This paper is based on critical analysis of two plays; one is “The Importance of Being Earnest” written by a renowned playwright, Oscar Wilde and the other being “The Zoo Story” authored by Edward Albee.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
What makes The Importance of Being Earnest, unlike the three Wilde comedies that preceded it, a masterpiece of the theater rather than merely an eminently stageable play? The plot of The Importance of Being Earnest hinges on mistaken identity, as many plots do, though not many do so to such comic effect (Ganz, 45). What is funny about the play is that the audience realizes that the characters could easily be someone quite other than who they seem (Paglia, 67). It is no wonder that audiences continue to love the play: Its humor is intoxicating, its critique of society breathtaking. The elevation of style over substance, of words over reality, of earnestness over honesty of feeling, exposes the tendency toward triviality and pomposity in high society.
The play's characters too let truths slip out while pretending to be engaged in social chitchat. They are adroit at saying and doing two opposing things at once, and they are virtuosic in their use of language. Nearly all the humor in the play depends on these devices (Ganz, 46).
At times, it is not quite clear that characters actually did intend to imply another, usually hidden (because socially dangerous) meaning, and then they can appear quite unconscious and even inept. This shimmer between intention and its opposite is constant throughout the play, making the play a parade of cognitive dissonance. Reading or watching the play is to observe the unconscious of the society of Wilde's day (Paglia, 68).
Similarly, the emotional developments, reversals, intrigues, and deceptions that were threatening in Wilde's other comedies are harmless in The Importance of Being Earnest, chiefly because the play is not about established relationships. It does not present married people with domestic differences; former lovers who should have married but failed to do so; present lovers already yoked to other people; parents, who through love, guilt, selfishness, or honor, influence the behavior of their children; or children who similarly manipulate their parents (Paglia, 69).
With this array of singularly unfettered characters, The Importance of Being Earnest is not about domestic complications but about the act of committing oneself to domesticity. The social comedy of the play parallels the movement ...