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Oscar Wilde
From The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest is arguably Wilde's most popular play. However, beneath the surface of the witty intellectual farce is a serious message criticising self-righteous moralism and hypocrisy. Ironically, these are the very aspects of Victorian society that would eventually help bring about Wilde's downfall.

Gwendolen: Ernest! My own Ernest! I felt from the first that you could have no other name!

Jack: Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?

Gwendolen: I can. For I feel that you are sure to change.


Lady Bracknell: My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality.

Jack: On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I've now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.

Factoids on Oscar Wilde

Full name: Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde

Educated: Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford

Principles for life: flamboyant style of dress, contempt for conventional values, aestheticism - art for art's sake.

Marquis of Queensberry planned public demonstration against Wilde on opening night of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Oscar Wilde's last words: "Ah, well, then I suppose I shall have to die beyond my means."

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde was a literary genius whose skill with words inspired admiration and argument in and beyond his lifetime. He was born in Dublin in 1854 and was famous for his plays such as Lady Windemere's Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest. Their satirical edge was unlike anything else being played at the time.

Wilde died in France in 1900, bankrupt and disgraced. Although he was married with two sons, he was an active homosexual and at that time in Victorian England this led to him being prosecuted in court.

The trial is famous for Wilde's brilliant and intelligent performance under cross-examination, but he was found guilty of gross indecency and spent two years in prison. Tragically, he never recovered from the health and financial problems he suffered during this time, and died three years later.

Oscar Wilde on Moving Words

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation."

"At twilight, nature is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets."

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."

'As well as writing plays and giving lectures, Oscar Wilde was also a poet and a novelist.'