The Importance of Being Earnest

Beyond Farce 12th Grade

Richard Foster states that The Importance of Being Earnest has a “multivalent nature”[1] and thus implies that a farce or comedy of manners are not particularly urbane genres and are therefore ‘unsuitable’ for The Importance of Being Earnest. Foster argues that the play could be interpreted as more satirical and complex than a farce or comedy of manners. The play has many clever, intricate and inventive concepts specifically regarding the hypocrisies of Victorian society, which Wilde exposes, as well as the subtle comparison between the play and Wilde’s own life.

Despite many who describe the play as a comedy of manners, Foster refers to Wilde as an “elaborate literary lampoon” due to his satirising of conventional Victorian literature and thus interprets the play as a parody. Wilde satirises the traditional romantic idea of love as written by authors such as Austen and Shakespeare. The superficial love shared between Jack and Gwendolen hardly compares to the eternal love felt between Darcy and Elizabeth[2]. This is exposed through the lacking of true Victorian values and the choice of “style over substance.” Such notions are subtly displayed through Gwendolen knowing of a man called Ernest and knowing that she was “destined to...

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