 150403 / 03 Apr 2015

    Someone inside the Duchess's house is angry - but who? The Duchess's baby is making some very strange sounds and the Cheshire-Cat smiles while the cook throws things. Will Alice meet anyone who isn't mad?

  • Alice in Wonderland: Part 5: Advice from a caterpillar

    Alice in Wonderland: Part 5: Advice from a caterpillar

    Episode 150327 / 27 Mar 2015

    Alice is beginning to wonder who she is, when a caterpillar gives her some advice about a magical mushroom. But is it good advice – and who thinks Alice is a snake?

  • Alice in Wonderland: Part 4: The White Rabbit's house

    Alice in Wonderland: Part 4: The White Rabbit's house

    Episode 150320 / 20 Mar 2015

    Alice is too big to fit inside the White Rabbit's house. The problem is, she's already inside it! How does she get out - and why is everyone throwing cakes?

  • Alice in Wonderland: Part 3: The Caucus-race

    Alice in Wonderland: Part 3: The Caucus-race

    Episode 150313 / 13 Mar 2015

    Alice meets all sorts of creatures as she swims around in a pool of her own tears. She joins in a Caucus-race: but how can you win a race with no rules? And who will give the prizes?

  • Alice in Wonderland: Part 2: The pool of tears

    Alice in Wonderland: Part 2: The pool of tears

    Episode 150306 / 06 Mar 2015

    Alice can't stay the same size for more than a few minutes! When she's big, she cries a pool of tears. What will happen to her when she gets smaller again?

  • Alice in Wonderland: Part 1: Down the rabbit hole

    Alice in Wonderland: Part 1: Down the rabbit hole

    Episode 150227 / 27 Feb 2015

    Alice is an ordinary girl, until the day a white rabbit runs past her, saying "I'm late!" Alice follows the White Rabbit as he runs down a rabbit hole, and a whole Wonderland of adventure begins…

  • A Christmas Carol - ep 05 - The end of it

    A Christmas Carol - ep 05 - The end of it

    Episode 05 / 26 Dec 2014

    Ebenezer Scrooge has been taken to several different places by three spirits. He saw that if he died, nobody would care because he is a bad man. How will this experience change Scrooge's life?

  • A Christmas Carol - Part 4: The third of three spirits

    A Christmas Carol - Part 4: The third of three spirits

    Episode 04 / 25 Dec 2014

    Ebenezer Scrooge is getting used to the company of ghosts, but here's one he doesn't expect.

  • A Christmas Carol - Part 3: The second of three spirits

    A Christmas Carol - Part 3: The second of three spirits

    Episode 03 / 24 Dec 2014

    Ebenezer Scrooge seems to be changing his ways. He has learnt a lesson from a ghost which took him to the past and now is ready to be visited by the Spirit of Christmas Present.

  • A Christmas Carol - Part 2: The first of three spirits

    A Christmas Carol - Part 2: The first of three spirits

    Episode 02 / 23 Dec 2014

    Selfish businessman Ebenezer Scrooge receives a visit from the first of three spirits. This is the Spirit of Christmas Past.

  • A Christmas Carol - Part 1: Marley's ghost

    A Christmas Carol - Part 1: Marley's ghost

    Episode 01 / 22 Dec 2014

    In this episode, you'll get to know Ebenezer Scrooge. Nobody seems to be able to get a kind word or even a smile out of him.