“Poisoned Pin Pricks” Wilde nearly says…

The Importance of Being
• “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?)
 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?
 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
• 3. How did Algernon become engaged to Cecily?
• 4. How does Miss Prism feel about Dr. Chasuble’s sworn
• 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!
 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
 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.
 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
 This challenges the validity and the intentions of the
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
 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
“Poisoned Pin Pricks”
Wilde nearly says…
 The difference between
 The upper class doesn’t
Algy and Jack and their
servants, Lane and
It’s hard to do nothing?
The lower classes set the
example for the upper
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.
“Poisoned Pin Pricks”
Wilde nearly says…
 Christenings are
 The church has
 Dr. Chasuble forsakes
his sworn celibacy.
questionable intentions
and lacks validity.
“Poisoned Pin Pricks”
Wilde nearly says…
 Proposals are not romantic,
 Marriage is an empty,
they are business.
Divorce court made in
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.
“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
 The upper class only
wants to keep the lower
classes uneducated and
The Film
 For each scene, write down one epigram and one jab.