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 the meaning of the quote "three is company and two is none" in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest?

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As Oscar Wilde 's play opens, Jack has been telling Algernon about his desire to marry Gwendolyn. Algernon, a man of fashion, is pooh-poohing marriage as a dull state. Algernon, who hates to be bored, has an imaginary friend named Bunbury, an invalid he will pretend to need to visit...

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As Oscar Wilde's play opens, Jack has been telling Algernon about his desire to marry Gwendolyn. Algernon, a man of fashion, is pooh-poohing marriage as a dull state. Algernon, who hates to be bored, has an imaginary friend named Bunbury, an invalid he will pretend to need to visit when he wants to leave a dull party or gathering.

Jack is saying that once he gets married, he won't need a Bunbury (an imaginary person) to escape to, because marriage to his beloved Gwendolyn will be so fulfilling. Algernon says he is wrong. He states that once you are married, you get so bored with your spouse that being with her is the same as being alone: "two is none." "Three is company," he argues, because you need a third person to feel as if anyone is there at all. That is the meaning of "three is company and two is none."

Algernon, like Wilde himself, is always coming up with witticisms to call into question conventional ideas.

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