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6. Act 1 – "There is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all"
About this Lecture
In this module, we continue to read through Act 1 from the arrival of Lady Bracknell to her re-entry just as Ernest/Jack is preparing to propose to Gwendolen, focusing in particular on: (i) the figure of Lady Bracknell and her famous portrayals by Dame Edith Evans, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith; (ii) the comic potential (once again) of the inherently serious matter of widowhood ("I never saw a woman so altered; she looks quite twenty years younger"); (iii) the knowledge and complicity of the audience in Algernon's ruse about Bunbury, and Jack's ruse about his 'brother' Ernest; (iv) the humour in the scene between Gwendolen and Jack/Ernest; (v) the use of sexual innuendo ("It produces absolutely no vibrations…"); (vi) the introduction of the idea of a christening ("I must get christened at once"); and (vii) the comic tableau of the interrupted proposal.
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
McRae, J. (2021, April 23). Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest - Act 1 – "There is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all" [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/wilde-the-importance-of-being-earnest/act-1-there-is-very-little-music-in-the-name-jack-if-any-at-all
McRae, John. "Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest – Act 1 – "There is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all"." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Apr 2021, https://www.massolit.io/courses/wilde-the-importance-of-being-earnest/act-1-there-is-very-little-music-in-the-name-jack-if-any-at-all