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Soon afterwards their feud came to a climax in court, where Wilde's homosexual double life was revealed to the Victorian public and he was eventually sentenced to imprisonment.
His notoriety caused the play, despite its early success, to be closed after 86 performances.
In contrast to much theatre of the time, The Importance of Being Earnest's light plot does not tackle serious social and political issues, something of which contemporary reviewers were wary.
Though unsure of Wilde's seriousness as a dramatist, they recognised the play's cleverness, humour and popularity with audiences. Walkley admired the play and was one of few to see it as the culmination of Wilde's dramatic career.
Alexander tried, unsuccessfully, to save the production by removing Wilde's name from the billing, The play's original Broadway production opened at the Empire Theatre on 22 April 1895, but closed after sixteen performances.
Its cast included William Faversham as Algy, Henry Miller as Jack, Viola Allen as Gwendolen, and Ida Vernon as Lady Bracknell.
Wilde and Alexander learned of the plan, and the latter cancelled Queensberry's ticket and arranged for policemen to bar his entrance.
Nevertheless, he continued harassing Wilde, who eventually launched a private prosecution against the peer for criminal libel, triggering a series of trials ending in Wilde's imprisonment for gross indecency.In revising as he did, "Wilde transformed standard nonsense into the more systemic and disconcerting illogicality which characterises Earnest's dialogue".Wilde hesitated about submitting the script to Alexander, worrying that it might be unsuitable for the St James's Theatre, whose typical repertoire was relatively serious, and explaining that it had been written in response to a request for a play "with no real serious interest".The Marquess of Queensberry, whose son Lord Alfred Douglas was Wilde's lover, planned to present the writer with a bouquet of rotten vegetables and disrupt the show.Wilde was tipped off and Queensberry was refused admission.Wilde spent the summer with his family at Worthing, where he wrote the play quickly in August.