The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

earnest

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
First Performed on February 14, 1895
Classic/Play/Comedy
Format: audiobook (table reading); 1 hour 46 minutes
Also By This Author: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack’s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack’s country home on the same weekend, the “rivals” to fight for Ernest’s undivided attention and the “Ernests” to claim their beloveds, pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

Thoughts

One of my favorite book synopses ever belongs to The Importance of Being Earnest: “A trivial comedy for serious people.” It just fits it so perfectly! I decided to read this book last month because I wanted a short classic and I had never read anything by Oscar Wilde before. I was very pleasantly surprised. The Importance of Being Earnest isn’t a deep story that will leave you pondering over the dialogue for days, but it is fun and very enjoyable. I laughed out loud and even gasped a few times while listening to an audio recording of this book. Wilde’s writing is witty and his characters are entertaining. And if you need another reason to read/listen to/watch this story, today is the 120th anniversary of its first performance!

Yes, The Importance of Being Earnest premiered on Valentine’s Day in 1895. So if you still need date night or hang out plans for later, you can watch one of the film adaptations or, if you’re lucky, find theater tickets for a local performance. It’s sure to be a fun evening whether you spend it with friends or a special someone :)

Read This Book If…

…you love trivial comedies! (and you’re a serious person)
…you enjoy witty banter, puns and pranks, and clever disguises.
…you’re looking for a short read that can be enjoyed in one sitting.
…you like Classics or would like to “ease” your way into the genre.

Final Musings

I listened to a table recording of The Importance of Being Earnest during my commute to work and back one day. It’s a very quick read but it’s fun and uplifting. The production of this particular recording did a very superb job, actually. They had four different actors who also read the stage directions to make up for the fact that it wasn’t a staged performance. Here’s the link to the YouTube video, but there are also taped performances online to watch as well!

And, of course, there’s the movie adaptation featuring Colin Firth, Rupert Everett, Francis O’Conner, and Reese Witherspoon.

Earnest

Earnest:)

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Shakespeare in the Spring: Much Ado About Nothing

07. Craft, Kinuko Y. - Much Ado About NothingMuch Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
First Performed in 1599
Classic/Play
Format: e-book; 116 pages
Also From This Author: Romeo and JulietHamletMacbeth
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 5/5

Firstly, Happy Birthday William Shakespeare! I’m a few hours late but not by U.S. time ;)

I thought an appropriate way to celebrate would be to gush about how much I enjoyed Much Ado About Nothing, which I read for the first time last week :) After reading and posting about Macbeth, it was nice to dive into something much more light-hearted and uplifting.

Like several of Shakespeare’s comedies, Much Ado follows the trials and tribulations of two couples; Claudio and Hero, the sweet-tempered ones, and Benedick and Beatrice, the witty ones who always seem to be at odds with each other. Although there is one main conflict that seemed rather malicious, we automatically know that since it’s a comedy, we have no need to fear any worse case scenarios. Spoiler alert: there’s a happy ending.

The things I enjoyed the most about this play were Shakespeare’s quippy one-liners, of course, but also the characters, who very much reveled in teasing and playfully tricking one another. One of my favorite scenes was Act II Scene III, when Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato, knowing that Benedick is hiding nearby, create this elaborate lie that Beatrice is in love with him. Immediately afterwards, Hero, Margaret, and Ursula discuss the same lie while Beatrice is eavesdropping, and by the middle of the third act, our two witty rivals are smitten.

“Therefore let Benedick, like covered fire,
Consume away in sighs, waste inwardly.
It were a better death than die with mocks,
Which is as bad as die with tickling.” Hero, Act III scene I
( I just loved the death by tickling line!)

There were several smile-inducing moments for me in Much Ado About Nothing. I’m a sucker for those Pride and Prejudice type romances, and I couldn’t find any flaws in Benedick and Beatrice as their relationship went from bitter rivals to loyal lovers. In other Shakespearean comedies, I feel that the romantic relationships are shallow; Benedick and Beatrice’s love felt much more plausible and long-lasting to me.

muchadofilmJoss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

I had been eagerly wanting to watch this recent film adaptation by Joss Whedon since it’s release in 2012, but of course I wanted to actually read the play first. The film itself is word-for-word Shakespearean dialogue so if you haven’t read Much Ado or you aren’t very familiar with the Shakespearean tongue, you may have some difficulties in following along. BUT, many of the actors do a phenomenal job of reeling you in, even if you don’t know what the heck is going on.

For starters, Nathan Fillion (from Firefly and Castle), plays the moronic Dogberry (essentially a detective/sheriff who thinks too highly of himself despite the fact that half the time he doesn’t even know what he’s saying) and he had me laughing out loud so often, especially during this little coat mix-up scene:

dogberrygif

Love the T-Rex arm!

He did a great job at portraying the pure ridiculousness of his character.

Another scene that really moved me was the almost-wedding scene, when Claudio outs Hero in front of all the guests as being unfaithful. All of the actors were very convincing, and I felt more saddened by that scene after watching the film than I had from simply reading the play.

Also, after finishing the movie I began listening to this song from the soundtrack on loop. The lyrics are all Shakespeare, but the tune is catchy and fun to sing along to :)

I haven’t seen Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 version of Much Ado About Nothing, but it is on my to be watched list. It features Emma Thompson so I have no doubt that I’ll enjoy it.

There you have it! Hope this post encouraged you to read Much Ado About Nothing! And if you have already read it, what did you most enjoy?

Shakespeare in the Spring: Macbeth

macbethMacbeth by William Shakespeare
First Performed in April 1611
Classic/Play
Format: e-book; 132 pages
Also From This Author: Romeo and JulietHamletMuch Ado About Nothing
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 3/5

If I could have, I would have avoided making my first “Shakespeare in the Spring” post about Macbeth, but I read it back in October (it’s perfect Halloween reading) and I never got around to writing my post about it.

So, why the avoidance?

I adore Shakespeare. I love quoting him, I love watching film adaptations of his plays, and I love talking about his works with bookworms and non-bookworms alike. However, there is one thing about Shakespeare that I don’t like: I do not like his Scottish Play, Macbeth.

Shakespeare’s tragedies are my favorites. In 8th grade we read both As You Like It and Hamlet. I did like As You Like It (we even took a field trip to see the play–my first!), but when we started Hamlet I fell in love. It had everything a “wanna-be gothic” pre-teenage girl could want to read (yes, embarrassingly enough, that is how I classify that epoque of my life). And since then, I have greatly admired Shakespeare’s tragedies. I love reading them and experiencing them all over again, except for Macbeth.

I’ve read Macbeth twice now and both times I’ve been unhappy about it. It’s not because of Shakespeare’s writing (his words and themes I actually did like), but I think it’s because of Macbeth and even more so, Lady Macbeth. Let me compare these two characters to another Shakespearean tragic hero: Hamlet. Despite the indecisive masochistic behavior of Hamlet, I still root for him. Even though his identity as a tragic hero means he’s doomed, I still want good things for him. I cannot say the same for Macbeth and his wife. I really wanted them to die the whole time. Well, maybe not Macbeth, but definitely his wife.

It’s wonderful that Shakespeare created such a strong and dominate female lead. I really did appreciate that she broke the model for a traditional female character. She was actually more of a male figure than Macbeth: she’s strong-willed, ambitious, and violent. However, I really viewed Lady Macbeth as more of a disease; after Macbeth hears from the weird sisters that he will be king, his wife immediately begins feeding him poisonous thoughts about power and it is she who provides Macbeth with the plot to kill King Duncan. Macbeth is barely able to summon enough “courage” (if you can call it courageous to kill your friend and king) to commit the murder, and it is Lady Macbeth who guiltlessly adds the finishing touches needed to successfully frame two of the king’s men.

This murder and great conflict occurs early on in the play in Act II, and in the remaining three acts we witness how the deepening guilt destroys Macbeth and his wife. For those who have read Macbeth, you know there are plenty of memorable themes going on. Obviously, don’t murder someone in order to take their place! The guilt will literally be the end of you. Hamlet taught that to us as well. I think my favorite theme from Macbeth, however, was that not everything is as it seems, or as Macbeth so eloquently puts it, “fair is foul, foul is fair.” What seems like a fortuitous future may actually bring us nothing but regret and guilt, our friends could end up being our enemies, and even those characters who would appear angelic and hospitable (such as Lady Macbeth) could actually be the most ruthless of them all.

I know that Macbeth  is one of Shakespeare’s most admired plays, and I understand why, but I have a question for those of you who love it: what do you find most enjoyable about it? Like I said, I’ve read it twice already and I don’t anticipate ever reading it again, but if anyone wants to take on the challenge of changing my mind about it, please try!