This is Week 2 of the Gracious Hospital-i-Tea Blog-a-Thon. The theme is Litera-Tea. Briefly, our mandate is to “Share tea from the perspective of literature.”
I’ve chosen Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest as my literary offering as his comic criticism is superb.
The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays (Penguin Classics)
The play is a spoof on the notion of status and class—of much import during the Victorian era. Each character pretends to be something he or she is not which adds another witty element.
How does this relate to tea? Tea was a social more during the late 1800s in England and widely available to everyone, regardless of societal position. Tea was a featured subject in numerous articles and how-to guides at the time. And within Wilde’s play are three brilliant tea scenes which provide wonderful fodder for parody.
Source: Mary Cassatt, Afternoon Tea Party, 1890–1891, National Gallery of Art, Chester Dale Collection. The History Project, University of California, Davis
For example, in the first tea scene, you are what you eat with your tea. Cucumber sandwiches or cake are considered elitist. But maybe you’d rather have simple bread-and-butter sandwiches, demonstrating a more middle-class mindset. Choosing is fraught with peril. Choose wrong and your slip is showing below your hem line, dearie.
This is an exquisitely humorous play. I do hope you read it. If you’ve read P.G. Wodehouse, this will be somewhat a familiar delight—although Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster is upper-class while Wilde makes fun of everyone.
As my own bit of comedic criticism, here is my tea vessel for today.
And I’ve made a simple bread-and-butter sandwich—but I cut off the crust.