Arsenic and Old Lace

by Joseph Kesselring

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Student Question

Why does Mortimer want to keep his wedding a secret?

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Mortimer Brewster is the very symbol of bachelorhood. In his capacity as drama critic, he has sneered at every love scene in every play. He has written, by his own estimation, four million words against marriage. However, Mortimer is about to get married himself.

A famous writer and drama critic, Mortimer's most notable book was a kind of bachelor's bible. The idea of the man responsible for writing such a cynical, world-weary attack on married life actually getting married himself is simply too ridiculous for words, as Mortimer knows all too well.

That said, Mortimer still plans to go ahead with getting hitched to Elaine. He just doesn't want it to get out. At least not yet. Otherwise, his reputation will be damaged beyond repair, and no one will ever take his writings seriously again.

Mortimer's attempts to keep his forthcoming nuptials under wraps lead to suitably absurd situations. When standing in line to obtain his marriage license he whispers to the court clerk that he doesn't want this to get out for a while. To make himself look even more ridiculous, Mortimer resorts to wearing dark glasses and ducking into a nearby telephone booth as a way of avoiding any reporters who might be lurking in the vicinity.

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