In the first proper session of learning about playwrights, the aim of this session was to learn more about Oscar Wilde, including his life and some of his works. Beforehand, the only thing I knew about Oscar Wilde was that he died in 1900. I learned at the beginning that he was 46 when he died, so he was born in Ireland in 1854 and died in 1900. Family wise, his father, William Wilde was a doctor and knighted in 1864, meanwhile, his mother, Jane Wilde, was a political activist.
Wilde was sent to prison after being accused of being a homosexual by the Marquis of Queensbury after having an affair with his son. He was sent to Reading prison where he wrote ‘The Ballad of Reading Jail’. (1) Other plays Erica mentioned that were written by Wilde were: ‘An Ideal Husband’, ‘The Portrait of Dorian Grey’ and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.
We then started focusing on ‘The Importance of Being Earnst’ and specifically, the scene with Lady Bracknell interrogating Jack to see if he is a good fit to be her daughter’s husband. After reading through the scene, it is clear that Wilde is mocking the upper class, something that he did in many of his plays to get a message across, however, it was frowned on by many.
After reading through the scene with the class, we then went off into pairs to act out the scene, with the aim to think about how to set it and where to place the characters. I was paired with Josh Ely and we staged it with Bracknell sitting down, a chair placed diagonally and Josh standing over it. At the line “The fact is, Lady Bracknell, I said I had lost my parents”, Josh sat down so that both characters could be level and could ensure level eye contact between the two characters with Jack trying to get his point across.
When we performed our pieces back to the class, the main feedback for me was characterisation, to improve I could range Bracknell’s voice to make it upper class, look more shocked when finding out Jack was found in a handbag and to improve on my posture as upper class ladies. This is because in this time period (1890’s), women would wear tight corsets which meant they could not slouch, instead, they would have to sit up. There were some who also had their legs crossed which is also wring for women in that time period, instead, they would have their ankles crossed.
After watching everyone, we then watched a clip of the 2002 film with Judie Dench playing Lady Bracknell, seen below:
In conclusion, I was able to meet the aim of the session and learn about Oscar Wilde and one of his plays, which had his theme of mocking the other class. After the session, I looked to see what other plays Wilde had written, including:
- A Florentine Tragedy- 1894 (2)
- A Woman of No Importance- 1894
- Lady Windermere’s Fan- 1893 (3)