Illustration of Jack Worthing in a top hat and formal attire, and a concerned expression on his face

The Importance of Being Earnest

by Oscar Wilde

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What is another amusing scene in The Importance of Being Earnest for modern audiences?

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I think that your selection of Lady Bracknell’s interview and the tea-time with Gwendolen and Cecily’s fighting over a fictional “Earnest” are both great selections!

There are numerous scenes from Oscar Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Earnest” that continue to resonate with modern audiences. In the performances of this play that I’ve seen, Algernon’s ravenous appetite for cucumber sandwiches and his subsequent cover-up for his guests draws lots of laughter. You could also explore the interaction between Miss Prism and Canon Chasuble, a scene laden with innuendo and made even more humorous by the situational irony of an uptight teacher flirting so boldly with a parish priest. A third scene that seems to garner laughter is when Jack reveals his background: being found in a handbag at the train station.

Although this isn’t exactly a single scene from the play, my students have always found the concept of “Bunburying” to be particularly funny. They claim that it is relatable; most of them have done it, in some form, themselves! In a sense, the advent of technological communication has made “Bunburying” even more prevalent, and you could explore this as an example of how The Importance of Being Earnest” is still enjoyable for modern audiences.

Finally, what makes this play so funny for modern audiences is not the plot, but rather Oscar Wilde’s ironic and witty dialogue. There are so many witticisms peppered through the play that it is difficult to choose a few to recommend, but here are a few that are as funny today as when they were written:

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

“If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.”

“I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.”

I hope this helps gives you a few ideas as you attempt to discuss why “The Importance of Being Earnest” is still a great play to read, view, and perform today!

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A funny scene that comes to mind in Act II is when Jack and Algy are exposed, making Gwendolen and Cecily realize that none of them are named Ernest, and that they are just not the people who they claim to be.

This scene happens right after Cecily and Gwendolen argue over who is the real fiancee of Ernest. During that previous argument *which is the scene you mention in your question* the women declare war on each other and basically stop speaking.

However, when they both find out that they have been duped, they join forces together once again and enter the house expecting that Jack and Algernon will follow them as if they were damsels in distress.x

Instead of that, Jack and Algernon remain in the garden and....start eating the muffins and drinking the tea that Gwendolen and Cecily  forfeit when they fight. So, basically Jack and Algernon have a tea party right after becoming exposed.  It is afterwards that they finally decide to go after the ladies to explain themselves.

Even the conversation that takes place between the men is quite funny.

JACK:[Picking up the muffin-dish.] Oh, that is nonsense; you are always talking nonsense.
ALGERNON:Jack, you are at the muffins again! I wish you wouldn't. There are only two left. [Takes them.] I told you I was particularly fond of muffins.
JACK:But I hate tea-cake.
ALGERNON:Why on earth then do you allow tea-cake to be served up for your guests? What ideas you have of hospitality!
JACK:Algernon! I have already told you to go. I don't want you here. Why don't you go?
ALGERNON:I haven't quite finished my tea yet, and there is still one muffin left. [JACK groans, and sinks into a chair. ALGERNON still continues eating.]

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