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Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest

10. Act 2 – "Uncle Jack’s brother!"

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In this module, we read through the first part of Act 2, up to the point that Algernon arrives in the guise of Ernest Worthing, focusing in particular on: (i) the comedic tradition of moving the action into the countryside in the central part of the play, cf. Shakespeare's As You Like It; (ii) the figure of Miss Prism, and the various punning references in her name; (iii) the idea of utilitarianism ("Surely such a utilitarian occupation as the watering of flowers is rather Moulton’s duty than yours?"); (iv) the jokes about Germany; (v) the themes (once again) of triviality and seriousness – Miss Prism's three-volume novel; (vi) the figure of Canon Chasuble and his relationship between Miss Prism; (vii) Chasuble's classical references ("I must not disturb Egeria and her pupil any longer"); and (viii) the re-emergence of the card of 'Ernest Worthing', which we saw back in Act 1.


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.

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APA style

McRae, J. (2021, April 23). Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest - Act 2 – "Uncle Jack’s brother!" [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest – Act 2 – "Uncle Jack’s brother!"." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Apr 2021,

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