Oscar Wilde (Britain, 1854)
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1891) +
"The Importance of Being Ernest" (1895) [t] ++ is a satirical comedy that exposes the triviality of high society, the greed and hypocrisy that hide behind its moral values and conventions, the stupidity of romantic girls and the stupidity of the libertine boys who fall in love with them.
Gwen shows up with her haughty and hostile mother, who is currently jealous of a female friend left a widow by the sudden death of her husband and therefore looking 20 years younger. Left alone with the girl, Ernest proposes to Gwen and she enthusiastically accepts (it's more like she proposes to him) except that she declares to be mainly in love with his name, Ernest...
When she returns, Gwen's mother is not amused at all. She grills Ernest and, upon learning that he was found in a handbag in a train station and adopted by a wealthy benefactor (Cecily's grandfather), refuses her consent to the marriage despite the fact that he qualifies in many other respects (he smokes and he is utterly ignorant, to her delight). When the ladies leave, a dazzled Ernest decides it is time to kill Jack.
In Ernest/Jack's country home Cecily is lonely and dreamy, writing everything in her diary and being tutored by a romantic middle-aged spinster, miss Prism. Algie, having found out the address of Ernest's country home, shows up pretending to be uncle Jack's brother, the wicked Ernest whom Cecily has never met. It turns out that Cecily has always been in love with this mysterious and wicked character and is easily seduced by Algie, and Algie is totally fascinated by the young and silly girl. Meanwhile the tutor flirts with the rector. Alas, Algie's friend Earnest/Jack shows up dressed in black to announce that his wicked brother Earnest has died of a disease and he asks the rector to rechristen him Earnest in his honor. Just then Cecily walks in to announce that the wicked brother is not only alive but visiting them. Algie pretending to be Earnest in Jack's country home and uncle Jack the one who pretends to be Earnest in Algie's city home confront each other. Jack is outraged at Algie scheming to seduce his innocent Cecily but Algie swears that he is ready to reform himself and marry the girl. Uncle Jack tells Algie to leave immediately, but Algie has time to propose to Cecily in secret, a fact that Cecily dutifully writes down in her diary. She confesses that they were engaged in her dreams months earlier and she even produces the love letters that she wrote to herself signed by him. However, Cecily too reveals that she is mainly in love with his name, Ernest... Now Algie too wants the rector to rechristen him Ernest.
Gwen arrives, determined to continue her love affair with the man she knows as Ernest and Cecily knows as uncle Jack. Cecily is alone at home and the two girls start chatting, initially very sisterly, but they soon realize that they are both engaged with "Ernest". They exchange diaries to prove that each is the one who has received the marriage proposal from "Ernest". They are beginning to trade polite insults when the two men walk in and the girls realize that they are calling "Ernest" two different men. Jack is forced to confess to Gwen that his real name is not Ernest, and Algie is forced to confess to Cecily that his real name is not Ernest, but both pledge to change their names to Ernest as soon as the rector is ready. The girls gladly forgive them for their lies and look forward to be re-engaged to their respective Ernests.
Gwen's mother arrives and gets angry as usual, not only at her own daughter but now also at her nephew Algie who wants to get married to Cecily. Her attitude changes dramatically when Jack mentions she is the heiress to a huge fortune. Suddenly she's all in favor of the marriage: Algie only has debts. Jack seizes the opportunity to blackmail her: he is Cecily's guardian and will give his approval only if he is allowed to marry Gwen. Gwen and her mom are about to walk out when the spinster returns and Gwen's mom recognizes her as the governess who disappeared with the baby of her sister. The spinster confesses that she lost the baby in a train station. It is soon proven that Jack is that very baby, i.e. Gwen's cousin. And his name was... Ernest. Now they can all get married.
"Lady Windermere's Fan" (1892) [t]+
"A Woman of no Importance" (1893) [t]+
"The Ideal Husband" (1894) [t]+
"Salome`" (1894) [t]
"The Ballad of Reading Gaol" (1898) [p]