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Act II Earnest Discussion.

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1 Act II Earnest Discussion

2 Act II What does Cecily mean when she describes her Uncle Jack as being “very serious”? How does her definition of seriousness differ from Miss Prism? In what ways might their ages affect their views on the subject? In Act I, Jack says, “Cecily is not a silly, romantic girl.” Do you think his description is accurate? Why or why not? What can you infer about Miss Prism when she corrects Dr. Chasuble upon being called “Egeria” and reminds him that her name is Laetitia? What new perspectives do Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble bring to the play?

3 Act II 4. Compare and contrast Miss Prism and Lady Bracknell. What factors have shaped their values? 5. What is Miss Prism referring to when she says, “I have often spoken to the poorer classes on the subject [christenings]. But they don’t seem to know what thrift is”? What does her comment reveal about her attitudes toward the lower class? 6. What is the significance of a christening? Why are people often christened at birth?

4 Act II 7. Respond to Jack’s comment about him being overdressed, Algernon says, “If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.” Algernon’s character might be described as a “dandy” – a person for whom appearance is of the upmost importance. How does Algernon’s comment reflect Wilde’s views on aesthetics? 8. In what ways is Cecily’s personality different from Gwendolen’s? 9. Why does Cecily say she was engaged to “Ernest” (Algernon) before she ever met him in person?

5 Act II 10. What is humorous about Algernon’s line “Half of the chaps who get into the Bankruptcy Court are called Algernon”? 11. Why do Gwendolen and Cecily want to marry an “Ernest”? 12. What is Wilde’s view towards formal education? What is the purpose of a diary for young women during this time? Why do Cecily and Gwendolen keep one? How does Gwendolen’s assessment of her father’s status within his family stand in contrast to conventional Victorian notions of gender?

6 Act II How does the scene between Cecily and Gwendolen exemplify the Comedy of Manners genre? After Jack and Algernon’s lies are revealed, how does Wilde use triviality to keep the play from becoming too “serious”? Is it completely absurd for Jack and Algernon to change their names to Ernest in order for Gwendolen and Cecily to marry them? Can you think of other changes (i.e. religion, occupation, residence) individuals living in contemporary society might make to be a suitable mate for their intended partner?

7 Act II 18. Give five examples of Wilde’s wit, comedy and/or satire in this act. How does this further his satirical purpose? 19. A subtle sub-theme of the play is readers, publishers, fiction, and censorship. What points by implication is Wilde making about contemporary literature? 20. What role does food have within the play? (Notice how Jack and Algy are eating muffins at key points – and then those pesky cucumber sandwiches in Act I…)

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