Is the Importance of Being Earnest a Satirical Play?
‘It’s tone is that of satire, but of a satire which, for lack of a moral point of view, has lost its sting’ (Edouard Roditi)
To what extent do you agree with this response to the play?
By Molly Campbell
With the definition of a satire being, ‘the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity’, it is ludicrous to even propose that The Importance of Being Earnest is anything other than a satirical play, as the characters relishing in the upper class of the Victorian period unknowingly mock their own habits acquired to them due to the luxury they are spoilt with. Despite this, it is evident that the use of satire is feckless and lacks a moral point of view, in contrast with the moral
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The fact the Importance of Being Earnest consists of 3 acts implies a significant beginning, middle and ending where previous feuds have been resolved and each character is content. If we are to consider the drama as conforming to a ‘traditional’ Victorian play which ‘tended to be of an improving nature with a central moral lesson at heart’, what is evidently untraditional of The Importance of Being Earnest is the rewarding of characters that have committed wrong doings –supporting Edouard Roditi’s interpretation that the drama ‘lacks a moral point of view’. If we analogize The Importance of Being Earnest with An Ideal Husband, we note the significance of the final act of An Ideal Husband in delivering the moral that that the principles of Mabel and Goring’s relationship demand that they defy society and revolt against what is traditionally expected of a marriage in order to achieve happiness, a final act which The Importance of Being Earnest lacks. Accordingly, it was perhaps Wilde’s intention to ensure that The Importance of Being Earnest was unique by refusing to incorporate morality in order to suggest that