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Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest

13. Act 3 – "Bunbury is dead."

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In this module, we read through the first part of Act 3, up to the point where it's revealed just how much money Cecily has in the bank ("A hundred and thirty thousand pounds!"), focusing in particular on: (i) the figure of Lady Bracknell, who has not been seen since Act 1; (ii) the different set for all three acts; (iii) the influence on The Importance of Being Earnest of W. S. Gilbert's 'Engaged' (1877) and Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Patience' (1881); (iv) the surprise entrance of Lady Bracknell and her interrogation of Cecily, which recalls her actions in Act 1; (v) the question of proof; and (vi) the revelation that Cecily has a lot of money in the bank.


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 3 – "Bunbury is dead." [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest – Act 3 – "Bunbury is dead."." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Apr 2021,