Arsenic and Old Lace

by Joseph Kesselring

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Student Question

Who are three residents of the Brewster house in Arsenic and Old Lace?

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The three residents of the Brewster house are Abby Brewster, Martha Brewster, and Teddy Brewster.  Abby and Martha are sisters and Teddy is their nephew.  Abby and Martha's theater critic nephew, Mortimer, often visits the house.  Teddy is Mortimer's brother.

Abby is a "plump little darling in her late sixties."  Martha is "a sweet elderly woman with Victorian charm."  Both Martha and Abby dress in Victorian fashion, even though it is the late 1930s.  Martha and Abby are both spinsters.  They sometimes entertain lonely gentleman callers.  These gentleman callers do not leave the Brewster house after visiting, because Martha and Abby poison them.  

Teddy is "in his forties... [with] a large black mustache."  His appearance is similar to that of a young Theodore Roosevelt.  He also behaves as if he is Theodore Roosevelt.

The Brewster house is located in Brooklyn, New York.  It is an old Victorian style house.  It is "one of the oldest houses in Brooklyn."  There is a front porch and a cellar in the house.  The two sisters prefer to use candles instead of electricity.

Mortimer knows that all three members of the Brewster household suffer from some level of insanity.  Teddy is digging what he considers to be the Panama Canal in the cellar.  Martha and Abby do not think they are doing anything wrong by poisoning their visitors.

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