Importance of Being Earnest
Algernon Moncrieff prepares for the arrival of his aunt, Lady Bracknell, and her daughter, Gwendolen, in his stylish London flat in 1895. His butler, Lane, brings in “Ernest Worthing” (who is listed as “John Worthing” within the cast list and “Jack” within the body of the play, although both Lane and Algernon believe his name is Ernest), who has just returned from the country. Jack reveals he has come to London to propose to Gwendolen. Algernon ridicules the notion of marriage and says that before Jack can marry Gwendolen, he has got to clear up the difficulty of Cecily. Algernon orders Lane to usher in Jack’s case and shows the inscription: “‘From little Cecily, together with her fondest like to her dear Uncle Jack.'” Jack says his name is Ernest in town and Jack within the country. Algernon says he has always suspected Jack was a “Bunburyist,” and now he has proof.
Jack explains that Thomas Cardew, who adopted him, willed Jack to be guardian to his granddaughter, Cecily. Cecily now lives at Jack’s place within the country under the guidance of her governess, Miss Prism. Since Jack must maintain a high level of morality to line an example, he needs an excuse to urge into town. He has invented a ne’er-do-well younger brother named Ernest who lives in Albany, and whose problems frequently require Jack’s attendance. Algernon confesses that he has invented an invalid within the country, Bunbury, for when he must get out of town. Jack insists that he’s through with “Ernest,” but Algernon maintains that he will need him quite ever if he marries.
Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen arrive. Algernon tells Lady Bracknell that he is going to be unable to attend her dinner tonight, as Bunbury is ill. they are going into the music room. Jack confesses his feelings to Gwendolen, and she or he admits that she likes him, too, especially since she has always wanted to like someone named Ernest. Jack asks if she would still love him if his name weren’t Ernest. She wouldn’t, she maintains. He proposes to her, and she or he accepts. Lady Bracknell comes in, and Gwendolen informs her of their engagement. Lady Bracknell says that only she or her father can engage Gwendolen, and orders her to attend within the carriage. After she leaves, Lady Bracknell learns from Jack that he was an orphan, found during a handbag on a train. She is aghast and says she is going to not allow her daughter to marry him. She leaves and Algernon enters.
Jack tells Algernon what happened, and promises to “kill off” his brother Ernest later within the week. Algernon expresses interest in meeting Cecily, but Jack doesn’t want this to happen, as she is young and pretty. Gwendolen returns. She tells Algernon to show his back. She asks Jack his address within the country, and Algernon slyly writes this down and checks a train timetable. Gwendolen promises to write down Jack daily when he returns to the countryside, and Jack escorts her out. Algernon informs Lane that he is going to be going to Bunburying tomorrow.
In the garden at Jack’s house, Miss Prism and Cecily discuss Jack’s seemingly serious demeanor; Miss Prism believes it’s thanks to his anxiety over his reckless brother. Dr. Chasuble enters the garden. He and Miss Prism leave for a walk together. Merriman, their butler, announces the arrival of Ernest Worthing. Algernon enters, pretending to be Ernest. He and Cecily briefly discuss his “wicked” reputation. When he learns that Jack is going to be back Monday afternoon, Algernon announces that he must leave Monday morning. He flirts with Cecily and that they exit into the house.
Miss Prism and Chasuble return. She urges him to urge married to a mature lady. Jack enters the garden, wearing black. He tells Miss Prism he has returned before expected and explains that he’s wearing black for his brother, who died in Paris last night. Jack asks Chasuble if he would christen him this afternoon. He agrees, and Cecily emerges from the house. She tells him that his brother is within the dining room; Jack says he doesn’t have a brother. She runs into the house and brings out Algernon. Jack refuses to shake Algernon’s hand, but Cecily says that “Ernest” has been telling him about his friend Bunbury, which someone who takes care of an invalid must have some good in him. Everyone but Jack and Algernon leave. Jack orders Merriman to urge the dogcart, as Ernest has been called back to town (he wants to urge obviate Algernon). Jack tells Algernon he must leave, while Algernon expresses an interest in Cecily. Jack exits.
Cecily enters the garden. Merriman tells Algernon that the dogcart is prepared, but Cecily says it can wait. Algernon compliments Cecily to her great delight. She then tells Merriman that the dogcart can come next week. He asks Cecily to marry him, and she or he points out that they need been engaged for 3 months. “Ever since [she] heard of Jack’s wicked brother Ernest” she has loved him. Cecily shows him the box of letters he “wrote” to her (which she really wrote to herself). She also admits that she loves him because his name is Ernest. Upon prompting, she doubts she would be ready to love him were his name, Algernon. He says he must see Chasuble quickly about “christening…I mean on most vital business.” Algernon exits.
Merriman announces that Gwendolen has asked to ascertain Mr. Worthing (Jack). Cecily informs him that he has gone off to ascertain Chasuble a while ago, but invites her in. Gwendolen immediately takes to Cecily but wishes Cecily weren’t so young and alluring, as “Ernest,” despite his moral nature, remains vulnerable to temptation. Cecily tells her that she isn’t Ernest’s ward, but his brother Jack’s. Rather, she goes to marry Ernest. They compare diary entries. Gwendolen feels she has the prior claim since Ernest asked to marry her yesterday. the women argue and insult one another.
Jack enters the garden, and Gwendolen asks if he’s engaged to Cecily; he laughs and denies it. Cecily says the person before them is her Uncle Jack. As Gwendolen goes into shock, Algernon enters, and Cecily calls him Ernest. She asks if he’s married to Gwendolen; he denies it. Gwendolen says that his name is Algernon. Cecily is shocked, and she or he and Gwendolen hold one another and structure. Jack confesses he has no brother Ernest, nor any brother in the least. the ladies retire to the house. Jack is angry at Algernon for stirring up trouble together with his Bunburying. they need both arranged for Chasuble to christen them “Ernest” later that evening. Jack tells Algernon to travel, but he refuses.
Jack and Algernon join Gwendolen and Cecily inside the house. the ladies tell the lads their “Christian names are still an insuperable barrier.” the lads reveal that they’re to be re-christened this afternoon, and therefore the couples hug. Lady Bracknell arrives, and Gwendolen informs her of her engagement. Lady Bracknell tells Jack that he might not speak any longer to her daughter.
Jack introduces Cecily to Lady Bracknell, and Algernon says that he’s engaged to her. only Lady Bracknell discovers Cecily features a large personal fortune does she give her consent for his or her marriage. However, Jack claims that, as his ward, Cecily might not marry without his consent until age 35. He declines to offer the required consent. He says that he suspects Algernon of being untruthful. He recounts this afternoon’s events, during which Algernon impersonated Jack’s brother. Jack tells Lady Bracknell that if she consents to his marriage with Gwendolen, he will consent to Cecily’s with Algernon. Lady Bracknell refuses and tells Gwendolen to urge ready for the train.
Chasuble enters and announces that he’s prepared for the christenings. Lady Bracknell refuses to permit Algernon to be baptized, and Jack tells Chasuble that the christenings won’t be necessary any longer. Chasuble says he will leave, and mentions that Miss Prism is expecting him. Lady Bracknell asks to ascertain Miss Prism. When she enters, she goes pale upon seeing Lady Bracknell, who accuses her of kidnapping a baby boy from her house 28 years ago. Under Jack’s questioning, Miss Prism reveals that she accidentally left the baby during a handbag on the Brighton railway line. Jack leaves excitedly.
Jack returns with this very handbag. Jack tells her he was the baby. Lady Bracknell informs Jack that he’s the son of her sister, making him Algernon’s older brother. Jack asks Lady Bracknell what his original name was. She says he was named after his father; after locating his name under the military Lists, they learn his full name is Ernest John Moncrieff. All three couples, Chasuble and Miss Prism, Algernon and Cecily, and Jack and Gwendolen embrace. Jack tells Lady Bracknell that he has realized, for the primary time in his life, “the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”
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