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The Play

„We should treat all the trivial things of life seriously
and all the
serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality”.

(Oscar Wilde)

This is how Oscar Wilde described the philosophy of The Importance of Being Earnest, his most sparkling, witty and light-hearted play of aristocratic manners and high society. Earnest, Oscar Wilde’s most famous and - posthumously - most successfull play, was first produced by George Alexander at the St. James’ Theatre on 14 February 1895. London was enduring a prolonged and severe spell of cold weather: several theatres advertised their steam-heating among the attractions of the programme, and the first night of Wilde’s comedy had been put off from 12 February because several women in the cast had bad colds.


John Worthing, a carefree young gentleman, uses his fictitious brother „Ernest” as an excuse to leave his home and responsibility to go to the big city of London, where he masquerades as Ernest.
John is deeply in love with his friend Algernon's cousin, Gwendolen Fairfax. Under the name of Ernest, John has won Gwendolen's love. Unfortunately, her reason for wanting to marry him stems from her intense infatuation with the name of Ernest.
    There is, however, a formidable wall which separates the young lovers: Gwendolen's mother, Lady Bracknell. She discovers that John was a foundling left in a handbag at Victoria Railroad Station, and therefore does not see John as a suitable husband for her daughter.
Returning to the country home where he lives with his ward Cecily Cardew and her governess Miss Prism, John finds that Algernon has also arrived and has presented himself as the nonexistent brother, Ernest - having fallen madly in love with beautiful Cecily. She has long been enthralled with her guardian's fictional brother, Ernest, and wholeheartedly returns Algernon's affection. Problems arise when Gwendolen, thinking herself engaged to „Ernest”, arrives at the country home and is informed of „Ernest's” engagement to Cecily.
Chaos erupts with the arrival of Lady Bracknell, who is determined to save her daughter from a socially unsuitable marriage. Through John's final and lucky discovery of his true identity, all problems are solved and the play ends as it should end: with three couples in a joyous embrace.