Ernest and Algernon, two aristocrats, are having tea and discussing marriage. Ernest admits that his real name is Jack and that he pretends to have a brother callled Ernest so he can come up to town when he chooses to and that he has a ward by the name of Cecily. Algernon then admits that he also has a made up friend called Bunbury who he uses as an excuse to leave town. Then Algernon’s aunt Lady Bracknell and her daughter, and Jack’s fiance, Gwendoline arrives. Whilst Algernon distracts Lady Bracknell Jack proposes to Gwendoline and she agrees to marry him. She tells him that she could never marry a man whose name was not Ernest which is a problem as Jack’s name is not really Ernest at all. Lady Bracknell then interviews Jack to see whether he is worthy or not of her daughters hand. She is horrified to learn that Jack was adopted after being found in a handbag in Victoria Staion and forbids anymore contact with Gwendoline. Algernon then travels to Jack’s country home under the pretense of him being Ernest, Jack’s made up brother and is immediately smitten with Cecily. Cecily reveals she has long been in love with Ernest from the daring tales her guardian Jack has told her. They agree to marry and Cecily reveals that she too could also only ever marry someone of the name of Ernest. Jack then arrives pretending that his brother Ernest is dead which is problematic seeing that Algernon, in the guise of Ernest, is engaged to marry Cecily. The plot becomes even more tangled when Gwendoline arrives proclaiming that she is married to Ernest (Jack). When her and Cecily find out that they are both engaged to Ernest they both run inside to hide from the men. Lady Bracknell arrives and accepts the marriage between Algernon and Cecily on account of Cecily’s trust fund. However the marriage is stopped because Jack refuses to give his consent unless Lady Bracknell allows him to marry Gwendolen. The tension is then relieved when Lady Bracknell recognises Cecily’s tutor, Miss Prism, as a maid who worked for her some time ago. Miss Prism was sacked from the service of the family when she accidently put the baby in a handbag and left it at Victoria Station. It is so discovered that Jack is in fact Lady Bracknell’s nephew and Algernon’s older brother and this makes him high enough birth to marry Gwendoline. Gwendoline, however, still refuses to marry anyone who is not of the name of Ernest. Lady Bracknell tells Jack that as the first born his first name would be his fathers name- which was Ernest- therefore making Jack Ernest after all.
picture from livingstingy.blogspot.co.uk