This is another classic of literature which I only got around to reading because I heard of a webseries adaptation and wanted to compare with the original material. I would say it was part of my “”read it first” effort, but that wouldn’t be completely accurate, because I saw the first two or three episodes first.
It went this way: someone I follow on Tumblr (from the Emma Approved days, I think) posted a link to this video.
It was a brand new thing, only two or three episodes old, and I was completely charmed by this pilot. So I went ahead and got the play on my tablet. I think I read it in a couple of days. It’s pretty short, most plays tend to be, and it shouldn’t have taken me this long, but I remember that I had to go and be someplace where it would have been rude of me to read, the first of those two days.
Quick resume: Jack Worthing has been calling himself Ernest to everyone he meets in town; from his best friend, Algernon Moncrieff, to the young woman he is courting, the Honorable Gwendolyn Fairfax, and her mother, Lady Bracknell. But while in the country, he pretends that Ernest is his wastrel of a younger brother and uses this imaginary brother as an excuse to leave his young ward, Cecily Cardew, to the care of her governess. He is determined to abandon the plot once he marries Gwen (if only he could convince her mother to grant her blessing!) so Algernon takes this last golden opportunity to visit Jack’s home in the countryside, pretend to be Ernest, and seduce Cecily. And of course, as in any good comedy, the ruse is discovered and after some witty banter and the odd deus ex machina, everyone lives happily ever after.
The play is good, and I’m glad to have spent those few hours over two days to read it. Some elements of the farce are just on the wrong side of believable, but that’s want makes this funny. And some of the exposition seems deliberately construed to increase tension. (Algernon and “Earnest” fighting over the cigarette case, because Algernon should have started with “that cigarette case belongs to someone named Jack, says so right here!”, or looking through the military records to find General Moncrieff’s first name, because wouldn’t Algernon and/or lady Bracknell know it already?) None the less, I did enjoy the book.
I infinitely prefer In Earnest, though. The elements of the farce are pared with the right amount of seriousness, there is drama and conflict and character development, and a happy ending that becomes so much more satisfying for the work that went into it. I am much more likely to recommend the webseries then the play, even if I did like the play. Or, putting it another way, I’m not that excited at the idea of reading more Oscar Wilde, but I did pledge some money to support REX, the next project of the creators of In Earnest, and encourage everyone reading this to do the same.