The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde: Volume IX Plays 2: Lady Lancing; Volume X Plays 3: The Importance of Being Earnest
This two-volume addition to the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde contains full critical editions of two plays, Lady Lancing and The Importance of Being Earnest. These authoritative editions are based on all surviving manuscript material and other relevant documents. Composed rapidly between August and October of 1894 as a generically unorthodox four-act 'Serious Comedy for Trivial People', Lady Lancing was never produced or published in Wilde's lifetime. Unexpectedly, it was taken over by the actor-manager George Alexander, transformed over the author's objections into a three-act farcical comedy, and produced as The Importance of Being Earnest at Alexander's St James's Theatre, London, in February 1895. Published only in 1899, in an edition extensively revised by the author, it has never subsequently been out of print. Lady Lancing, meanwhile, has come to latter-day critical and scholarly attention as the first fruits of Wilde's brilliant concept of a new kind of farcical dramatization. Also included in this publication is a reconstructed edition of a dramatic fragment by Wilde, A Wife's Tragedy, based on a single, undated surviving manuscript.
In addition to annotated critical editions of the two plays themselves, accompanied by extensive commentaries, these two volumes contain several historical and critical accounts of the long, complex early history of these two separate but closely related compositions. These accounts trace the gestation of Lady Lancing and its transformation into The Importance of Being Earnest and describe the abrupt closing of the first production of The Importance as a consequence of Wilde's ill-fated lawsuit against the Marquess of Queensberry for criminal libel in April 1895 and the two subsequent trials of Wilde himself for 'gross indecency', ending in his conviction and incarceration. These accounts are augmented by descriptions of the fascinating textual history of the two plays and are supplemented by appendices that provide additional information about Lady Lancing and The Importance of Being Earnest, including a survey of first production reviews, an acting script of In the Season (the curtain-raiser included in first-production performances), a tabular comparison of the texts of Lady Lancing and The Importance of Being Earnest, and a summary of the process by which the play became a perennial, international theatrical classic.
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