Quotable: Oscar Wilde

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

                                         Oscar Wilde
                                         Irish dramatist and poet
                                         From The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People (Act 1)

My husband says I’m becoming more and more like my mom.  He doesn’t always mean it as a compliment, but I still respond “thank you” because I’ve realized that I’ve inherited more positive qualities than negative. She’s shown me the importance of developing a wide variety of interests and friendships and to make family a priority. 

How about you? How are YOU like your mom?


About the Play
This three-act play, set in mid-1890s Victorian-era London, revolves around the antics of Algernon Moncrieff and John “Jack” Worthing, two aristocrat bachelors—one who lives in the city and one who lives in the country–who are eager to marry. Both have a secret identity they’ve created as an excuse to get out of family obligations. 

Algernon refers to it as “bunburying.” He created Bunbury, an aging invalid who lives in the country and requires his attention. Algernon visits Bunbury whenever he wants to get out of a family dinner or commitment in the city.  Jack, who lives in the country, created a younger brother named Ernest, who lives in the city and is always getting into trouble. Jack visits Ernest whenever he wants a break from his country life responsibilities. In a series of comical discussions that occur between the two men, the women they hope to marry, and Algernon’s wealthy aunt, Lady Bracknell, the fictional identities are revealed. 

Algernon makes the “All women become like their mothers” comment in response to Jack’s question: “You don’t think there is any chance of Gwendolen becoming like her mother in about a hundred and fifty years, do you?”  (He’d also referred to Lady Bracknell as “perfectly unbearable” “a Gorgon” and “a monster.”) Their discussion occurs just after Lady Bracknell had peppered Jack with questions about his age, income, home, family, and politics.

The play premiered on Valentine’s Day, 1895.  It opened to great reviews but closed after 86 performances and is known as both the climax of Wilde’s career and the beginning of his downfall. It’s a witty, satirical look at the Victorian-era social customs and attitudes about love and marriage. It’s fun to read and even better to listen to; the movie’s in my queue.

Read it here. Listen to it here. Read about the movies here (1952) and here (2002).

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