Arsenic and Old Lace Essay

Joseph Kesselring
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Perkins is a professor of American and English literature and film. In this essay, Perkins examines the satirical structure of the play.

Joseph Kesselring's play Arsenic and Old Lace is one of Broadway's most successful comedies. Brooks Atkinson, in his review of the play for The New York Times finds the play "hilarious" and praises its "compact . . . plot and comic situation," with its interplay of the macabre and the farcical. Yet as Atkinson notes, Kesselring "does not have to stoop to clutching hands, pistol shots or lethal screams to get his effects." What has made this play an enduring classic is the playwright's clever combination of murder, slapstick, and satire. The juxtaposition of dramatic and farcical elements underpins its finely tuned satiric structure.

The play's main satiric focus is on the "charitable" work of two of its main characters, Abby and Martha Brewster, Mortimer Brewster's elderly aunts. Atkinson...

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This section contains 1,314 words
(approx. 4 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Arsenic and Old Lace Study Guide
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Arsenic and Old Lace from Drama for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.