Oscar Wilde Author: Oscar Wilde Setting: Begins in a flat in London then proceeds to a manor house in the countryside in the late 1800’s. Plot: Two men, John Jack Earnest Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, use the deception [a Bunbury] that both their names were Ernest, in order to secure marriage to the women they love, Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. Then there is the ultimate unraveling of their lies, which still ends in their impending nuptials. Cast of Key Characters John Jack Ernest Worthing “Bon-vivant” [Jack to Algernon 2] Algernon is asking Jack what brought him to town. Jack has come to town to get away from his responsibilities in the country, his ward Cecily, and to see Gwendolen, whom he wishes to propose marriage. In order to do this he has committed the Bunbury that he has come to see his brother, Ernest, who doesn’t exist.
He wishes to enjoy the pleasures before attending to his guardian duties. Quote: “When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring.” “Curmudgeon” [Jack to Algernon 3] Jack has come to propose to Gwendolen. Which is the express reason behind his lying about his name being Ernest. Algy feels that is business not pleasure. Jack thinks it is utterly unromantic.
Algernon says he will forget about romance when he is married. Though Algy doesn’t know it yet when he sees Cecily he will shed this view. Jack feels that the view Algernon has, others do also and that is what causes the dissolution process to be born. Jack is generalizing his cynical view of unromantic people. Quote: “The divorce court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted.” “Architect” [Jack to Algy 3] Algy has said it is distasteful the way Gwendolen and Jack flirt with each other.
This prompts Jack to state his romantic intentions toward Gwendolen. Jack has a specific goal, which is to marry Gwendolen. This is his sole purpose for coming to town. Jack is so intent on marrying Gwendolen he has created a bunbury, the phantom brother Ernest, in order to see her. He also lies that his name is Ernest.
Quote: “I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come to town expressly to propose to her.” “Conniver” [Jack to Algernon 4] Algernon is trying to found why there is an inscription of the name Cecily on Jacks lighter. Jack creates the lie that Cecily is his aunt when in actuality she is his ward. The lie beings to unravel here because Algernon continues to question Jack. This is Jack’s Bunbury to Algy and there are many more to come. Jack hopes that this lie will discourage any further pursuit of his true relation, guardian, to Cecily.
Quote: “Well if you want to know Cecily happens to be my aunt.” “Critic” [Jack to Algernon 6] Jack has been trying to satisfy Algy’s fanatic questioning for the explanation of the inscription on Jack’s cigarette case. Jack has said that he is Ernest in town and Jack in the country. Jack is not named Ernest. It is a phantom brother he has invented. Jack is going to explain his reason for lying in order to come to town, but he doesn’t believe Algernon has a somber personality to comprehend his reasons. Quote: “My dear Algy, I don’t know whether you will be able to understand my real motives.
You are hardly serious enough.” “Martyr” [Jack to Algy 6] Algy has returned the cigarette case to Jack; now, he wishes to hear the reason Jack is Ernest in town and Jack in the country. Jack shows his bunbury to Algy. Jack is Cecily’s guardian that is why he is Jack in the country. In order to come to town he has invented a wayward brother named Ernest. Jack explains his reasons for lying about who Cecily really is and who he is to Cecily.
He is essentially her immediate forebear and must keep up social standards. It is his responsibility to guard against any degrading of her values. Jack makes sacrifices to be Cecily’s protector. One of his sacrifices is that he must lie in order to see Gwendolen, whom he doesn’t see as often as he would like. Quote: “When one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects.
It’s ones duty…” “Dreamer” [Jack to Gwendolen 10] Jack is attempting to ask for Gwendolen’s hand in marriage. Gwendolen declares her passion for him and her wishes that he had shown more of his adore in public. When Jack remembers the day he met Gwendolen and he is telling her of his adore for her, he stammers through his declaration with awe of her. You can picture the star struck look in his eyes. Jack is dreaming of the time Gwendolen will be his ownest, which occurs at the end of the play.
Quote: “Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl..I have ever met since..I met you.” “Caregiver” [Jack to Lady Bracknell 14] Lady Bracknell has been questioning Jack about his background in order to determine his worthiness to marry Gwendolen. It has come out that Jack was found in a handbag in a train station cloakroom. Lady Bracknell will not allow the marriage unless Jack can find his parentage. It would be below social standards and not very profitable for Gwendolen to marry someone of such origins. Jack is questioning Lady Bracknell of what to do, because he yearns to make Gwendolen full of zeal and must do so for his sake. Quote: “May I ask you then what you would advise me to do? I need hardly say I would do anything in the world to ensure Gwendolen’s happiness.” “Judge” [Jack to Lady Bracknell 48] Lady Bracknell has just learned that Algy is engaged to Cecily. Cecily meets all of Lady Bracknell’s criteria, especially the money.
Jack won’t allow Algy to marry Cecily unless Lady Bracknell allows him to marry him. Jack is talking to Lady Bracknell about Algernon’s request to marry Cecily. He states that this will not happen because he finds that Algernon is a lyre and lacks any scruples. He judges Algy unfit as a match for Cecily because of Algy’s Bunbury. Quote: “It pains me very much to have to speak frankly to you, Lady Bracknell, about your nephew, but the fact is that I do not approve at all of his moral character.
I suspect him of being untruthful.” Algernon Moncrieff “Curmudgeon” [Algernon to Lane 2] Algernon is talking with Lane about the amount of wine consumed at his last dinner party. The comment that the wine at a bachelor’s house is better than a married household is made by Lane. And Lane infers his ideas of marriage to Algy. Algy feels that the social inferiors should hold up a better moral standard for the upper crust about marriage. And if they do not then they are worthless. After all it is their job to do so.
It is ironic that Algy should speak of lower class morals when he has none of his own. His life is full of bunburying for entertainment. Quote: “Lane’s views on marriage..Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them? They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility.” “Judge” [Algy to Jack 2] Jack finds out that Gwendolen is due to arrive with her mother, Lady Bracknell. This fits perfectly with his plan to purpose to Gwendolen. He wishes to recruit Algy to help by getting Lady Bracknell out of the way. Algernon talks to Jack of his conduct around Gwendolen and the lusty looks exchanged between the two of them.
Their conduct is unbecoming of Ladies and Gentlemen. Pg. 2 “My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful. It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you.” “Avant-garde” [Algy to Jack 4] The last time Jack was at Algy’s house he left his cigarette case. Algy is reading the inscription and says the case must not be Jack’s, because his name is Ernest. This indicates Jack’s Bunbury. Algernon wants Jack to explain who Cecily is. He demands that the cigarette case inscription is explained and he is the first to mention it.
Jack has been missing it for a while now. This is the first time Jack gets caught in his lies. Quote: “Bring me that cigarette case Mr. Worthing left in the smoking-room the last time he dined here.” “Fanatic” [Algy to Jack 5] Algy bombards Jack on every lie he is telling about the inscription on the cigarette case. Cecily can’t be his aunt when she calls him her Uncle Jack.
Jack is really her guardian. Algy tells Jack that his name must be Ernest. Jack explains he is Jack in the country and Ernest in town. Ernest is really Jacks phantom brother. Algernon is quite persistent about the true explanation of the inscription on the cigarette case.
For every little bit of reason he is given he continually pursues more and won’t let the subject drop. He advances on Jack from every angle about the meaning of the words. Quote: “Yes. But why does your aunt call you her uncle? ‘From little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack.’ There is no objection, I admit, to an aunt being a small aunt, but why an aunt, no matter what her size may be, should call her own nephew her uncle, I can’t quite make out. Besides, your name isn’t Jack at all; it is Ernest.” “Conniver” [Algy to Lane 8] Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen have arrived at Algy’s to find Jack there. Lady Bracknell is not pleased.
Lady Bracknell apologizes for being late. Lady Bracknell wishes to have some tea and cucumber sandwiches, but Algy ate them all. Instead of telling her that he ate them, he makes an acquisition to Lane about where they are seeing he was to prepare them. This sets Lane up to lie and cover Algy’s indiscretion. Algy doesn’t have to commit the bunbury some one else does.
Quote: “Good Heavens! Lane! Why are there no cucumber sandwiches? I ordered them specially” “Jester” [Algy to Jack18] Jack is proclaiming his love for Gwendolen when Algy interrupts with a giggle. Jack wants to know why. Algy is thinking of Bunbury. Algy has been listening in on Jack and Gwendolen’s conversation. Through the conversation he has found out where Jack lives in the country. He has secretly written down the address.
The Bunbury he is thinking about is that he is going to the country house as Ernest to meet Cecily. Quote: “Oh, I’m a little anxious about Bunbury.” “Bon-vivant” [Algy to Lane 18] Lane presents Algy with a stack of bills and Algy destroys them and wishes to indulge in some spirits instead of tending to his responsibilities. Quote: [Lane presents several letters on a salver to Algernon. It is to be surmised that they are bills, as Algernon, after looking at the envelopes tears them up] Algernon says “A glass of sherry, Lane” “Architect” [Algy to Jack 40] Jack admits to Gwendolen and Cecily that he has no brother at all and never did. The fact is Algy is really his brother, as he will find out later. Algy and Jack have both pretended to be named Ernest to marry the ladies.
Now the lies have unraveled. The lady’s figured out that neither of them will marry a man named Ernest and they are both quite mad. The women leave the men alone in the garden. Jack says this must be Algernon’s idea of a Bunbury and Algernon feels this is the epitome of bunburying. This is Algernon’s greatest legacy. Quote: “yes, and a perfectly wonderful Bunbury it is. The most wonderful Bunbury I have ever had in my life.” “Visionary” [Algy to Jack 16] Algy wants to know if Gwendolen has accepted Jack’s proposal. Gwendolen accepted, but Lady Bracknell is forbidding it due to Jack’s origins.
Jack badmouths Lady Bracknell. Algy is unwaivered by it. Algy implies that Gwendolen will turn out like Lady Bracknell. Jack sarcastically wonders is Algy believes he is being clever. Algy is showing conceit in that he is quite sure it is clever and true.
Quote: “It is perfectly phrased! And quite as true as any observation in civilized life should be.” Lady Augusta Bracknell “Director” [Lady Bracknell to Gwendolen 8] Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen arrive at Algy’s. Lady Bracknell sees Jack and gives him an icy bow. She does not approve of Jack and Gwendolen together it puts disorder to her plans for Gwendolen’s life. Lady Augusta doesn’t like that her daughter has sat next to Jack and wishes to put order back to the situation. Quote: “Won’t you come and sit here, Gwendolen” “Oppressor” [Lady Bracknell to Gwendolen 12] Jack has just purposed to Gwendolen and Lady Bracknell comes in and interrupts. Gwendolen informs her mother that she is interrupting Mr.
Worthing and that she and Mr. Worthing are engaged. Lady Bracknell brings Gwendolen back down to size with the firm reply that this is not so until she, her mother decides it to occur. Lady Bracknell wants Gwendolen to fear and respect her authority as her mother. Quote: “Pardon me..You are not engaged to any one. When you do become engaged to some one, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact..” “Traditionalist” [Lady Bracknell to Gwendolen 12] Lady Bracknell has just been informed of Gwendolen’s engagement to Jack. She tells Gwendolen that this is not in line with tradition. She then explains the tradition.
Lady Bracknell is a firm believer in the tradition of the time for marriages to be arranged by the family and not by the individuals. This is the only proper way for a lady to acquire wealth and keep her innocence from being tarnished. Quote: “An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself..” “Critic” [Lady Bracknell to Jack 12] Lady Bracknell takes out a notebook and looks at it. The list she has is the same one the Duchess of Bolton has.
Lady Bracknell is trying to give herself higher social status by association. Lady Bracknell is speaking to Jack about his status as a worth …