Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Algernon (Algy) Moncrief
Algernon (Algy) Moncrief, a young man of fashion and considerable worldly charm. He is a confirmed Bunburyist; that is, he uses an imaginary sick friend’s name and condition as an excuse to leave London when he finds his aristocratic aunt, Lady Bracknell, too domineering or her dinner parties too dull. He delights in the artificial, the trivial, and the faddish, and he employs them for his own amusement, the only thing about which, as he insists, he is ever serious. Out for a jape, he poses as John Worthing’s fictitious brother Ernest to court his friend’s ward, Cecily Cardew. Although genuinely in love, he never abandons his pose of reckless pretense or his cynically amusing observations on country and city life, manners, fashions, and relatives.
John (Jack) Worthing, J.P.
John (Jack) Worthing, J.P., Algernon Moncrief’s friend, who poses as Ernest to win the hand of Algy’s cousin, the Honorable Gwendolyn Fairfax, Lady Bracknell’s daughter. Also a Bunburyist, he has invented a fictitious brother Ernest, a reprobate who is always getting into scrapes, as an excuse for his frequent visits to London. Jack is serious about most things, especially love. He was a foundling, brought up by a wealthy man who made Jack the guardian of his benefactor’s granddaughter, Cecily Cardew. When Jack proposes to Gwendolyn, he arouses Lady Bracknell’s displeasure because he cannot trace his family...
(The entire section is 798 words.)
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See Algernon Moncrieff
Lady Augusta Bracknell
Algernon's aunt and the sister of Jack's mother. She opposes Jack's marriage with her daughter Gwendolen, though relents when she learns that Jack is actually her nephew. More accurately, she wants Algernon to be able to marry the very wealthy Cecily, but that match cannot take place without Jack's permission, which he refuses to give unless Lady Bracknell approves his marriage with Gwendolen. Overall, she is realistic, hard-nosed, and an upholder of convention—though not entirely conventional herself.
Jack's pretty, young ward, whom Algernon woos but who remains determined to marry a man named Earnest. Not quite as naive as she may appear, Cecily keeps a diary, which "is simply a very young girl's record of her own thoughts and impressions and consequently meant for publication." Tutored by Miss Prism, Cecily fails to attend to her studies and marries Algernon at the play's conclusion.
Canon Frederick Chasuble
Canon Chasuble is the rather foolish, pedantic Rector attracted to Miss Prism. Both Jack and Algernon ask Chasuble to christen them Earnest, though no christening actually takes place. As Cecily says, "He has never written a single book, so you can imagine how much he knows.''
See John Worthing
(The entire section is 639 words.)