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'The Importance of Being Earnest' Quotes

Oscar Wilde's Famous & Controversial Comedy of Manners

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Study Guide Oscar Wilde created one of the most delightful and memorable social comedies, with The Importance of Being Earnest. It's a comedy of manners that satirizes Victorian manners and customs, but he does it with a light, witty style that's absolutely unforgettable. Here are a few quotes from The Importance of Being Earnest.
  • "I don't play accurately - any one can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?"
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "Oh! it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a dentist. It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn't a dentist. It produces a false impression..."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "Pray don't talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me so nervous."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone. The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is pretty, and to some one else, if she is plain."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant as the case may be."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "It is awfully hard work doing nothing. However, I don't mind hard work where there is no definite object of any kind."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!"
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "It is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1

  • "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2

  • "I should have remembered that when one is going to lead an entirely new life, one requires regular and wholesome meals."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2

  • "Oh, I don't think I would care to catch a sensible man. I shouldn't know what to talk to him about."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2

  • "And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes painfully effeminate, does he not? And I don't like that. It makes men so very attractive."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2

  • "Well, to speak with perfect candour, Cecily, I wish that you were fully forty-two, and more than usually plain for your age."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2

  • "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2

  • "I could deny it if I liked. I could deny anything if I liked."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2

  • "The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2

  • "Gwendolen - Cecily - it is very painful for me to be forced to speak the truth. It is the first time in my life that I have ever been reduced to such a painful position, and I am really quite inexperienced in doing anything of the kind."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 2

  • "Oh! I killed Bunbury this afternoon. I mean poor Bunbury died this afternoon."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 3

  • "The chin a little higher, dear. Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn. They are worn very high, just at present."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 3

  • "London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 3

  • "And what makes his conduct all the more heartless is, that he was perfectly well aware from the first that I have no brother, that I never had a brother, and that I don't intend to have a brother, not even of any kind. I distinctly told him so myself yesterday afternoon."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 3

  • "Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?"
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 3

  • "I've now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest."
    - Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 3

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