Arsenic and Old Lace Play Analysis Essay

  • Category: Literature, Plays,
  • Words: 457 Pages: 2
  • Published: 14 September 2021
  • Copied: 166

The 1941 play Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring has a grandiose amount of irony present throughout its text. In this play, irony develops the plot and characters. 

Irony drives the plot and characters in Arsenic and Old Lace in many ways. All three types of irony are seen in the play, which are verbal, situational, and dramatic. The first example where irony is driving the plot and characters is seen on page 68, where Jonathan, the main antagonist, is trying to kill someone to have one more victim than the aunts who kill old men, and at that time Mortimer walks in, unaware that he is going to be nearly murdered, but the audience knows that Mortimer will be killed, but he unsuspectingly says “Well, here I am!” The second example where irony has been developing the plot and characters is seen on page 93, where Abby and Martha are about to kill Mr. Witherspoon, but Mr. Witherspoon does not understand that the aunts are going to murder him, and when Martha says she makes the elderberry wine with Abby, Mr. Witherspoon says “Why yes… Of course, at Happy Dale our relationship will be more formal -- but here -- … You don’t see much elderberry wine nowadays -- I thought I’d had my last glass of it.” The third example where irony is developing the plot and characters is on page 53, where Einstein, Mortimer, Jonathan, and the aunts are quarrelling with each other about where to sleep, and eventually Einstein and Jonathan come to the conclusion that they will sleep downstairs, however, Einstein will sleep on the window-seat, which has been an important and ironic location for the play because there is a dead body in there, and Einstein states “You sleep on the sofa and I sleep on the window-seat.” The final example where irony develops the plot and characters is on page 10, where Officers Brophy and Klein are talking to Dr. Harper about Abby and Martha’s father(Grandpa Brewster), and they get into a discussion about Grandpa Brewster always helping the police out for autopsies, especially victims of poisoning, and the conversation eventually is brought to a case from the Missing Persons Bureau where Klein was trying to track down an old man that they never found, however, Klein is literally in the same house as the missing man, when he states “You don’t know a tenth of it. When I was with the Missing Persons Bureau I was trying to trace an old man that we never did find.” These four examples of irony are important to developing the plot and characters in Arsenic and Old Lace. 

Irony is incredibly important in Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring. It not only developed the plot and characters, but made an ordinary story an extraordinary one. In conclusion, irony has made an excellent work of literature and helped drive the plot and characters in Arsenic and Old Lace.


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