"The Importance of Being Earnest"

Known as Wilde's most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest premiered at St. James's Theatre in London on 14 February 1895. Wilde began meticulously outlining and drafting the comedy in July 1894. He continued revising the play over the course of six months. The most notable change is when George Alexander, the manager of St. James’s Theatre, advised Wilde to cut the four-act play down to three acts. Thus, the satirical tale of double lives in Victorian society was born.

The comedy’s success was disrupted by the trials of Oscar Wilde. The night of the first production served as the catalyst to the trials thanks to the appearance of the Marquess of Queensberry, as Wilde was in a relationship with the Marquess's son. Wilde heard of the Marquess' intention to present him a bouquet of rotten vegetables, so he refused to take a bow. Although Wilde managed to avoid the Marquess that night, the Marquess' continuous threats lead to a legal feud. Due to the publicity about Wilde’s homosexuality, his name was omitted from the programme starting 6 April 1895, and the play was officially closed by 8 May 1895 after 83 performances.

In February 1899, the first edition of The Importance of Being Earnest was published by Leonard Smithers and Co.

Articles and Sources:

Raby, Peter. The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde. Cambridge, U.K.; Cambridge University Press, 1998. Print.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Peter Harrington

University College Oxford


Associated Place(s)

Event date:

The middle of the month Winter 1894 to Winter 1899

Parent Chronology: