Mr. DanielsName ______

British Literature

Study Guide Questions – (Taken from Literature Book)

The Importance of Being Earnest


  1. How does the opening scene between Lane and Algernon set up some of the major themes of the play? What, if anything, does the setting contribute to the subsequent action?
  1. How does Algernon contrive to separate Lady Bracknell from the lovers?
  1. Why does Lady Bracknell disapprove of Jack as Gwendolen’s suitor?
  1. What does Algernon learn from the inscription in Jack’s cigarette case?
  1. What does Jack plan to do about his fictitious brother, Ernest?
  1. How does Algernon learn Jack’s address in the country?
  1. Explain the double lives led by Jack and Algernon. Where and to whom is Jack known as “Ernest”?
  1. What does Algernon mean when he says to Jack: “I have always suspected you of being a

confirmed and secret Bunburyist”?

9. What evidence do we have that Lady Bracknell does not approve of Jack’s presence?

10. What are Lady Bracknell’s requirements for a proper suitor for Gwendolen?

11. The comic wit of Wilde’s writing often depends upon a character’s directly contradicting what

we normally assume to be logical or true. We can see an example of this in Algernon’s

comment that “the amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly

scandalous.” Find 2 other examples of this.

Mr. DanielsName ______

British Literature Date ______

Study Guide Questions – ACT II

The Importance of Being Earnest


  1. Why does Wilde begin Act II with a conversation between Cecily and Miss Prism? How would you characterize the two women, and how do they differ from the characters we’ve already met?
  1. How would you characterize Canon Chasuble and his relationship with Miss Prism? Why does Wilde include them at this point in the play?
  1. What does Miss Prism say happened to her manuscript?
  1. According to Cecily, what are Uncle Jack’s plans for his brother?
  1. When Jack arrives in mourning clothes, what account does he give of his brother’s end?
  1. What attracts Cecily to Jack’s brother Ernest before she meets him?
  1. Why do both Jack and Algernon wish to be christened?
  1. How do Gwendolen and Cecily respond to each other when they first meet in this act?

How do their feelings about each other change as the act progresses?

  1. The comedy of mistaken identity is a very old dramatic form – as old, in fact, as comedy itself – which Wilde manages to revitalize in The Importance of Being Earnest. The key mistaken identity in this play, of course, is that of “Ernest” himself. What comic consequences result from Algernon’s assuming the role of Ernest Worthing?
  1. Compare and contrast the tea scene and the muffin scene. Do you think this is an effective way to end Act II?

Mr. DanielsName ______

British Literature Date ______

Study Guide Questions – ACT III

The Importance of Being Earnest

  1. How does the beginning of Act III set up the events of the last act?
  1. What does Algernon claim has happened to his friend Bunbury?
  1. At what point does Lady Bracknell consent to the engagement of Cecily and Algernon?
  1. What condition does Jack make for permitting Cecily to marry?
  1. What mystery is cleared up by Miss Prism?
  1. How is Jack related to Algernon?
  1. Retell in your own words the story Miss Prism tells when she is recognized and questioned by Lady Bracknell.
  1. A recognition scene is a scene near the end of a play when characters who have previously had mistaken roles finally discover or reveal their true identities. Describe the recognition scene in The Importance of Being Earnest.

In how many senses is John Worthing’s discovery of his real identity ironic?

  1. Another traditional feature of comedy is the all-inclusive nature of the final resolution, when minor as well as major characters are brought into harmonious relationship. How is this tradition of inclusiveness comically emphasized at the end of The Importance of Being Earnest?

Why is it significant that Reverend Chausable and Miss Prism join the two young couples in openly expressing their love for each other?

What role does Lady Bracknell play in the final resolution?