The Importance of Being Earnest TUESDAY, DECEMBER 16TH Agenda: • “Social Masks” Reading Check Quiz • Warm-up • Review work from yesterday –Attacks masked by wit. • Some other things to consider about the play. • Begin the film A new test question option: In Wilde’s time, “earnestness” –sober behavior, a serious mindset– was valued as an important character trait. How does Wilde undermine this value? (Consider when the characters are earnest and when they are not. How does the pun on earnest and Ernest seen throughout the play, as well as Gwendolen’s and Cecily’s fascination with the name Ernest, further this satirization?) Warm-up Remember that this play is Wilde’s plea for people to be themselves and to do what they want. But in 1895 and today, people live in an age of conformity. It is difficult to break away from the norm, especially if you like the status quo. What is one thing about yourself that conforms to the norm? What is one thing about yourself that rages against the norm? –even if you don’t do something outwardly about it. If you look at the directions at the beginning of the play, you will see that the time has been set as “the present.” Why do you think Wilde would set his play in the “present” instead of 1895? Warm-up How are the men portrayed differently than the women in this play? Check for Understanding • 1. What has been Jack’s specific excuse for leaving home to go to the city? • 2. How does Jack behave while he’s at home and around Cecily? • 3. How did Algernon become engaged to Cecily? • 4. How does Miss Prism feel about Dr. Chasuble’s sworn celibacy? • 5. What causes the tension between Cecily and Gwendolen during the tea scene? • 6. What is Gwendolen and Cecily’s response when the gentleman admit to their real identities? Act II Check for Understanding 1. Jack uses the excuse that he has a wicked brother ‘Ernest’ that gets into trouble and needs to go look after him or clean up a mess that he’s made. 2. Jack is very serious around Cecily. And he takes his role as guardian seriously, looking after her education and wellbeing. 3. Cecily is delusional. She’s fabricated an engagement to Uncle Jack’s wicked brother ‘Ernest’ (who doesn’t really exist). The details of their pretend and one-sided relationship are chronicled in her diary. Act II Check for Understanding 4. She doesn’t respect it and tries to tempt him to break it by fishing for attention. 5. Both women believe they are engaged to the same man (before Algy and Jack enter the scene). 6. They wonder where ‘Ernest’ is. They still think they are engaged to Ernest Worthing --never mind the two men in front of them that they claimed to love passionately only a moment before. The idea that the girls still intend to marry a man based on his name is ludicrous and shows their shallowness. Act 3 Summary Gwendolen and Cecily wait for Algy and Jack to apologize. The girls are flattered by the apologies, but their Christian names stand in the way. Bunbury is dead. Lady Bracknell arrives to find Gwendolen. She meets Cecily and finds out that she is engaged to her nephew Algy. She only approves of the match once she finds out about her large inheritance. Act 3 Continued Jack will not give his consent for Cecily to marry Algy until Lady Bracknell gives her consent for him to marry Gwendolen. Dr. Chasuble arrives, ready for the Christenings. He mentions Miss Prism and… Miss Prism (Moncrieff's former governess) is the person responsible to mistaking a manuscript for little baby Jack and leaving him in the handbag in the cloakroom. Jack is Algy’s brother and his given name is Ernest! Farce Satire that is made ridiculous, completely absurd, and comical. Known for slapstick, innuendo, and word play. Examples: Cecily’s engagement to “Earnest” and her communication with “Earnest”. Not to mention, the fact that the engagement was broken off and reconciled. The farce in Act 2 helps the audience accept the unbelievable and absurd plot developments that wrap up the play: Miss Prism is the one who mistook Jack for a manuscript, he is indeed Algy’s brother, and his name is naturally Ernest. The audience accepts the improbable as true. Challenge Take some time to consider the name Miss Prism. What is a prism? What does it do to the things you can see through it? Why might Wilde have chosen this name for this character? A note on Canon Chasuble Canon = law Chasuble = a garment worn by priests in mass Shamelessly flirts with Miss Prism, fakes scholarship, and performs church rites without question. This challenges the validity and the intentions of the church. Another Note on Setting The play has two different settings: London and the country London who’s who, dictated by standards, social class, and image. A place of action. country the opposite –relaxation, connection with nature, idleness. It’s also the place of Jack‘s responsibilities. This difference highlights the dualities that most Englanders yearned for but would not recognize. The characters are openly hypocritical. For each character, London or the country offers a place that is free of moral responsibility. Read “Wilde’s Use of Ironic Counterpoint” Read slowly and carefully. Make sure you read my notes to you on the side. Don’t worry about references to scholars or authors that you’ve never heard of. Rather than trying to find a thesis statement, write down what you think is the thesis of this essay. In other words, what is the main idea of this essay? Then we are going to watch the film with this understanding in mind. Your Task Now we know how Wilde “commented” on the behavior and values of the Upper Class of England. Your job is to find out where Wilde ridicules these values. You will practice looking for the “poisoned pin pricks” that Wilde delivers. Then, you will put your heads together to infer what Wilde would have stated explicitly if he were to “cross the line.” Where does Wilde ridicule these values? Wealth/Class Religion/Church Marriage/Love Education/Academia Wealth/Class “Poisoned Pin Pricks” Wilde nearly says… The difference between The upper class doesn’t Algy and Jack and their servants, Lane and Merriman. It’s hard to do nothing? The lower classes set the example for the upper classes? Smoking is an occupation? Gwendolen wants Jack to be more demonstrative in public. Showy. work for money. They are lazy. They like to think they are a different breed of human being. Being polite or earnest is more priggish, shallow and utterly false. Religion/Church “Poisoned Pin Pricks” Wilde nearly says… Christenings are The church has dangerous? Dr. Chasuble forsakes his sworn celibacy. questionable intentions and lacks validity. Marriage/Love “Poisoned Pin Pricks” Wilde nearly says… Proposals are not romantic, Marriage is an empty, they are business. Divorce court made in heaven. Marriage -3 is company Women flirt with husbands Love has a superficial foundation –a name. Lady Harbury –hair grown gold in grief. loveless institution. It is more business than love. Why do you have to make love into such a serious thing? You don’t marry for love. You marry for social advancement. Education/Academia “Poisoned Pin Pricks” Wilde nearly says… Miss Prism-skews Just because you went everything she teaches “Ignorance is like an exotic fruit…” Leave literary criticism to those that haven’t been to university. to university does not mean that you got an education. The upper class only wants to keep the lower classes uneducated and uninfluential. The Film For each scene, write down one epigram and one jab.