Humor Tầm quan trọng của sự nghiêm túc - Oscar Wilde

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    A Trivial Comedy for Serious People


    by Oscar Wilde
    London, UK, 1894​

    The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James's Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae to escape burdensome social obligations. Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play's major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways. Some contemporary reviews praised the play's humour and the culmination of Wilde's artistic career, while others were cautious about its lack of social messages. Its high farce and witty dialogue have helped make The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde's most enduringly popular play.

    The successful opening night marked the climax of Wilde's career but also heralded his downfall. The Marquess of Queensberry, whose son Lord Alfred Douglas was Wilde's lover, planned to present the writer with a bouquet of rotten vegetables and disrupt the show. Wilde was tipped off and Queensberry was refused admission. Their feud came to a climax in court when Wilde sued for libel. The proceedings provided enough evidence for his arrest, trial and conviction on charges of gross indecency. Wilde's homosexuality was revealed to the Victorian public and he was sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour. Despite the play's early success, Wilde's notoriety caused the play to be closed after 86 performances. After his release from prison, he published the play from exile in Paris, but he wrote no more comic or dramatic works.

    The Importance of Being Earnest has been revived many times since its premiere. It has been adapted for the cinema on three occasions. In The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), Dame Edith Evans reprised her celebrated interpretation of Lady Bracknell ; The Importance of Being Earnest (1992) by Kurt Baker used an all-black cast ; and Oliver Parker's The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) incorporated some of Wilde's original material cut during the preparation of the first stage production.

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    The play was written following the success of Wilde's earlier plays Lady Windermere's Fan, An Ideal Husband and A Woman of No Importance. He spent the summer of 1894 with his family at Worthing, where he began work on the new play. His fame now at its peak, he used the working title Lady Lancing to avoid preemptive speculation about its content. Many names and ideas in the play were borrowed from people or places the author had known ; Lady Queensberry, Lord Alfred Douglas's mother, for example, lived at Bracknell. Wilde scholars agree the most important influence on the play was W. S. Gilbert's 1877 farce Engaged, from which Wilde borrowed not only several incidents but also "the gravity of tone demanded by Gilbert of his actors".

    Wilde continually revised the text over the next months. No line was left untouched and the revision had significant consequences. Sos Eltis describes Wilde's revisions as refined art at work. The earliest and longest handwritten drafts of the play labour over farcical incidents, broad puns, nonsense dialogue and conventional comic turns. In revising, "Wilde transformed standard nonsense into the more systemic and disconcerting illogicality which characterises Earnest's dialogue". Richard Ellmann argues Wilde had reached his artistic maturity and wrote more surely and rapidly.

    Wilde wrote the part of Jack Worthing with the actor-manager Charles Wyndham in mind. Wilde shared Bernard Shaw's view that Wyndham was the ideal comedy actor, and based the character on his stage persona. Wyndham accepted the play for production at his theatre, but before rehearsals began he changed his plans, to help a colleague in a sudden crisis. In early 1895, at the St James's Theatre, the actor-manager George Alexander's production of Henry James's Guy Domville failed, and closed after 31 performances, leaving Alexander in urgent need of a new play to follow it. Wyndham waived his contractual rights and allowed Alexander to stage Wilde's play.

    After working with Wilde on stage movements with a toy theatre, Alexander asked the author to shorten the play from four acts to three. Wilde agreed and combined elements of the second and third acts. The largest cut was the removal of the character of Mr. Gribsby, a solicitor who comes from London to arrest the profligate "Ernest" (i.e., Jack) for unpaid dining bills. The four-act version was first played on a BBC radio production and is still sometimes performed. Some consider the three-act structure more effective and theatrically resonant than the expanded published edition.

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