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Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest

12. Act 2 – "No brother at all?"

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About this Lecture


In this module, we continue to read through Act 2, from the moment Algernon leaves "on most important business" to the end of the Act, focusing in particular on: (i) the meeting between Gwendolen and Cecily; (ii) the return of tea (which we first saw at the beginning of Act 1); (iii) the concept of the "shallow mask" of manners, the theme (once again) of surface and reality; (iv) the contrast (once again) of serious and trivial ("Well, one must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life… You have such an absolutely trivial nature"); and (v) the idea (as we saw at the end of Act 1) of "nonsense" ("Oh, that is nonsense; you are always talking nonsense").


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 2 – "No brother at all?" [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest – Act 2 – "No brother at all?"." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Apr 2021,