The Importance of Being Earnest
How we cite our quotes:
Cecily: Mr. Moncrieff, kindly answer me the following question. Why did you pretend to be my guardian's brother?
Algernon: In order that I might have an opportunity of meeting you.
Cecily: [To Gwendolen] That certainly seems a satisfactory explanation, does it not? (III.14-16)
To modern eyes, Algernon’s professed love is insincere because he could not possibly have loved Cecily before he met her. But his answer to Cecily’s question is simple, elegant, and appeals to her romantic nature, so it is accepted as a definitive declaration of true love.
Gwendolen: Mr. Worthing, what explanation can you offer to me for pretending to have a brother? Was it in order that you might have an opportunity of coming up to town to see me as often as possible?
Jack: Can you doubt it, Miss Fairfax? (III.19-20)
Jack’s professed love for Gwendolen is a little more believable. He had actually met Gwendolen before making up his younger brother, Ernest. Where he conjured up a fictional Ernest to see her as often as possible, she deliberately disobeyed her mother and traveled all the way out into the country to see him.
Jack: But my dear Lady Bracknell, the matter is entirely in your own hands. The moment you consent to my marriage with Gwendolen, I will most gladly allow your nephew to form an alliance with my ward.
Lady Bracknell: [Rising and drawing herself up] You must be quite aware that what you propose is out of the question.
Jack: Then a passionate celibacy is all that any of us can look forward to. (III.105-107)
The fact that Lady Bracknell promptly passes up such a worthy candidate as Cecily – rich, beautiful, educated, and charming – as a wife for Algernon, simply because she doesn’t want her daughter to marry Jack, shows that Lady Bracknell scoffs at love as a legitimate reason for marriage.