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Home » , » Discuss the role and character of Lady Bracknell in The Important of Being Earnest
Lady Bracknell is the perfect embodiment of the attitudes and rules of conduct of the British aristocracy. A shrewd businesswoman, snobbish and superior in her behaviour, she represents birth and status, the rule of the matriarch in society.

We first meet her when she arrives at Algernon's flat. She apologizes for being late, saying, "I am sorry if we are a little late, Algernon, but I was obliged to call on dear Lady Harbury." Learning of Banbury's death in Act III, she says, "I am glad.....that he made up his mind at the last to some definite course of action, and acted under proper medical advice". On hearing the name of Miss Prism towards the end of the play, she inquiries if this Miss Prism is "a female of repellent aspect, remotely connected with education". Dr. Chasuble's indignant reply is that "she is the most cultivated of ladies, and the very picture of respectability." Lady Bracknell quickly retorts "it is obviously the same person."Always in good voice, she has a mastery of rhetoric and authority; only once she is undermined, when Jack refuses his consent to the marriage of Cecily and Algernon. Fortunately circumstances, in the form of the reappearance of Miss Prism, give her the opportunity of making the final revelation about Jack. Wilde has made a clever choice of name for her-Augusta-for she is awe-inspiring in her capacity for taking complete control.

Lady Bracknell is critical of those with whom she mixes, holds up Mary Farquhar as a domestic model to Algernon, and is very conscious of the proprieties, such as having the right number of guests to balance her own table. She lives by a particular creed - "Health is the primary duty of life" - to which she insists that Lady Bracknell subscribes. She has the wholly unjustified English prejudice against the French, expressing her disapproval in terms of music. She has an acute sense of physical propriety among her own class. She believes that engagements are made by parents, and not by children.

Lady Bracknell is practical and unscrupulous. She finds Jack's handbag origin unacceptable but advises him to acquire some relations. Absent for the whole of the second act, she returns to dominate the third.

Lady Bracknell retrieves her own position by the revelation she has to make, though she accuses Jack of 'triviality' when he embraces Gwendolen. She is larger then life, with something of the Gorgon attributed to her by Jack. Thus Lady Bracknell is s realistic and life like portrait.


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