The Importance of Being Earnest

In the 2002 film adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest, featuring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth the director set the stage of the cigarette scene at what seems to be a social gathering. The written script sets the setting at Algernon’s flat, a single story house or apartment arranged with a table prepared with sandwiches and afternoon tea that Lane has prepared for expected visitors. The written script also stages this scene with piano playing in the background. The movie sets this scene in a party like setting with additional guests whereas the script only has Algernon and Jack in the scene. We don’t see the table that Lane had prepared nor is there a piano playing in the background.

The next notable difference is the inconsistency of the film to follow the script. We first notice this when comparing the very beginning of the written script to the film. In the written script this scene of the cigarette case begins:

Algernon. It isn’t. It is a great truth. It accounts for the extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all over the place. In the second place, I don’t give my consent.

In the film it begins:

Algernon: I certainly cant see you and Gwendolyn getting married
Jack: Why must you say that
Algernon: Well in the first place I haven’t given my consent

When the discussion of the cigarette case comes into question, in the film the cigarette case is retrieved by Algernon himself pulling it out of his pocket. On the written script, the cigarette case is handed to Algernon by Lane. As the characters continue to discuss, in the movie they begin to smoke cigarettes from the cigarette case. In particular, Algernon get’s his cigarette lit by a woman sitting next to him on a couch. This is the same as the written script except that Lane appears to be a servant and in the film she appears not be based on her costume. She also is said to enter and leave the stage in the written script and in the film she remains on set.

In the background of the film there are extras, of which all make a reaction when Algernon asks Jack about Cecily, in fact, we can hear all of them chuckle at Jack’s answer.

I think film makers and actors make changes they deem appropriate so that they can successfully convey characterization of characters and to provide more dramatic impact to scenes. Sometimes its necessary to change words here and there or omit them to convince viewers of a character. Perhaps the extras were in this film so that the viewers could also laugh at Jack’s response, while also setting a tone for the scene. In my opinion, I think this excerpt was a fair representation of the written script. It provided a visual for the characters of Jack and Algernon but failed to adequately represent Lane.

The Importance of Being Earnest – A Song for Act III?

The Importance of Being Earnest - Video Cover

The Importance of Being Earnest – Video Cover

In various clips that I watched of the 2002 movie adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, most conformed well to the original dialogue and intent of the playwright.  A key departure occurred in what in the play would have been the opening scene of Act III.

In the play, Gwendolen and Cecily are at the window observing Algernon and Jack (Earnest) eating muffins.  Gwendolen is encouraging Cecily to get their attention but before that can happen, the men notice the women and Gwendolen changes attitudes by stating, “They’re looking at us.  What effrontery!”  Subsequently, Algernon and Jack enter the house whistling a tune and Gwendolen, having previously determined that the women would not be the first to speak, asks Jack a question.

This scene in the play portrays its humor in the repeated, self-contradictory dialogue and the purported muffin eating.  In the film, the action is quite different but it retains, if not amplifies, the spirit of farce and buffoonery that Oscar Wilde intended.

In the film, Algernon and Jack are playing the piano and guitar respectively in the garden and serenading Gwendolen and Cecily as they look out from the balcony.  Accompanying Algernon and Jack are various members of the household staff which is fortuitous for when the women retreat into the house, the staff carries the piano and Algernon sitting on the piano bench continuing to play, into the house so the song may continue unbroken repeating the refrain, “lady come down, lady come down.”

While the film certainly deviates from the play in content at this point, it certainly retains the spirit and adds a dynamic, slapstick-type element with the boisterous physical action of the non-stop music playing and singing while being transported into the house.  As an adaptation playing to a modern audience the film version of this scene provides much more energy and is more engaging to a wider audience than the original script of the play.

I enjoyed watching a few other clips of this movie, as mentioned earlier.  Those that I did watch brought the characters to life in a way different from what I had imagined but no less entertaining.  Now the hope is to find the full version of the movie, first to enjoy and entertain and secondly to continue to observe how the filmmaker’s imagination contrasts to mine.

 

“The Importance of Being Earnest” on Jack and Gwendolyn

The scene of Jack and Gwendolyn is as how I imagined it when reading the written version. They are left alone in a room, simply just the two of them and Jack begins to express his passionate feelings for Gwendolyn. He first seems awkward, just as someone would be when expressing how they feel, at least that’s how I am. Side note, I truly believe that in situations like this, being awkward always makes you feel less pressured to get it done and over with, it sort of makes you feel comfortable in a very weird way.

Back on topic, Jack’s facial expressions show that he is hesitant, he might know how to proceed, but when Gwendolyn finally agrees with his feelings, Jack opens up. Now, he is comfortable and the scene continues with their discussion about his name.

In comparison with the written text and the actual movie scene, obviously the movie can give a little more to the audience. Sure, when we read the text and comprehend, we can pull from our imagination how the scene is portrayed. We are capable of creating this image in order to satisfy our need to visualize what we read. With the written text, focusing on a script, the audience (the reader) gets the actions written out for them. Sometimes they are subtle movements, for example “enter stage left” and other times they are descriptive. With this script and in this scene, we only get three actions. The one I focused on when distinguishing the differences between the written text and the movie is when Gwendolyn is praising the name Ernest. This is just after Jack presents the idea of having another name and the fact that Ernest does not suit him. In the written text, it says that Gwendolyn speaks glibly, which means she should be speaking insincerely and shallow. But in the movie, we can see that Gwendolyn is completely indulging herself into the appraisal of Ernest by showing her affection. She’s kissing him all over the face, touching him, almost throwing him off focus. She is providing evidence to her appraisal.

I think the actors chose to present the characters this way because it might be the only way to present them. Some of the situations and actions that are read are so simple to determine such a common reaction. For example, back to where Gwendolyn expresses how she feels about the name, she is trying to convince Jack that it’s a fantastic name and by doing might be using his weakness against him. And as a result because his weakness might be Gwendolyn, she’ll “throw herself all over him” and continue this wonderful proposal. I think the actions are something anyone would do in an everyday situation.

The Importance of Being Earnest: Cigarette Case

In the film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, the scene regarding the cigarette case differs significantly from that of its portrayal in the original text. For example, the feature eliminates minute and insignificant segments of dialogue, as well as the presence of Lane (Algy’s housekeeper). Although, most noticeably, the scene in the movie unexpectedly takes place in an entirely different setting. This change in atmosphere certainly alters the tone and mood of the particular event.

The movie version depicts the incident at an elaborate socialite gathering. However, in the written version Jack (Earnest) and Algy address the missing cigarette case’s inscription in the privacy of Algernon’s home. This apparent difference between the two adaptations surely serves a purpose.

The deviating choices the director and actors make allows the scene to be more comedic and tantalizing. Placing the conversation in a public setting, with other socialites gathered around them, helps to emphasize the teasing nature of Algy towards Jack, and, in turn, accentuate the humiliation and discomfort he experiences. While Jack’s character, played by Colin Firth, maintains his assertiveness and poise despite the embarrassment, he undoubtably is uncomfortable and eager to conclude Algy’s pestering questions as soon as possible. This causes the scene to unfold with a sense of swiftness and uneasiness. Additionally, this difference also assists in further underlining and illustrating the nature of Algernon’s character, as he is a witty and charming but is also selfish and manipulative.

In contrast, when examining the written text, the reader pictures and experiences a very different environment. The scene in the text is introduced with the following description:

“Morning-room in Algernon’s flat in Half-Moon Street. The room is luxuriously and artistically furnished. The sound of a piano is heard in the adjoining room.”

Accordingly, the reader is prompted to imagine the scene in a quiet private room while Jack is visiting Algy. Because of this, the written version leaves the impression that the two men discuss the misplaced case, along with its intriguing engraving, in a more serious and intimate manner. Jack “Follows Algernon round the room” and “Moves to him,” as he is not restricted or tormented by the sneering laughs and eyes of an audience. This allows him to react more unreserved and unhesitant, as well as demonstrate less self-consciousness. In turn, he is at ease on the sofa across from Algy, able to defend and explain himself without the hinderance of spectators. Subsequently, the scene seems to move more impulsively and naturally, as Jack does not need to concern himself with causing a disturbance or commotion in the company of others.

With this, the incident of the cigarette case in the film adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest  makes distinct divergences from the text. Its dramatic change in setting helps to create a new dynamic to the scene not experienced in the written version. The publicity exaggerates Jack’s humiliation, as well as amplifies Algy’s character. However, in the text, Algernon’s teasing nature and manipulativeness is indrectly implied rather than outwardly demonstrated. As a result, I personally found the movie’s embellished portrayal to be more effectively impressionable, comical and stirring. The dramatization of the feature aids in communicating these elements to the viewer in a pronounced way, whereas the reader must rely on their own comprehension and analysis to identify them.

The Importance of Being Ernest: Jack and Gwendolen

During the scene in which Jack and Gwendolen are left alone without chaperones, many important things are said. Jack proposes, under the name of Ernest, and Gwendolen admits she has loved him since he introduced himself. In the script, the conversation moves rather quickly. This might be because there are no faces to look at or any music playing during the scene, only the reader and his or her imagination. The film clip moves at a much different pace, where the reader is now a viewer and is experiencing the film in real time, just as JAck and Gwendolen are.

The way the two characters say their lines in the film is different than the way I originally read them. The film Gwendolen is much more daydreamy and romantic, whereas the Gwendolen in my head when I was reading the script is a high maintenance, almost bratty socialite. I didn’t see so much as a woman in love, but more of a young woman who has put an image of an ideal man with an ideal upon a man who does not hold up to her expectations.

Jack is somewhat different. I always forget that he is thirty-five, and not the same age as or a couple of years older than Gwendolen. I think it is because of his immature antic of switching names and the Freudian slips he has, especially when he says “christening” instead of “married”. Colin Firth’s face was sort of a wake up call as well, because although very handsome, is a bit old looking and is not the Jack I have in my head. Colin Firth portrayal is a bit more suave than the Jack I imagined while reading. The script sort of makes him sound as if he is bumbling about through life.

The set and actions of the clip is what I imagined it to be, just more colorful because it is something I can see on a screen. The room looked very seperated from where the interrogation scene takes place, almost as if it is happening in a different household.

Overall, the scene from the 2002 film delivers the information the story needs to continue on. Throwing Jack a curveball by having his lady love fawn over the name Ernest, and insult his real name, causing the need for him to keep up the appearance of Ernest.

The Importance of Being Earnest – Singing Scene

In The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, the play does not specifically incorporate a song during the “singing scene”, which is just one way in which the 2002 film adaptation starring Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon and Judi Dench differs from the original play. In Wilde’s play, the passage includes the few lines used, but only has this stage direction:

[Enter JACK followed by ALGERNON. They whistle some dreadful popular air from a British Opera.]

Instead of whistling, the men sing a song titled “Come Down”, which essentially asks the women to come down from their physical position (above the men), and metaphorically, to forgive them and to stop being so aloof. The song occurs in two different settings, but both of them incorporate the physical aspect of coming down. In the first setting, the women stand on a balcony, and the men sing from below them. In the second setting, the women sit reading in the second floor hallway, by the stairs. The men move from their position outdoors to the room below the stairs (with the piano in tow). Thus, not only is the song added to the scene, but the scene occurs in two different settings. The four lines that comprise occur during the song scene are spread across these two settings. While the play indicates no break between these lines, the film director, Oliver Parker, interprets this scene differently. The effect is that this scene has far more comic appeal in the film. Instead of just the men approaching the women, whistling, trying, as they might, to look casual, the two Ernest’s follow Cecily and Gwendolen in order to woo them with a song. Because of this, the men become comic characters in this scene.

image

Gwendolen and Cecily read each other’s diaries in Oliver Parker’s film adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest. Still from the Youtube clip.

The staging and additions in the film scene not only make the men seem more comical, but they also take advantage of the technical capabilities of film. In a stage play, it is difficult or impossible to change settings in the middle of dialogue, but with the portability of the camera, film allows such setting changes without interrupting the flow of the scene. In fact, this particular scene becomes more prolonged. The girls and their aloof friendship lasts much longer in the film than in the play (as shown by an earlier scene where they go horseback riding together, and in this scene, where they are reading the other’s diary), which makes the men seem even more persistent and comical. Parker, as director, takes a short segment of time from the play and expands it in the film in order create comic scenes and situations, as illustrated by the men singing to the girls. Personally, I think that this adaptation is a successful comedy film of the play, and uses funny moments within Wilde’s work in order to expand on the comic nature of the characters and situation.

 

The Importance of being Earnest- Cigarette Case

When reading the text, I was not expecting for Algernon and Jack to be at a party like they were in the clip. I was expecting more of them getting ready for guest to come over and getting the house prepared for Lady Bracknell. The reason I personally did not see the party scene in the text was because the way Algernon was talking with Lane.

Algernon.  And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?

I was expecting Algernon and Jack to be sitting in the house on separate couches talking with one another. Instead they enter this huge party scene and sit on separate couches with women lighting their cigarettes for them.  I think they portrayed it in the movie like this to make it come off more comedic then serious like how I would suggest in the text. Then in the text, Lane brings the cigarette case in. In the movie Algernon pulls the cigarette case out of his jacket. Algernon then proceeds to ask him about the cigarette case as if it was the perfect moment being surrounded by people. Jack sounds annoyed in the clip perfectly, as if he is embarrassed and does not want to talk about it in front of people but just wants Algernon to give him the case and leave it at that. Then while Algernon is accusing him, I see Algernon say something that Jack was suppose to address according to the text. In the text Jack says,

Jack.  [Moving to sofa and kneeling upon it.]  My dear fellow, what on earth is there in that?  Some aunts are tall, some aunts are not tall.  That is a matter that surely an aunt may be allowed to decide for herself.  You seem to think that every aunt should be exactly like your aunt!  That is absurd!  For Heaven’s sake give me back my cigarette case.  [Follows Algernon round the room.]

but in the movie Algernon addresses the size comment and Jack says nothing about it beforehand. Which plays out well for the movie and the setting because it makes Jack seem like he is being ambushed with all these questions to try to make him slip up on a lie. In the text Jack seems like he is more trying to defend himself but in the movie he seems more relaxed and ready to come out with the truth. The last minutes of the clip when Jack finally says he is both Ernest and Jack, he is almost laughing at the confusion of Algernon and seems very relaxed which makes it seem a bit more comical.

 

Dialogue and Setting in Trifles.

Trifles by Susan Glaspell is a one act play that describes the setting and dialogue of the play where Mr. Wright was discovered strangled in his bed with a rope knotted securely around his neck and invariably, his wife has been arrested as the only suspect. The dialogue used during this time shows that women were confined and isolated just to be keeping house and caring for their kids. Glaspell proves through her dialogue that women cannot speak out in front of their husbands, because they were like prisoners with limited rights. In addition, the dialogue is plain, and it is the kind that working class men and women of the time used when this play was written. The play does not appear to have been written in prose since elaborate dialogue is not needed.

For example, Mrs. Wright’s guilt of killing her husband and her friend’s unwillingness to let people know that she did commit such a dastardly act, is shown through their cautious dialogue with each other. The entire play is told through dialogue which is depicted by what the different characters say to one another. Their dialogue helps reveal the different aspects of the characters.

The setting of the play is around the twentieth century and the story is centered around “A gloomy” or dismal kitchen of an abandoned farm house. There are no modern appliances except for a wood-burning stove that is used to keep the residents of the house warm. Also, the room is unkempt and dirty and can only boast of one rural table and some chairs. The weather outside does not help either as it is quite cold. This explication incorporates a lot of the features of drama, and dialogue and setting are just two of these that have been included in the analysis of the passage.

 

 

 

Dialogue and Setting in Trifles

In Susan Glaspell’s writing of Trifles, the dialogue, characterization and setting are essential in evolving and enhancing the overall themes of the work. The short one-act play utilizes all of these elements effectively in order to move the plot forward and progress to some sort of climax or realization.

Certainly the dialogue functions not only to advance the storyline, but, more importantly, to develop the characters. More specifically, through the dialogue the reader/audience is able to learn many insights concerning the absent characters (Mrs. and Mr. Wright). For example, in the exchanges of Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale, the nature and manner of Mr. Wright is revealed:

Mrs. Peters: […] They say he was a good man.

Mrs. Hale: Yes–good; he didn’t drink, and kept his word as well as most, […] But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him–[Shivers.] Like a raw wind that gets to the bone.

Likewise, Mrs. Perter’s and Mrs. Hale’s conversations also serve to disclose how Mrs. Wright used to be before her isolating marriage.

Mrs. Hale: She–come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself–real sweet and pretty but kind of timid and–fluttery. How–did–she–change. […]

As a result, these discussions between the two wives help to convey the unpleasant realities of Mr. and Mrs. Wright’s joyless, stifling and detached union.

Even further, the two ladies express their deep sympathy and empathy for Mrs. Wright’s predicament, as they relate to her through their own struggles and experiences as wives and women. For instance, Mrs. Hale defends Mrs. Wright against the laughing judgment and criticism of Mr. Henderson, as he remarks upon the messy condition of the house:

County Attorney: […] Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?

Mrs. Hale: [Stiffly.] There’s a great deal of work to be done on a farm.

It continues:

Mrs. Hale: […] Men’s hand aren’t always as clean as they might be.

County Attorney: Ah, loyal to your sex, I see. […]

While this particular excerpt serves to indicate the remorse the women feel for Mrs. Wright, it also assists in articulating the condition of the female role during the time the play takes place. Women are looked to as wives who are expected to complete house duties, tend to the children, etc. In this, women lose their sense of individuality and are obligated to identify as being nothing more than a devoted spouse (e.g. “For that matter, a sheriff’s wife is married to the law.”) Additionally, the preoccupations and concerns of women are seen as trivial: “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.”

This key theme of Trifles also is reinforced by the setting. The cluttered and unkept kitchen of the secluded farmhouse, as well as the season parallels the state of the Wrights’ relationship. Their marriage was left neglected and tormented with frigidity, as the warmth of love and affection were absent. Moreover, the isolation of the house further emphasizes the extreme loneliness experienced by Mrs. Wright, which changed her and suppressed her once cheerful spirit. In addition, the disarray of the house, particularly the details of the untidy kitchen, are ultimately what lead Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale to uncovering the motive for the crime. Their attention to these “trifles” are left unnoticed and undetected by the searching men. Consequently, as a result of their observation and intuitiveness they discover the sought after evidence, and resolve, through their feminine bond, to conceal the truth.

Setting of “Trifles”

Of all the aspects in this selected drama, I chose to reflect on the aspect of the setting. I feel these are two of the most important aspects because when blended create the perfect atmosphere for this drama.

Right off the bat, the audience is introduced to this deserted farm area, maybe a small town in the midwest, where tumble weeds racing down a dirt road may be the only source of entertainment. It is probably a complete dustbowl. The “when” aspect is also seen here by the weather that is described and how the characters are presented. For example, the audience might understand that it is close to winter by the movements from the men as the women walk in through the door. The idea that it is cold outside is given by the fuss about huddling around the stove.The setting is extremely important because what, when and where the audience is presented, everything that follows it makes sense total and complete sense.