Skip to main content

The Importance of Great Dialog and Sharp Wit

The Importance of Being EarnestThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's been years since I had read this or watched it performed, but I still remembered how crisp and clever was the dialog. After reading it again, I enjoyed it even more than the pleasant memory.

This play is about two men, John and Algernon, who lead double lives. They are habitual liars, and their mainstay fib is a "Bunbury", an invented friend/relative who they use to avoid social obligations. This concept of double life, of course, reflects other aspects of Wilde's life that later lead to his downfall. This play was actually still on stage when Oscar Wilde prosecuted the Marquess of Queensbury for libel, which led to disclosures about his homosexual relationships, crimes punishable by imprisonment.

The Importance of Being Earnest was Wilde's last dramatic work, and represents his top form. In the hands of Wilde the characters cut scalding paths through such topics as death, marriage, relative morality, and literature itself. Nothing is sacred, but it's never tasteless. Whether it's commentary that more than half of modern culture depends on what "shouldn't be read" or commenting that it's a terrible thing to discover one has been (accidentally) telling the truth their entire life, Wilde's punchy dialog is brilliant and challenging.

There is also a good deal of Wilde in his two protagonists. It's easy to see how his behavior and sneering commentary might have alienated Victorian society, but it's also clear that no one could do it better. Today it's a romp and a reminder that we rely on uncommon people like Wilde to question our false morality and society's conventions. Back then, however, it was perilous, and the joy Wilde has in his cavorting is heartening. I think it's impossible to read the interchange and, if not love him, at least to realize the enormous value of the mirror he lifts for society to reflect upon.

A word about the final reveal without giving anything away: Yes, it's not as brilliant as the rest of the piece, but given the tour de force of the rest, it's forgivable. Besides, he knew his audience. That kind of humor appealed to the masses, and there is no better proof than the work's immediate success on the London stage, which was unfortunately short-lived. Within weeks of its debut, Mr. Wilde would be in prison.

Enjoy it and appreciate that we live in a better time!


View all my reviews

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The History of White Onliness in America

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A long horrific account of America's deliberate segregation, its underlying current of white-onliness, born out of Loewen's personal journey of awakening to the fact he was surrounded by Sundown Towns, those locales so hostile to blacks that the communities orchestrate ways to keep them out. It's a long, hard slog, filled with disheartening stories, marks of shame of our past, of our present really, but books like this are so important both as eye-openers and motivators. Nobody conscious to American culture--again not just its history! We are talking about the present in many instances here--can deny these exclusionary practices, but Loewen focuses on the scale using census data and adds anecdotes that personalize the experience.

I read a lot of reviews here that mention how terrible reading this makes everyone feel, but for my part, I am overwhelmed by optimism, because it is cl…

Nwahulwana

Wazimbo's "Nwahulwana"
Found this on a German site: Warum wanderst du von Bar zu Bar? (“Why do you wander from bar to bar?”)
So, the first time I heard this I thought I recognized some Portuguese, but it’s illusory; the language is actually Ronga. I suppose it was just the echoes of Brazilian music. I found, though, a translation into Portuguese, which I will translate to English, but here’s the thing: this transcription of the words isn’t correct. Also, I’m almost certain I hear “vôce” which means “you” in the lyrics. First, “nwahulwana” itself is a soft expression for prostitute, hence “night bird” is the poetic meaning. I thought it was a love song. My wife thought it was a prayer (probably because of the way Wazimbo lifts his eyes to the sky when he sings “Maria”). So, it is something like this, but there are mistakes, because the lines don’t match up. Also, I wonder if he is singing “Nwahulwana” when the song starts - . It’s hard to know since I don’t speak Ronga. 

Her…

Script Abbreviations in Screen Writing

SCRIPT ABBREVIATIONS 
ELS extreme long shot  MLS medium long shot  LS long shot  MS medium shot  MCU medium close-up  CU close-up  ECU extreme close-up  OS over-the-shoulder shot  2-S or 3-S two-shot or three-shot  POV point of view shot  ZI or ZO zoom in or zoom out  INT interior  EXT exterior  SOT or SOF sound on tape or sound on film BG background  SFX or F/X special effects (can be either sound or visual)  VO voice-over  OSV off-screen voice  DIS dissolve  MIC microphone  VTR videotape  Q cue (as in cue talent)  ANNCR announcer 
SUPER superimposition