Both plays depict various similaritities of themes and treatment of that theme. Both the plays deal with some aspect of sexuality that was considered taboos by their contemporary societies. Bernard Shaw tries to captivate our attention on the issue of prostitution and also depicts sub-theme of incest in relation to Frank and Vivie’s relation, while Oscar Wilde treats the theme of homosexuality in the “The Importance of Beng Earnest”. Both the writers’ treatment of these subjects of sexuality are not sdubjected to the norms of the society but according to its historical and socio-economic perspective.
Duality is another important feature of the both plays. The paradoxical and ambivalent life is the central metaphor in Oscar Wilde’s play. This is incarnated and represented by the phenomenon of “Bunbury” or “Bunburying.” Algernon, the major character in “The Importance of Being Earnest” elaborates this terminology of Bunburying as a sophisticated deception exercise that permit to conceal his/her original personality and indulge in activities which society will not conform him in his/her role. This phenomenon is epitomized by the character of Ernest. Jack creates an imaginary figure to escape from social liabilities and moral obligation. Same is the case with Algernon’s imaginary friend Bunbury. This kind of deception implies a subtle and profound level of hypocrisy.
This hypocrisy s also depicted by Bernard Shaw through difference in the characters of Sister Liz and Mrs Warren. Sister Liz utilizes the money to get back his reputation and thus held a respectable position in the society. Her reputation is sanctioned by the Church and hence society and her income through the immoral means is ratified as illegitimate and decent one. As Mrs Warren do not this approval and sanctions from church so she is labelled as the most wicked criminal. Bernard Shaw presents another character to analyse the ambivalent and hypocritical nature of Victorian life-style. Mrs Warren business partner Sir John Crofts, being an honourable and worthy member of the society and invest thousands of pounds and earn a share 35% as income. Sir Croft is also comparable to Lady Bracknell who epitomizes th titled elite class of Victorian era. The illustrations of these examples suggest that both Wilde and Shaw consider hypocrisy as the general approach of Victorian mindset.
Another similarity between these plays is the eulogy of “New Women” and aversion from the traditional and conventional women. “Vivie” in Mrs Warren Profession is a fine example of modern, independent women that possess personality traits that are rare in custom-ridden heroines like Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew of The Importance of Being Ernest. Although Wilde presents these characters in his drama but he does not idealize them but rather make them a target of contempt due to their excessive fictitious idealism.
The Victorian morality is under question in both plays. Both Wilde and Shaw make fun of the ambivalence nature of Victorian morality. For example Jack is of the view that reading a private cigarette case is “ungentlemanly.” Is this the parameter of measuring Victorian morality? He forgets his own hypocritical motives and actions. Bernard Shaw’s character Sir Croft is a caricature of Victorian morality also. So both the writers make mockery of the entire Victorian idea of morality as paradoxical. There are certain similarities in the treatment of the main theme like length of the play, setting of the plays etc.