The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
The Importance of Being Earnest Foolishness and Folly Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Act.Line). Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue.
Jack: May I ask you then what you would advise me to do? I need hardly say I would do anything in the world to ensure Gwendolen's happiness.
Lady Bracknell: I would strongly advise you, Mr. Worthing, to try and acquire some relations as soon as possible, and to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one parent, of either sex, before the season is quite over. (I.215-216)
The comedic timing for this line is brilliant. After coming off an emotional roller-coaster ride that ends in a broken heart, Jack is told that the only thing he may do to improve his position is to "produce at any rate one parent, of either sex, before the season is quite over." As an orphan, it's impossible for Jack to find his parents. Secondly, think about the use of the word "produce"; when referring to people, we think of reproduction as having kids. Thus, this line is contradictory both in its use of "produce" and, by making Jack’s parentage seem like a choice.
Algernon: Well, I don't like your clothes. You look perfectly ridiculous in them. Why on earth don't you go up and change? It is perfectly childish to be in deep mourning for a man who is actually staying for a whole week with you in your house as a guest. I call it grotesque. (II.175)
Algernon’s comments on Jack’s clothes are foolish (but funny) because Jack says they’re hideous and inappropriate for this occasion of happiness. But it is actually Algernon whose arrival foiled Jack’s plan, and make his mourning clothes look "perfectly ridiculous."
Jack: How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can't make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.
Algernon: Well, I can't eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.
Jack: I say it's perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.
Algernon: When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins. [Rising]
Jack: [Rising] Well, that is no reason why you should eat them all in that greedy way. [Takes muffins from Algernon.]
Algernon: [Offering tea-cake] I wish you would have tea-cake instead. I don't like tea-cake. (II.373-378)
This passage is as close to slap-stick comedy as Wilde gets. First of all, it’s hilarious that the men to be fight over muffins when the loves of their lives have just left them. Plus, it’s just silly for grown men to be grabbing muffins from each other; they’re acting like children.