The Importance of Being Earnest is probably Oscar Wilde’s most famous play. It first appeared on the London stage in 1895 and delighted theatre audiences with its sophisticated comedy. The title is a play on the words; ‘earnest’, meaning sincere, and the name ‘Ernest’. It’s about two men who both pretend to be an imaginary character called Ernest and two women who are both determined to marry a man named Ernest. Confusion, mixed identity and lots of comedy follow. The plot is very funny; full of Wilde’s typical brilliant wit.

In 2002 director, Oliver Parker, produced a new film version of the play. With actors like Colin Firth, Rupert Everett and Judy Dench, success was almost guaranteed. Although Parker followed the original dialogues he changed the style of the film, with costumes, music and images that added new ideas and interpretations. Most professional critics agreed that Wilde’s genius is in his very clever conversation and comments on social manners. They found the film’s visual changes were unnecessary and a distraction from the original. The general public, on the other hand, loved the film’s colour and life and were as happy with the film as theatre goers were back in 1895.

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Illustration by ​Ivan Canu, taken from ​The Importance of Being Earnest, by ​Oscar Wilde​, Reading&Training, Step Three (CEFR B1.2).