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Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest

5. Act 1 – "It isn't Ernest; it's Jack"

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In this module, we continue to read through Act 1 from the arrival of Ernest/Jack to the revelation that Ernest's real name is in fact Jack, focusing in particular on: (i) the banter between Algernon and Lane; (ii) the importance of names in the play; (iii) the comic potential of love and marriage; (iv) the importance of family ties in the play; (v) Ernest/Jack's cigarette case and the question of what he's really called; (vi) the concept of Bunburying; (vii) the comic potential of the name 'Farquhar'; (viii) the parallels between Algernon and Ernest/Jack; and (ix) the themes of seriousness and triviality.


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. In the first three lectures, we provide a broad introduction to the play, thinking about the life and career of Oscar Wilde, as well as the social, cultural and literary context of the play itself. After that, in the following twelve modules, we read through the entire play from start to finish, thinking about the character, setting, stagecraft, key themes and motifs, and critical opinion.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2021, April 23). Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest - Act 1 – "It isn't Ernest; it's Jack" [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest – Act 1 – "It isn't Ernest; it's Jack"." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Apr 2021,

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