Frances O'Connor and Judi Dench

Frances O’Connor (Gwendolen) and Judi Dench (Lady Bracknell) in the 2002 film

John (Jack/Ernest) Worthing–  The play’s protagonist. He appears to be a trustworthy man, but he regularly leaves his Hertfordshire estate to visit his fake brother Ernest in London. Whilst in London he pretends to be Ernest and courts Gwendolen Fairfax (Algernon’s cousin), who says she can only be with a man called Ernest. As a baby, Jack was found in a handbag at Victoria Station by an old man, who adopted him and then made Jack guardian to his granddaughter, Cecily Cardew.

Rupert Everett and Colin Firth

Rupert Everett (Algernon) and Colin Firth (Jack) in the 2002 film

Algernon Moncrieff –  Algernon is the nephew of Lady Bracknell, cousin of Gwendolen Fairfax. He is a good friend of Jack Worthing, whom he knows as Ernest. Algernon lives in London and has created a fictitious friend, “Mr Bunbury,” a sick man whom he ‘visits’ in the countryside to get away from social events. On one of these trips to Jack’s estate in Hertfordshire he falls in love with Cecily, Jack’s ward.

Gwendolen Fairfax –  Algernon’s cousin and Lady Bracknell’s daughter. Gwendolen is in love with Jack, whom she met in London and knows only as Ernest. She is utterly pretentious and fancies herself as sophisticated and fashionable. She is obsessed with the name Ernest and says she can only love a man with that name.

Reese Witherspoon as Cecily in the 2002 film

Cecily (Reese Witherspoon) dreams of being rescued by a knight in shining armor in the 2002 film

Cecily Cardew –  Jack’s ward, the granddaughter of the elderly gentleman who found and adopted Jack. She is a hopeless romantic and constantly fantasizes about her Uncle Jack’s ‘brother’ Ernest; like Gwendolen, she is fanatical about the name. She falls in love with Algernon, posing at Ernest, when he visits the country estate.

Lady Bracknell –  Algernon’s fearsome, snooty, and overbearing aunt and Gwendolen’s mother. Her only wish is to see Gwendolen marry well; she has a list of “eligible young men” and interviews suitors for her daughter. Lady Bracknell is the most ridiculous and arguably the most quoted of The Importance of Being Earnest characters.

Miss Prism –  Cecily’s governess. She is an uptight and severe woman who tries to be a good role model for Cecily. She does seem to have a softer side, and confides in Cecily that she once wrote a novel but lost it along with her handbag. She has romantic feelings for Dr. Chasuble.

Rev. Canon Chasuble – The vicar on Jack’s Herefordshire estate. Both Jack and Algernon ask him to officially christen them “Ernest.” Dr. Chasuble has secret romantic feelings for Miss Prism.

Lane –  Algernon’s servant. When the play opens, Lane is the only person who knows about Algernon’s fictitious friend Mr Bunbury. Lane only appears at the start of the play.

Merriman – The butler at Jack’s house. He only appears in Acts II and III.

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