The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

The Importance of Being Earnest book cover
Start Your Free Trial

"A trivial comedy for serious people"—how appropriate is this subtitle for the play?

Expert Answers info

Ellen O'Keefe, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

bookPh.D. from University of Miami (Fla.)


calendarEducator since 2016

write730 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Arts, and Law and Politics

Oscar Wilde gave his play The Importance of Being Earnest the apt subtitle "A Trivial Play for Serious People." This subtitle sets the tone for the play in the sense that its seemingly paradoxical combination of words employs a technique that Wilde has his characters use repeatedly in their dialogue. The mix of verbal irony, epigrammatic expressions, and hyperbole reverse our expectations and aid Wilde in poking fun at his shallow upper class characters.

Further, the play's subtitle is appropriate because it describes Wilde's comedy of manners perfectly. The play is a satire , and as such, it proves to be a sharp critique of the values and the marriage practices of the Victorian elite. However, the characters are extremely superficial and silly, as is the marriage plot of the play. Two men, Jack and Algernon, decide they want to marry two women, Gwendolen and Cecily, whom they do not know very well, and both men want to be baptized under the new name Ernest, because the women both prefer that...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 682 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write4,264 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,149 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial