On 14th February 1895: Oscar Wilde’s “Importance of Being Earnest,” opens in London.England. 1890s. Two young and handsome gentlemen have decided to hide their real names (and identities) to put some excitement into their lives. Jack Worthing has invented a bad brother, Earnest, whom he uses as an excuse to leave his dull country life and visit his beloved Gwendolyn. Algy Montcrieff , who has taken the name ‘Earnest’ when visiting Worthing’s young and beautiful ward, Cecily at the country manor and has invented an often ill friend to escape his formal duties. Things start to go wrong when they end up together in country and their deceptions are discovered …
“The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is pretty, and to some one else, if she is plain.”
Act 1: the scene opens at Algernon Moncrieff’s house, Here arrives Jack Worthing, who want to propose to Gwendolen Fairfax, Algernon’s cousin. Jack reveals Algy that he is known under the name of Ernest in the city : to leave the country whenever he wants, he has invented a wicked brother , Ernest, who lives in London and often needs his help. It turns out that Algernon too leads a double life: he has an imaginary friend in the country who is often ill and needs his help, so Algy can go on pleasant trips in the country whenever he wants. They are soon joined by Lady Bracknell and her daughter Gwendolen. Taking advantage of a moment of privacy, Jack confesses Gwendolen his love . With surprise he discovers that she too is in love with him as she thinks that his name is Ernest. When Lady Bracknell comes back, finds Jack still on his knees and decides to ask him some question about his social position. Jack must admit that he was found in a bag by a Mr. Thomas Cardew in Victorian Station . He does not know who his parents are and so Mr. Cardew gave him the name of Worthing because he had a train ticket to Worthing in his pocket. Lady Bracknell is shocked and says that he cannot permit the marriage till she knows who Jack’s parents are. Gwendolen, on the contrary, fells fascinated and asks to know Jack’s country address. Algernon overhears : he decides to go on a “Bunbury” there to meet Cecily Cardew.
Act II: the scene opens in Jack’s garden in the country. Cecily is arguing with Miss Prism who wants her more concentrated on her studies. The butler announces the arrival of Ernest Worthing. As a mater of fact, it is Algernon that comes under the assumed name of his friend into meet Cecily. They meet and enter the house. Meantime Jack arrives and announces that his brother has died in Paris. The situation is embracing when Cecily , back in the garden, tells Jack that his brother is in the dining room. Algy appears and Cecily insists on a reconciliation between the two.. Left alone, Jacks order Algy to go back to London, but his friend confesses his love for Cecily. Who returns his affection because she feels attracted by the name of Ernest.
The butler announces a new arrival: Miss Gwendolen Fairfax , come to meet Ernest Worthing. She is received by Cecily and the two girls soon discovers they are both engaged with the same ma: Ernest Worthing.. When Jack and Algernon come back, the truth is revealed.
Act III: The scene opens in Jack’s country house where the two couples are trying to find a reconciliation. The two men announce that they are going to be rechristened by Dr. ChChasuble. The final obstacle is still Lady Bracknell who accepts the marriage between Cecily and Algernon when she hears that Cecily has about £130,000 in the Funds. But Jack says that he will oppose the weddings till Lady Bracknell permits him to marry her daughter. Even this obstacle is removed by the arrival of Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism. Hearing the name of this woman, in fact, Lady Bracknell tells that twenty years before a Miss Prism was the governess of her sister’s son, and she had lost him at Victoria Station. She had put the baby in a black handbag and the novel she was writing into the pram. Jack shows the handbag where he had been found and Miss Prism recognises it. Jack is Algernon’s elder brother, son of Lady Bracknell’s sister and of General Ernest Moncrieff. And his name is that of his father, Ernest. The play ends with three embraces: Gwendolen and Ernest, Cecily and Algy and Miss Prism with Dr. Chasuble.