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Oscar Wildes The Importance of Being Earnest and the well-made play.

Before we start to analyze Oscar Wilde s play from the point of discourse analysis, characters, symbolism, and most importantly the centre of our topic; the elements which define or not The Importance of Being Earnest as a well-made play, it is very important to remind ourselves what a well-made play is: ,, The well-made play relies for effect on the suspense generated by its logical, cleverly constructed plot, rather than on characterization, psychological accuracy or social themes. 1 The well-made play originally appeared in the 19th century in France, was also known as ,,pice bien faite 2 and had a clear structure as it follows ,,EXPOSITION DEVELOPMENT DISCOVERY CRISIS DENOUMENT,,3 The plays are made up with only four scenes, and props become important in detailed realism., it has a plot and a climax which often occur almost at the end ,with most of the story taking place before the action of the play. A characteristic mean of the well-made play in which all the events are put in motion is the letter or a paper which falls in the wrong hands, but they also have the power to restore balance and order. Also a characteristic of the well-made plays is the fact that they are openended. Based upon this short revision of the well-made play elements , we will try to see if Oscar Wilde s play fulfills this aspects. Written in the most prolific period of Wilde s career, The importance of Being Earnest comes as an experiment in the Victorian melodrama, the sentimental comedy which is a derivation of the original French well-made play. Constructed as a mix of genres: part satire, part comedy of manners, and part intellectual farce, the so called well-made play takes a different form entirely. Even before the play was performed for the first time at the request of Sir George Alexander, the actor-manager of St. James's Theatre the four act play was shortened to a three acts play, which modifies one of the characteristics of the wellmade play and that is a four act play. If we look further we can see that this is not only a comedy but actually a mirror of Wilde s society, a society characterized by hypocrisy. A society where everything is based on rules, rules that most of them don t understand them, and they take them for granted, without taking in consideration that the times are
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Ioana Mohor-Ivan Realism/Naturalism and the British Stage p1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well-made_play 3 Ioana Mohor-Ivan Realism/Naturalism and the British Stage p1
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changing and society reshapes itself, society is evolving while others tend to hold on to the past. On the other hand, The Importance of Being Earnest has the ingredients of a well- made play: the missing paper, the hero who has unknown origin, which is discovered only at the end of the play, the final discoveries which have the role to clarify the entire situation. Even though it doesn t have all the elements of a well-made play, and it has some deviations from the main specie, the play holds the key elements, and it imposes itself through originality , through specificity of thinking, the perspective of showing the life, and the means of repairing the societies habits and hypocrisy.