Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Like Scribe, Wilde rushed to uphold the belief that the theatre is a place for being amused. Like Sardou's melodrama Wilde's The importance of Being Earnest lacks depth and profundity. In examining Wilde's dramatic technique is pretty imperative to take into mental account the usual dramatic techniques in Scribe's well-made plays and Sardou's melodrama.
In Wilde's dramas we find the standard, ingredients plot, counterplot, vital secrets, letters which fall into the wrong hand. In The Importance of Being Earnest the main plot consisting of the lovers struggle for marriage is paralleled by the counter plot which consists of Jacks' search to establish his parental identity.
Wilde's plays, particularly The importance of Being Earnest Presents no personal moral convictions. Wilde writes of high society or at least that is what he calls it, though it does not seem to resemble any real group of people that ever lived. He projects second hand morality along with secondhand plots.
The foremost technique of Wilde is the technique of blending criticism, wit, and ironic humor. His blending of criticism, wit and ironic humor aim at ridiculing, the conventional morality of his characters. Another equally effective technique of Wilde's is the insertion of a quantity of witty dialogue. The playwright indulges, to a moderate extent, in exposing certain particle of absurdities. With equal measure Wilde goes to the limited extent of exaggerating the characters until they become caricatures. Due to this technique of limited exaggeration and caricatures Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest has attained the dimension of fantastic absurdity.
Last but not the least Wilde made use of subversive technique with a telling effect. The stereotypes and clichés about romantic love are inverted by Oscar Wilde in "The importance of Being Earnest". To show that characters are attracted to each other because of their name rather than that devotion is to make an inverted parody of romantic Clichés. To see how effectively Wilde employed this last technique of subversion let's see some text cited from the play:
Jack: You really love me, Gwendolen?
Jack: Darling! You don't know how happy you've made me.
Gwendolen: My own Earnest!
Jack: But you don't really mean to say that you could not love me if my name was not Earnest? Gwendolen: Earnest. But your name is Earnest.
Jack: Yes, I know it is. But supposing it was something else? Do you mean to say you could not love me then?
Gwendolen (glibly): Ah! That is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.