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Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” (Infographic celebrating World Theatre Day – 27 March 2011)

25 March, 2011

Infographics related to Oscar Wilde's play "The Importance of Being Earnest"
Click on the image to enlarge it

On Sunday (27 March 2011) the World Theatre Day is celebrated in various cities all around the globe. This series of infographics is the ‘contribution’ of The Missing Graph for this year’s celebrations.

The infographics visualise, from my personal point of view, some aspects of Oscar Wilde’s play “The Importance of Being Earnest”. It was first played 116 years ago; on the 14th of February 1895.

I have used the Penguin Popular Classics 1995 publication as my reference for the play.

On the top of the infographic there is a distinction of the three acts and the pages that they occupy in the book. The sequence of the pages of the book acts as the timeline of the graphic while the acts are present so that anyone can follow the analysis irrespectively of the publication that they use.

The first act, on Day 1 lasts for about 2 hours: it starts just before tea time (or “five o’ clock” as Algernon says on p. 8 ) and it ends at about “seven o’ clock” (according to Jack on p. 25). Much later, towards the end of the second act (on p. 46), we will be informed by Gwendolen that during the first act (p. 19), when Jack proposed to her, the time was 5.30 in the afternoon.

At the beginning of the second act, which takes place on the day after the first act (so it is Day 2) we are informed (p. 28) that the time that the story takes place is July (“Time of year, July” – description of the scene). However, in the middle of the act (p. 41) Cecily has an amazing story to tell (to her unaware-of-the-engagement ‘fiancé’ Algernon, but also to us!): she claims that they have been engaged for the last three months.

So far, so good. Actually she says that it WILL be “exactly three months on Thursday”. Still, no problem! But then she claims that she and Algernon got engaged on the 14th of February. If you do ‘the maths’ (i.e. 14 February + 3 months = 14 May) you will be surprised to find that “on Thursday” it will be the 14th of May! But then we are already in July!!! Was Cecily too much in love and absent-minded when she was talking? Or is it a ‘hidden egg’ by Oscar Wilde? It’s a mystery anyway, at least for me, that makes the play even more interesting.

The main aspect that the infographic examines is the ‘participation’ of each character on the stage. So, for all the characters of the play I show if they are present on stage for each page of the book. If they are absent from the stage I depict this with a white rectangle. If they are present but they don’t speak at all (during the page) the rectangle becomes light green; and if they speak even a single word during a page the rectangle for the particular page becomes dark green.

Participation of each character in the play: Infographic related to Oscar Wilde's play "The Importance of Being Earnest"
Click on the image to enlarge it

As a result, you can roughly get an idea of the participation (and perhaps the ‘importance’) of each of the characters as well as when (Acts/pages) it happens; you could also compare the ‘importance’ of the characters. The greener (dark) a row is the more ‘important’ the character that it represents. Jack (Mr Worthing) followed by Algernon (Mr Moncrieff) are the protagonists, while Gwendolen and Cecily are quite close. Lady Bracknell has her own share of ‘importance’. The absence of ANY light green areas/rectangles on her row perhaps conveys her dominant nature: it means that whenever she is on stage she has to TALK! Miss Prism and Dr Chasuble complete the main cast. Minor roles belong to Lane, Algernon’s manservant (first act only) and to Merriman, Jack’s butler (second act and a quick appearance during the third act).

Although according to the cast (see p. 3 “The Persons of the Play”) it seems that nine actors/actresses are enough to perform the play, the infographic (and of course a read of the play) reveals the need for a tenth person: the footman who merely appears (without speaking at all) briefly during the second act (pp. 47-48).

On top of those conventions, if a character is not on the stage but it is mentioned by any other character who is (during the length of each page) then you can see an orange circle on the centre of the white rectangle; another factor that I felt made a character ‘important’ or not. In this sense, even when Jack is not on stage we can see that he is mentioned quite often by the characters who are.

Additional information that someone can get from the infographic is how ‘busy’ the stage is on each act and when; for example in the beginning of the first and the second act the stage is rather empty while towards the end of the play (end of act three) the stage becomes crowded.

Infographic showing the consumption of cucumber sandwiches during the first act

At the bottom of the infographic there is a sequence, which perhaps resembles a storyboard, of the ‘solid’ things consumed during the ‘high tea’ that takes place in Algernon’s flat. At the very beginning of the play (first act) there is almost an obsession with cucumber sandwiches; although they have been requested for Lady Bracknell (Algernon’s aunt) Algernon ‘manages’ to eat all of them before his aunt arrives. The graphic shows the ‘progression’ of how Algernon ate all the cucumber sandwiches ‘during’ pages 7 to 9. While at some point Jack attempts to taste one of the sandwiches he is unsuccessful and all he manages to get is some bread and butter (at the bottom of page 9).

Infographic showing the consumption of muffins at the end of the second act
Click on the image to enlarge it

There is more for the foodies in this infographic! Just over the ‘storyboard’ with the salver and the sandwiches there is another one showing the consumption of muffins which occurs at the end of the second act (pp. 51-53). One more obsession perhaps as the word “muffins” is used 14 times during the play (actually from the end of the second act till the end of the play). Again, Algernon eats all of the muffins and ‘poor’ Jack does not even have a chance to taste them.

Finally something rather personal, not of importance and not mentioned on the above infographics. I would like to ‘share’ two little more things that I was impressed by (considering it was written sometime in 1894) during revisiting the play: the use of the word “vegetarian” (end of second act – page 52) and the use of word “statistics” (third act – page 57).

Theatres around the globe that play “The Importance of Being Earnest” this season (sorted by location / country) – Last Updated: 25 April 2011

Country – City
Venue Theatre Company Dates Tickets
Australia – Melbourne English The MTC Theatre Melbourne Theatre Company 2011: Nov 12 – Dec 30 A$139 (currently sold out)
Canada – Montréal English Avenue Art Gallery
(Festival St-Ambroise Fringe de Montréal)
Brave New Productions 2011: June 13, 15, 16 & 17
C$10  (Students: C$7)
Canada – Vancouver English The Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage Arts Club Theatre Company 2012: March 15 – April 15 C$?
Canada – St. Thomas English Parkside Collegiate Institute Parkside Collegiate Institute 2011: May 11, 12, 13 & 14 C$10
Canada – Port Alberni English The Capitol Theatre Portal Players Dramatic Society 2011: May 5 – 21 C$15 (Seniors & Students: C$13)
Canada – Toronto
English Casa Loma Brant Theatre Workshops June 27 & 28 or 29 C$20 + HST
New Zealand – Christchurch English Riccarton Bush Scriptease Productions 2011: June 4 – 14 NZ$20
UK – Chesterfield
English Pomegranate Theatre Chesterfield Playgoers Society 2011: May 4, 5, 6 & 7 £10 (Concessions: £8, Children £7.50)
UK – Brighton English Iambic Arts Theatre
(Brighton Festival Fringe 2011)
The Barefoot Players 2011: May 7, 8 & 9 £6 (Concessions: £5)
UK – Various locations English Various Venues Open Space Theatre 2011: May 6, 7, 11, 13, 14, 20, 21 & 24 £9 (Concessions: £7)
UK – Darwen English Darwen Library Theatre Pepperpot Hill Theatre Group 2011: June 24 & 25 £10.00 (Concessions & groups: £7.00)
UK – Wimborne English Wimborne’s Deans Court Wimborne Drama 2011: June 30, Jul: 1 & 2 £10
UK – Oxted English The Barn Theatre The Oxted Players 2011: May 18, 19, 20 & 21 £9 (Students: £7)
US – Willimantic, CT English Burton Leavitt Theatre The Windham Theatre Guild 2011: May 20, 21, June 3, 4, 5 (matinee), 9, 10, 11 US$15
(Children: US$8)
US – New York, NY English American Airlines Theatre Roundabout Theatre Company 2011: until July, 3 (started on 2010: December) US$72 – US$122
US – Oshkosh, WI English Fredric March Theatre The University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh Theatre Department 2011: April, 27-30 & May 1 US$13 (Seniors/Alumni: US$10 – Students: US$4)
US – Pittsburgh, PA English The Charity Randall Theatre Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre 2011: August 4 – 27 US$40 – US$50 ($20 for under-25s)
US – Barboursville, VA English Four County Players Theater Four County Players 2011: May 6 – 22  US$5-US$16
US – Loudoun County, VA English Grandale Farm Restaurant Run Rabbit Run Theatre 2011: April, 29, 30, May 1, 6, 8, 13, 14 & 15 US$45 (includes gourmet buffet)
US – Allegan, MI English Griswold Auditorium The Allegan Community Players 2011: April 29 US$8 (Students & Seniors: US$6)
US – San Diego, CA English Apolliad Theatre Mesa College Theatre Company 2011: April 29, 30 & May 1, 6, 7 & 8 US$10
US – East Lansing, MI English Pasant Theatre Aquila Theatre 2012: February 25 US$35 (requires season subscription)
US – Arvada, CO English Black Box Theater Arvada Centre 2012: January 24 – February 19 US$?
PAST SHOWS THIS SEASON (sorted by date of last performance)
Ireland – Dublin English Civiv Theatre Institute of Technology Tallaght Drama Society 2011: April 4, 5, 7 & 8 €10 (Concessions: €7)
US – Los Angeles, CA English Walt Disney Concert Hall Los Angeles Philharmonic 2011: April, 7 & 8 US$23.75 – US$175
UK – Minehead English The Regal Theatre Minehead Youth Theatre 2011: April 7, 8 & 9 £6.50 (Students: £3)
US – Olathe, KS English Olathe Northwest High School Olathe Northwest High School – Theatre Department 2011: April 8 & 9 US$5
US – Douglas, AK English Perseverance Theatre Perseverance Theatre 2011: until April, 10 (started on 2011: March) US$31 – US$12
(Depending on day / students etc.)
US – Chicago, IL English IIT Tower Auditorium 33rd Street Productions 2011: April 14, 15, 16 & 17 FREE
US – Nashville, TN English Theatre Ensemble of Nashville Theatre Ensemble of Nashville 2011: until April, 23
(started on 2011: March)
US – New Britain, CT English Hole In The Wall Theater Hole in the Wall Company 2011: until April, 23
(started on 2011: March)
US$20 (Suggested donation)
US – Lawrenceville, NJ English Spitz (Studio) Theater Rider Theater 2011: April, 14, 15, 16, 20, 22 & 23 US$20 (Students & Seniors US$10)


Oscar Wilde “The Importance of Being Earnest”. London: Penguin Popular Classics (1994-1995 publication) [ Webpage @ ]
Oscar Wilde “The Importance of Being Earnest and Related Writings (Routledge English Texts)”, edited by Joseph Bristow. London: Routledge (1992 publication) [ Webpage @ ]

Many thanks to Nancy Giannopoulou for her enthusiasm about the subject of this infographic (perhaps I would not have completed it without you!) and the support and help in reassuring me that some of the points I mention do make sense. I also got some useful suggestions and feedback, for which I am grateful, from Dinos Konstantinou and Pavlos Kapralos.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Beatrice permalink
    9 October, 2012 2:44 pm

    This is excellent! I saw this play at the outdoors theatre at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall this past July and it was probably the best play I’ve ever seen! Amazing analytics you have done! 🙂


  1. BEING EARNEST « Being Earnest

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