(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Alison’s House, the last produced play by Glaspell, was first presented at the Civic Repertory Theater in New York City on December 1, 1930. The production, produced and directed by Le Galliene, ran for forty-one performances and won for Glaspell the 1931 Pulitzer Prize in drama—a decision that outraged some critics who disliked her play and thought it too literary.

Alison’s House concerns a noted fictional poet, Alison Stanhope, who has been dead for eighteen years when the curtain rises. Her poetry, published after her death, has brought her posthumous fame. The play begins on December 31, 1899, in the library of the Stanhope estate. John Stanhope, Alison’s brother, is selling the property, and there is much confusion as family members gather to say goodbye and pick up keepsakes. One of the recently arrived relations is Elsa, Alison’s niece and John’s daughter, who had scandalized the family some years earlier by running off with a married man. A Chicago newspaper reporter, Ted Knowles, has also come to do a story on Alison; he is curious to know if all Alison’s poetry has been published.

Slowly, the dark secret buried inside the house comes to life. Alison’s family has withheld some of her poetry. Agatha, Alison’s spinster sister and close friend, decides to burn down the mansion to destroy the papers and bury the secret. Failed in her attempt, she gives Elsa the unpublished poetry and dies shortly after...

(The entire section is 452 words.)