Jack: On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I’ve now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest. (III.180-181)
At this point in the play, Jack (one of the male leads) realizes that he’s been telling the truth all along. He had thought he was lying to Gwendolyn (a female lead who Jack is in love with) by telling her his name was Ernest, since she wished for her husband’s name to be just so. But, he finds out that his father’s name was Ernest, and his christian name would be to be named after him.
I always told you, Gwendolen, my name was Ernest, didn’t I? Well, it is Ernest after all. I mean it naturally is Ernest. (III.170)
This entire quote is a double entendre, especially the last sentence. Ernest (a fore named Jack), confesses to Gwendolyn here that he did not know his name was Ernest until recently. The last part of the quote, “I mean it naturally is Ernest,” is both a pun and a double entendre for the word earnest, meaning that he had, in fact, been telling the truth the entire time.
Algernon: Why is it that at a bachelor’s establishment the … servants invariably drink the champagne? I ask merely for information.
Lane: I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir. I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand.
Algernon (a supporting male character), supposes that marriage is a debilitating state for people to put themselves in. He states his opinion through the use of this pun, explaining that a couple in marriage tend to be servants to the institution. Lane supports this theory by stating his opinion on marriage not being the best idea, in other words.
Lady Bracknell: Mr. Worthing, is Miss Cardew at all connected … with any of the larger railway stations in London? I merely desire information. Until yesterday I had no idea that there were any families or persons whose origin was a Terminus. [Jack looks perfectly furious, but restrains himself.] (III.61)
Lady Bracknell (a supporting female character), does not approve of Jack and Gwendolyn’s relationship. She readily shares her opinion with this pun. The term, “Terminus,” is a double entendre for “end” and “terminal station;” she uses it because Jack was found at a train station.
The Importance of Being Earnest
The title of the play in itself is a double entendre. At first glance, it tells the readers that it is key to be honest in life. In the other sense, it explains the importance of having the name of “Ernest.” At least, it’s an important factor for the two female lead characters for their husbands to have that name.