“The Importance of Being Earnest” Summary

“The Importance of Being Earnest” Summary

“The Importance of Being Earnest” is a play that was written by Oscar Wilde in the year 1895. It is set in Victorian-era London, and satirizes that period's moral views. As a result of Oscar's imprisonment, the play closed after 86 performances.

This play starts in Algernon Moncrieff's apartment in the fashionable West Side of London. Here, Algernon is waiting for his guests, Jack Worthing, Gwendolen Fairfax, and Augusta Bracknell.

Jack Worthing, alias Ernest, comes into the room and tells Algernon that he wants to propose to Gwendolen. Algernon informs Jack that he will never approve of Jack marrying Gwendolen because Algernon is Gwendolen's cousin.

When Algernon notifies Jack that he found his cigar-case, Jack mentions to him that he was about to put up a reward for whoever found the case, and Algernon says that he was not sure the case was his because he found writing inside that said it was from someone named Cecily.

Jack says that Cecily was his aunt, but then Algernon says that the text inside the cigar-box says that it is for someone named Jack. Jack, whom Algernon knew as Ernest, admits that he is living a double life, in the city known as Ernest, and in the country known as Jack.

Next, Jack tells Algernon his short life story. When Jack was small, he was adopted by a man named Mr. Thomas Cardew, who, when he died, left Jack to take care of his daughter, Cecily.

Algernon asks Jack where they lived, and Jack tells him that he will not be invited, so he may as well not know. Algernon says that Jack was like him because he invented a friend named Bunbury to visit in the countryside, and Jack says that he tells the people at home that he has to visit his brother, Ernest, who lives in the city and often gets in awful scrapes.

Jack then says that after he gets married to Gwendolen, he will “kill” Ernest and live as plain old Jack, not mentioning his brother anymore. He asks Algernon to help him distract Aunt Augusta, so he can propose to Gwendolen, and Algernon agrees.

Later, Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen arrive, and Algernon does his part in distracting the older lady, while Jack (remember, everyone knows him as Ernest), asks Gwendolen if she loves him. Gwendolen says that she loves him because of his name. He asks her if she would love him if he had any other name, such as Jack, and she says that she would not. Jack proposes and she accepts. He then resolves to be rechristened as Ernest, so he can marry her.

After he proposes, Lady Bracknell walks into the room and questions him on different topics to see if he was suitable to marry her daughter. She asks him if he smokes, how old he is, how much he earns, where he lives, and what are his parents' names.

Jack tells her that he does smoke, is 29 years old, earns 7-8 thousand pounds a year, has a country house and a town house, and did not know what his parents' names were because he was found in a handbag at a railroad station.

After Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen leave, Algernon plays “The Wedding March”, and then says that he thinks Gwendolen will become disagreeable, like her mother, but Jack thinks otherwise.

Later, Algernon and Jack talk about how there are so many clever people in the world nowadays, and they say that it's a pity there are so few fools left.

Jack says that after getting married, he will say that Ernest died in Paris (foreshadowing…). Algernon says that he thinks that Cecily, the person whom Jack is caring for, would be devastated if Ernest died. Jack says that Cecily would not care if Ernest died.

Algernon says that he would like to see Cecily, but Jack says that he will not tell him his home address because Cecily was just 18 years old. Algernon asks Jack if he told Gwendolen about Cecily, to which Jack says that he had not, but he thought that they would be friends.

Later, Gwendolen came into the room and told Jack that she believed that they would not be able to marry because her mother didn't like him. She asked for his address, so she could write to him.

Algernon heard the address and wrote it down on his sleeve, and after Gwendolen and Jack left, decided to go visit his friend, Bunbury.

Later that day, Cecily (Jack's ward), is learning German with her teacher, when the local reverend visits their house. After talking a while with Cecily's teacher, they go off walking.

Algernon arrives at Jack's house, acting as his brother Ernest. While he's there, he meets Cecily and proposes to her. Cecily says that she and Ernest were engaged for three months now because she made an imaginary scenario where she was engaged to a person named Ernest. Algernon makes up his mind to be rechristened as Ernest and leaves.

Gwendolen comes to the house intending to meet Jack, but as he is making preparations to be rechristened, she decides to wait with Cecily. The ladies talk, and tell each other that they are engaged to “Ernest”. The men soon come back home, and it is revealed that they were deceiving Gwendolen and Cecily.

Algernon and Jack upbraid each other for doing these horrible pranks and then sit down and have their tea.

After drinking their tea, they go inside the house, where Gwendolen and Cecily are waiting to hear the reason of this deception. Algernon and Jack tell them that they deceived them because they wanted to get married, but were going to get rechristened as Ernest.

Lady Bracknell then enters the room, and after hearing what went on, informed Jack that he could not marry Gwendolen, but said that Algernon could marry Cecily if he wanted to. Lady Bracknell didn't want Jack to marry Gwendolen because he was not of the aristocratic class. Jack says that he will not let Cecily marry Algernon unless he could marry Gwendolen.

Then, the reverend came in and told them that the rechristening was ready, and he was waiting to go back to see Miss Prism (Cecily's teacher). When Lady Bracknell heard Miss Prism's name, she got furious. Soon, Miss Prism came in and saw Lady Bracknell, who asked her where the baby was. She said that she was taking the baby out in a stroller, carrying her book in an old handbag, when she misplaced the book in the stroller and the baby in the handbag.

Miss Prism said that she dropped the handbag off at the railway station at which Jack was found. Jack looks in his belongings and finds said handbag, taking it back to Miss Prism.

When she says that the handbag was hers, Jack asks her what his real name was, and after looking around, found out that his real name was Ernest. In the end, everyone lives happily ever after. Ernest is really Algernon's older brother, and they get what they were questing for the entire play.