Why was Oscar Wilde's play, "The Importance of Being Ernest,"  well received by Victorian society and what elements make it enjoyable?

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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On page one of the enotes.com etext version of this play, a quote by Wilde is given that helps to answer this question.  He said, “It has as its philosophy…that we should treat all the trivial things of life seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality.” Wilde uses sarcasm and wit to present an undying themes of the humor of society, of romance, of friendship, and of marriage. Lady Bracknell represents the English philosophy of marrying well for money and social status rather than for love; hence, Victorian society could easily relate to her and what she says. Jack and Algy not only represent different attitudes towards marriage by single men at the time, but they also have a quirky friendship that lasts because of Algy's ability not to take Jack too seriously. Finally, Gwendolyn and Cecily represent the sweetness and ignorance of young girls looking for husbands and fighting for love that every woman could relate to. With such globally true characteristics found in each character throughout the play, no wonder Victorians loved it and people still love it today.



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