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Free Study Guide: The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde - Free BookNotes

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Setting is a key element in this play because it offers a guise for the main character’s alias. This adds to the hilarity that develops from misunderstandings both intended and accidental. The primary settings are the city: London, and the country: Hertfordshire, England.

Act I: Algernon Moncrieff’s flat in Half-Moon Street

Act II: The Garden at the Manor House, Woolton

Act III: Drawing room of the Manor House, Woolton.

The time period is the 1890s.


Major Characters

John Worthing, J.P.
Known as Jack in the country, Ernest in the city. He escapes country life by pretending to have a brother, Ernest, who continuously gets into trouble in the city and requires his assistance. He is the guardian of Cecily and wants to marry Gwendolen, but is not allowed to because her mother does not approve of his being found as an infant in Victoria Station.

Minor Characters

Algernon Moncrieff
Algernon in the city, Ernest in the country. Algernon is the cousin of Gwendolen and wants to marry Cecily. He claims to have an ill friend, Bunbury, whom he visits in the country when he wants to escape the city.

Rev. Canon Chasuble D.D.
Chasuble is the pedantic reverend who resides in the country near Jack. He is in love with Miss Prism

Jack’s butler

Algernon’s manservant

Lady Bracknell
Gwendolen’s mother and Algernon’s aunt. She refuses to allow the marriage of Gwendolen and Jack

Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax
Daughter of Lady Bracknell. She wishes to marry Jack, whom she believes is “Ernest.”

Cecily Cardew
Ward of Jack. She wishes to marry Algernon, whom she believes is Jack’s younger brother “Ernest.”

Miss Prism
The governess of Cecily. She once wrote a novel, but never published it. She is involved in a very important mishap.

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The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde: Free BookNotes Summary

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