A Close Reading of Cecily Cardew

A/N: A Close Reading of the character of Cecily Cardew in Ocar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest. If anyone is interested in reading the play, it can be found online for free.


The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde is a humorously satirical play that premièred in 1895 at the St. James’ Theatre in London. With its witty dialogue and high farce it is as humorous today as it was at the time of the première, where the critical reception was positive, and the production was considered hugely successful. The actor who played the part of Algernon Moncrieff stated that “I never remembered a greater triumph, the audience rose to their seats and cheered and cheered again” (Moss).

The selected production for the extract chosen for this close reading is a videotaped recording from February 14, 2013, directed by Chris Kauffman Gettysburg and played by the Gettysburg College’s The Owl and Nightingale Players.

The Importance of Being Earnest is about two friends, who both live deceitful lives. Algernon Moncrieff has invented a friend, whom he uses as an excuse whenever he wants to get out of an unwanted social event, while his friend Jack Worthing has invented an entire new persona; his wicked brother Earnest. This is done so he can live a less than perfectly moral life, while at the same time appear morally correct to his ward, the young ms. Cecily Cardew, which, however, gets the opposite effect as she fancies herself in love with Earnest through Jack’s stories about his wicked brother.

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