Shakespeare 's As You Like It And Oscar Wilde 's The Importance Of Being Earnest

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Gender identity and its roles in 17th and 19th century England were regarded as rigid fact — definite and unyielding. The adherence to these social protocols was of utmost importance. Masculinity was viewed as being dominant, assertive, and bold, whereas femininity involved beauty, obedience, and chastity. The theatre became a method of challenging this rigid social concept. Both William Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest explore these public values through their characters. Wilde and Shakespeare’s use of gender reversals satirize the traditions of social order, marriage, and gender responsibilities at the time, thereby revealing that gender is not absolute. Gender fluidity through the characters’ personalities and actions is subtly utilized in both plays to comment on the social traits expected of both sexes. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack and Algernon exhibit immature personalities through their Bunburying. When Algy says to Jack, "I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose" (Wilde, 301), it demonstrates Algernon’s yearning for an aesthetic life free from the social correctness. The same behaviour is seen in Jack through his creation of Ernest, and Algy’s comment on Jack being “one of the most advanced Bunburyists I know” (|Wilde ?301). Their desire to escape the monotonous routine of their daily lives reveals their

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