I must create a brief presentation about Oscar Wilde, the playwright of The Importance of Being Earnest, and his works. Which of his works should I mention? Which are most important?
This is a great question, and I'm excited to answer it. Oscar Wilde was a very flamboyant character himself, and his works are always fun to read. His writing is even more engaging if you are familiar with the context in which he wrote.
Oscar Wilde was Irish and lived during Victorian times, when the British economy was good and society was very interested in fashion, the arts, and leisure activities.
Wilde studied at Oxford, where he was very successful. His poem "Ravenna" was written while he was at Oxford and won the Newdigate prize. When Wilde was a young man, he lived with his friend Frank Miles, who was a successful high-society portrait painter. His relationship with Frank Miles probably influenced his outstanding novel, The Portrait of Dorian Gray, in which a young man has his portrait painted and makes a wish to remain as youthful and handsome as the man in the portrait. His wish comes true, but at great expense. The story is a commentary on society's obsession with youth, beauty, and appearance which is still resonant today.
Wilde travelled in the United States in 1881, delivering lectures and meeting famous Americans. He learned what life and society was like on the other side of the Atlantic. Afterwards he got married and fathered two children. His wife, Constance Lloyd, was well-educated and outspoken. Constance probably influenced the female characters in his plays. The Importance of Being Earnest was published in 1895 after a highly acclaimed run in the theatre. Wilde wrote several other plays before The Importance of Being Earnest, including Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, and An Ideal Husband. All of these plays make commentary on the society Wilde lived in, the nature of women and men, and relationships.
In 1895, the Marquis of Queensbury accused Wilde of homosexuality because of his close relationship with the Marquis' son, Bosie. Wilde was sentenced to two years of hard labor for gross indecency. Afterwards, he wrote his long poem, "The Ballad of Reading Gaol." A ballad is a story told in verse. "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" (gaol means jail) tells the story of an execution, and highlights the brutality of the punishment Wilde experienced in prison.
We can learn a lot about Victorian society from reading Wilde's work. His writing is thoughtful and critical, and he never tried to hide anything. Wilde always told it like it was, and his many epigrams are still frequently quoted.