Part 1: A Comedy of Manners: The Importance of Being Earnest(E2020)

Which of these are features of a comedy of manners? Check all that apply.

1. witty wordplay
2. scientific explanations
3. concern with appearances
4. differences between social classes
5. differences between country and city life

1. witty wordplay
3. concern with appearances
4. differences between social classes
5. differences between country and city life

Read the excerpt from Act I of The Importance of Being Earnest.

[Algernon.] [Jack puts out his hand to take a sandwich. Algernon at once interferes.] Please don’t touch the cucumber sandwiches. They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta. [Takes one and eats it.]

Jack. Well, you have been eating them all the time.

Algernon. That is quite a different matter. She is my aunt. [Takes plate from below.] Have some bread and butter. The bread and butter is for Gwendolen. Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.

How is humor used to critique the double standard of manners in society?

A. Jack attempts to take a sandwich.
B. Jack makes Algernon angry by eating bread and butter.
C. Algernon scolds Jack for eating sandwiches while eating them himself, satisfying his own needs.
D. Algernon offers Jack Gwendolen’s bread and butter because he knows that Jack loves Gwendolen.

C. Algernon scolds Jack for eating sandwiches while eating them himself, satisfying his own needs.

The tone of Oscar Wilde’s critique in The Importance of Being Earnest is

A. aggressive.
B. serious.
C. humorous.
D. angry.

C. humorous.

Read the excerpt from Act I of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Jack. I am in love with Gwendolen. I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.

Algernon. I thought you had come up for pleasure? . . . I call that business.

Jack. How utterly unromantic you are!

How is humor used in this excerpt to effectively critique marriage?

A. Jack confesses that he has come to the city to propose.
B. Jack scolds Algernon for not being romantic.
C. Algernon pokes fun at his friend Jack for falling in love and becoming interested in Gwendolen.
D. Algernon pokes fun at the fact that marriage in his society often is based on social rules, not romance.

D. Algernon pokes fun at the fact that marriage in his society often is based on social rules, not romance.

Which line from The Importance of Being Earnest shows the difference between city and country living?

A. “Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young? Who is coming to tea?”
B. “Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’t quite approve of your being here.”
C. “When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring.”
D. “If you don’t take care, your friend Bunbury will get you into a serious scrape some day.”

C. “When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring.”

Read the excerpt from Act I of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Jack. My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a dentist. It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn’t a dentist. It produces a false impression.

This excerpt best illustrates which feature of a comedy of manners?

A. witty wordplay
B. a commentary on marriage
C. a comparison of country and city life
D. concern with appearance over morality

A. witty wordplay

Read the excerpt from Act I of The Importance of Being Earnest.

[Lady Bracknell.] I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing. Which do you know?

Jack. [After some hesitation.] I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell. I am pleased to hear it. I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever.

What does Wilde’s use of humor critique in this excerpt?

A. marriage
B. education
C. tradition
D. government

B. education

Read the excerpt from Act I of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Algernon. [Languidly.] I don’t know that I am much interested in your family life, Lane.

Lane. No, sir; it is not a very interesting subject. I never think of it myself.

Algernon. Very natural, I am sure. That will do, Lane, thank you.

Lane. Thank you, sir. [Lane goes out.]

Algernon. Lane’s views on marriage seem somewhat lax. 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.

How does Wilde use this conversation to poke fun at the class divisions of his day?

A. Algernon holds his servant to an unreasonable standard because he expects the lower classes to be good examples for the upper class.
B. Algernon excuses his servant after Lane provides refreshments, and the two men chat about marriage and family life.
C. Lane defends marriage while Algernon jokes about it.
D. Lane lectures Algernon about his disrespectful attitude.

A. Algernon holds his servant to an unreasonable standard because he expects the lower classes to be good examples for the upper class.

Read the excerpt from Act I of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Jack. Gwendolen, will you marry me? [Goes on his knees.]

Gwendolen. Of course I will, darling. How long you have been about it! I am afraid you have had very little experience in how to propose.

Jack. My own one, I have never loved any one in the world but you.

Gwendolen. Yes, but men often propose for practice. I know my brother Gerald does. All my girl-friends tell me so.

How does this dialogue poke fun at a society that takes marriage too lightly?

A. Jack is joking about his marriage proposal.
B. Jack tells Gwendolen that he loves no one else.
C. Gwendolen is happy that Jack has finally asked her to marry him.
D. Gwendolen says that her brother proposes to all her friends.

D. Gwendolen says that her brother proposes to all her friends.

Read the excerpt from Act I of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Lady Bracknell. Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd. . . . I should be much obliged if you would ask Mr. Bunbury, from me, to be kind enough not to have a relapse on Saturday, for I rely on you to arrange my music for me. It is my last reception, and one wants something that will encourage conversation, particularly at the end of the season when every one has practically said whatever they had to say, which, in most cases, was probably not much.

What aspect of Lady Bracknell’s behavior does Wilde use to poke fun at the importance placed on frivolous events in formal society?

A. her concern with a party instead of Mr. Bunbury’s health
B. her interest in playing classical music at her reception
C. her jealousy over Algernon’s friendship with the sickly Mr. Bunbury
D. her concern about the health of Algernon’s friend

A. her concern with a party instead of Mr. Bunbury’s health

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