e.g. "Lord Goring: My dear farther, only people who
look dull ever get into the House of Commons,
and only people who are dull ever succeed
"Lord Darlington: Ah, nowadays we are all of us
so hard up, that the only pleasant things to pay
are compliments. They are the only things we
These examples show that the play on words has a great influence on the reader. The speech of the hero becomes more vivid and interesting. The sound form of the word played upon may be either a polysemantic word:
e.g. "Lady Caroline: I believe this is the firstEnglish
country-house you have stayed at, Mrs.Worsley?
Have you any country? What we should call
country? Hester: We have the largest country in
or partial (complete) homonyms, as in the following example:
e.g. "Algernon: You look as if your name was Ernest.
You are the most earnest-looking person I ever
saw in my life". (p.286)
In this example there are two meanings of the word played upon in the pun: the first - the name of the hero and the second - the adjective meaning seriously-minded.
In case of homonym the two meanings of one word are quite independent and both direct. These two meanings of the pun are realised simultaneously and in the remark of one and the same person. Such examples are comparatively rare in Wilde's plays. Most of Wilde's puns are based on polysemy. Such puns are realised in succession, that is at first the word appears before a reader in one meaning and then --in the other. This realisation is more vivid in dialogues, because in such cases the pun acquires more humorous effect as a result of misunderstanding. In many cases the addressee of the dialogue is the main source of interference. His way of thinking and peculiarities of perception can explain this. Rarely the speaker himself is the source of interference (for example, if he has a speech defect). Almost all Oscar Wilde's puns based on polycemy are realised in dialogues, in fact the remark of the addressee.
e.g. "Lady H.: she lets her clever tongue run away with her.
Lady C.: is that the only Mrs. Allonby allows to run
away with her?" (p.99)
In this example the pun is realised in the remark of the second person. The first meaning of the expression "to run away with" - is "not to be aware of what you are speaking", and the second meaning is "to make off taking something with you". The first meaning is figurative and the second is direct. In some cases the pun is realised in the remark of one and the same person, as in the following examples:
e.g. "Mrs. Allonby: the one advantage of playing with fire is
that one never gets even singed.
It is the people who do not know how to play with it
who get burned up".(p.100)
Here the first meaning of the expression "to play with fire" - "to singe" is direct, and the second "to spoil one's reputation" is figurative.
e.g. "Jack: as far as I can make out, the poachers are the
only people who make anything out of it." (p.297)
The first meaning of the expression: "to make out" - "to understand" is figurative, and the second - "to make benefit from something" is direct.
But there are such examples, when pun is realised in the remark of the third person and in this case it is he (she) who is the main source of interference:
e.g. "Lady C.: Victoria Stratton? I remember her perfectly. A
silly, fair-haired woman with no chin.
Mrs. Allonby: Ah, Ernest has a chin. He has a very
strong chin, a square chin. Ernest's chin is far too square.
Lady S.: But do you really think a man's chin can be
too square? I think a man should look very strong and
that his should be quite square." (p.115)
As a rule, when two meanings of the word are played upon, one of them is direct, the other is figurative, which can be illustrated by some of the above mentioned examples. So, we can see, that irony and pun also play the very important role in Wilde's plays. The effect of these stylistic devices is based on the author's attitude to the English bourgeois society. Thus irony and pun help Wilde to show that majority of his heroes are the typical representatives of the bourgeois society: thoughtless, frivolous, greedy, envious, mercenary people. They call themselves "Ladies and gentlemen", but with the help of these stylistic devices Wilde shows that intelligence is their mask. Credit must be given to Wilde for being brilliant in his witticism. A play upon contrasts and contradictions lies at the basis of author's sarcastic method in portraying his characters. The dynamic quality of Wilde's plays is increased by the frequent ironical sentences and puns. These stylistic devices convey the vivid sense of reality in the picture of the 19-th century English upper-class society.
Wilde's realism with its wonderful epigrams and paradoxes, brilliant irony and amusing puns initiates the beginning of a new era in the development of the English play.
Epithet is another stylistic device used by Oscar Wilde.
According to Prof. Galperin I.R., Epithet is a stylistic device based on the interplay of emotive and logical meaning in an attributive word, phrase or even sentence, used to characterise an object and pointing out to the reader and frequently imposing on him.15
According to Prof. Sosnovskaya V.B., Epithet is an attributive characterisation of a person, thing or phenomenon. It is, as a rule, simple in form. In the majority of cases it consists of one word: adjective or adverb, modifying respectively nouns or verbs.16
e.g. "I tell you that had it ever occurred to me, that such a
monstrous suspicion would have entered your mind, I
would have died rather than have crossed your life."
Epithet on the whole shows purely individual emotional attitude of the speaker towards the object spoken of, it describes the object as it appears to the speaker. Epithet expresses a characteristic of an object, both existing and imaginary. Its basic features are its emotiveness and subjectivity: the characteristic attached to the object to qualify it is always chosen by the speaker himself.
e.g. "Mabel Chiltern is a perfect example of the English type
of prettiness, the apple-blossom type". (p.175)
"It means a very brilliant future in store for you".(p.97)
"What an appalling philosophy that sounds!" (p.179)
"But I tell you that the only bitter words that ever