The Importance of Being Earnest

posted June 13, 2014 by daniel

"The Importance of Being Earnest" is my favourite of Oscar Wilde's works, and the first time I read it, I found it deeply, magically funny. However, I wasn't sure quite what it was about the play that I found so fascinating, and it stuck in the back of my mind the way some things do. Eventually, I was reading the wikipedia page and I came across a mention of another play. Wilde had been inspired to write by W S Gilbert's play "Engaged", a satirical romantic drama. Gilbert directed his own plays, and provided the players with a note along with their copies of the script.

"It is absolutely essential to the success of this piece that it should be played with the most perfect earnestness and gravity throughout. There should be no exaggeration in costume, make-up, or demeanour; and the characters, one and all, should appear to believe, throughout, in the perfect sincerity of their words and actions. Directly the actors show that they are conscious of the absurdity of the utterances the piece begins to drag."

Now I finally understood exactly what "the importance of being earnest" really means, and what I find so funny about the play.

In my life, I've encountered people who live their lives with earnestness while saying and doing absurd things. They're like characters from "The Importance of Being Earnest" come to life off the stage. I take myself and my life seriously, but I also appreciate a strangeness and humour in life. Sometimes I joke, not just about little things, but also about serious things in life. It's a way to avoid taking myself too seriously, and a way of dealing with tough situations and a way to have some fun too. For some people, real life is just like Wilde and Gilbert's plays, and they remain perfectly earnest at all times, seemingly unaware they have become absurd.