The Importance of Being Earnest
How we cite our quotes:
Algernon: I really don't see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe. Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. (I.39)
To Algernon, a key ingredient in love is uncertainty. This is why he considers a marriage proposal business instead of pleasure.
Gwendolen: … my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you. (I.141)
Gwendolen’s love is conditional, based on something silly like what her lover’s name is. She makes it clear that if his name were not Ernest, she could never love Jack. This shows that she is might be mixing up real love, which is often messy, with the idealistic romances of books.
Gwendolen: Ernest, we may never be married. From the expression on mamma's face I fear we never shall. [….] But although she may prevent us from becoming man and wife, and I may marry some one else, and marry often, nothing that she can possibly do can alter my eternal devotion to you. (I.270)
Here, Gwendolen declares her eternal love of and devotion to Ernest. Usually, it is a male character who swears his love to a girl, but in a moment of gender role reversal, Gwendolen takes on task.