The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), which ran for eighty-six performances to popular and critical acclaim. With its brilliant wordplay (including extensive use of paradoxes and epigrams) and its farcical plot (which includes such stock devices as intercepted letters and mistaken identities), the play embodies a perfect fantasy world that has little relation to life as it is really lived. Describing his overall aim in the play, Wilde explained that he wished to treat all the trivial things of life seriously and the serious things with a studied triviality.

Aubrey, Bryan. “Oscar Wilde.” Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia, Sept. 2022.


See Algernon Moncrieff 

Lady Augusta Bracknell 

Lady Bracknell is the aunt of Algernon, she opposes Jack's marriage to her daughter Gwendolen. She wants Algernon to marry the very wealthy Cecily, but that match cannot take place without Jack's permission, which he refuses to give unless Lady Bracknell approves his marriage with Gwendolen. Overall, she is realistic, hard-nosed, and an upholder of convention-though not entirely conventional. 

Cecily Cardew 

Jack's pretty, young ward, whom Algernon woos but who remains determined to marry a man named Earnest. Not quite as naive as she may appear, Cecily keeps a diary, which "is simply a very young girl's record of her own thoughts and impressions and consequently meant for publication." Tutored by Miss Prism, Cecily fails to attend to her studies.

Canon Frederick Chasuble 

Canon Chasuble is the rather foolish, pedantic Rector attracted to Miss Prism. Both Jack and Algernon ask Chasuble to christen them Earnest, though no christening actually takes place. As Cecily says, “He has never written a single book, so you can imagine how much he knows.” 


See John Worthing 

Gwendolen Fairfax 

Algernon's cousin, with whom Jack--as Earnest--is in love and to whom he proposes marriage. She accepts, believing him to be Algy's friend Earnest. As she explains to Jack, her "ideal has always been to love someone of the name Earnest. Her mother, Lady Augusta Bracknell, initially forbids their marriage, because while Jack seems an otherwise eligible bachelor, he cannot identify his parents, as he was found abandoned in a handbag.


The self-deprecating butler who serves Algernon in his London residence. 


The servant at Jack's country manor house in Hertfordshire. 

Algernon Moncrieff 

Jack (Earnest) Worthing's friend, Lady Bracknell's nephew, and Gwendolen's cousin. In order to free himself from unwanted social and family responsibilities, Algy has invented an invalid friend, Bunbury, whose ailing health frequently and conveniently requires Algernon's attention, enabling him to skip dinners with boring guests and tiresome relatives. 

Ostentatiously cynical and constantly hungry, Algernon visits Jack's ward, Cecily Cardew. He falls in love with her and proposes matrimony. Jack refuses his permission for Algernon to marry Cecily unless Lady Bracknell gives her permission for Jack to marry Gwendolen.

Miss Laetitia Prism 

Cecily's absent-minded governess is wooed by Chasuble. 

John Worthing 

John "Jack" Worthing (Earnest) begins the play of unknown parentage, an orphaned infant found in a handbag in a cloakroom at London's Victoria Station. Discovered and raised by Thomas Cardew, Jack becomes the guardian of Cardew's granddaughter, Cecily. Though he calls himself Jack in the country, he identifies himself as Earnest when in the city. 

This list of characters has been adapted from "The Importance of Being Earnest," Drama for Students, vol. 4, 1998, pp. 140-41.