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Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest

14. Act 3 – "Where is that baby?"

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In this module, we continue to read through Act 3 up to the point where it is revealed that Jack was the baby in the handbag which Miss Prism accidentally left in Victoria Station, focusing in particular on: (i) Jack's prevention of the proposed marriage between Algernon and Cicely, and his reason for doing so; (ii) the entrance of Chasuble and the mention of Miss Prism; (iii) the return of Miss Prism's three-volume novel, which was first mentioned in Act 1; (iv) the revelation of the truth, and the examination of the hand-bag itself; (v) the tragic concepts of catharsis (relief) and anagnorisis (recognition); and (vi) the contrast (once again) of the seriousness of the events being described and the triviality with which they are treated.


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 3 – "Where is that baby?" [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest – Act 3 – "Where is that baby?"." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Apr 2021,

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