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Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest

11. Act 2 – "Who do you think is in the dining room?"

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In this module, we continue to read through Act 2, from the moment that Algernon arrives to his decision to leave "on most important business", focusing in particular on: (i) the relationship between Cecily and Algernon (whom Cecily believes is Jack's brother, Ernest); (ii) Jack's previous attempts to get rid of his (fictional) brother ("I know he wants to speak to you about your emigrating"); (iii) the continued flirting between Miss Prism and Chasuble; (iv) Jack's announcement that his (fictional) brother has died ("My brother … dead!"); (v) the announcement that Jack's brother is in fact in the dining-room ("Who do you think is in the dining-room? Your brother!"); (vi) the argument between Algernon and Jack ("You young scoundrel, Algy, you must get out of this place as soon as possible"); (vii) the continued flirting between Algernon and Cecily ("I have dared to love you wildly, passionately, devotedly, hopelessly"); and (viii) the parody in this scene of the epistolary romances that one finds in the novels of Tom Jones and Samuel Richardson.


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 – "Who do you think is in the dining room?" [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest – Act 2 – "Who do you think is in the dining room?"." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Apr 2021,