(This is a picture of Shanghai people in the early 20th century, showing us the combination between the new western culture (the suit) and old Chinese culture (the girl’s dress and haircut) in Shanghai)
If I were to direct a new production of the Importance of Being Earnest, I would set the story in the early 20th century in Shanghai, China. In my opinion, this setting would help further develop the topic of marriage in this play.
In the early 20th century, China was undergoing a great change from Feudalism to Capitalist democracy. The older generation were still upholding the traditional arranged marriages, while the younger generation, especially in Shanghai, an open port, were influenced by the “free love” trend from western countries, and were eager to choose their own lover. It is exactly the story happened in the play.
What’s more, in the early 20th century, there were many foreign troops in Shanghai. There were also many struggles between Chinese and foreigners. These can help show China’s condition under western country’s suppress and influence, which can tell us how the ambivalent views towards marriage came into existence. The lively social background may give us a better understanding of the different views towards marriage.
The picture is from: