"All words and no action": Is this an accurate description of The Importance of Being Earnest'?Answer with suitable illustrations.

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a great way to describe this play!  The language of the play is what is appreciated about it.  The cleverness and multi-layered irony are delightful.  The characterizations and situations are funny, but ultimately the play hinges on the conversations between the people, not what they do.  In fact, very little action occurs.  The most significant action  is Algernon going to Jack's country estate to pretend being Ernest and meeting Cecily. That action drives the rest of the play, but except for travel, the characters don't do anything of any of import.  On the other hand, their conversations are all too important.  Algernon and Jack's conversations in Act 1 establish the idea of Bunburying present the subject of marriage.  Lady Bracknell's interview of Jack presents all of the subjects of Wilde's satire of the upper classes and the importance of social standing in society.  We are also introduced to the shallowness of Gwendolyn.  As we progress into Act 2, the conversations continue.  Through the chatting of Miss Prism and Cecily we see her shallow nature, and Miss Prism's righteousness.  We learn of the complete craziness of Cecily in her retelling of her imaginary (except to her) engagement to Ernest.  The delightful give and take of the confusion over who is exactly engaged to Ernest highlights all of Wilde's satire over all of his various targets.  In Act 3, all of the resolutions come about through the various topics of conversations with Lady Bracknell.  Engagements are approved and birthrights are discovered.  We find out that there really was an Ernest after all, even though none of the characters are all that earnest.  It may be a play with little action, but we are entertained through it all, always on alert for another great line and a chuckle.

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The Importance of Being Earnest

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