The formidable mother of Gwendolen
, and aunt Augusta
, in Oscar Wilde
's play The Importance of Being Earnest
She it is who, on learning of Jack Worthing's early years, pooh-poohs the idea of forming an alliance with a parcel (a handbag!). She further remarks that to lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness. Jack, who calls himself Ernest in the city, wishes to marry Gwendolin, but Lady Bracknell subjects him to severe scrutiny on his parentage, fortune, habits, and so on. This is in Act I, where w accompanied by Gwendolin she visits Algy hoping for some cucumber sandwiches, which he has already eaten.
Most famously played by Edith Evans.
Other pronouncements: She does not in any way approve of the modern sympathy for invalids [Algernon's fictitious friend Mr Bunbury]. She considers it morbid. Health is the primary duty of life. -- French songs she cannot possibly allow, but German seems a thoroughly respectable language. -- The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever.
She reappears in Act III, in Jack's country estate, pursuing the errant lovers, having been apprised of her daughter's flight by her trusty maid, whose confidence she purchased by means of a small coin. -- She has not told her husband, but given him a plausible story. Indeed she has never undeceived him on any occasion. -- When she married him she has no fortune of any kind, but never dreamed for a moment of letting that stand in her way.