Arsenic and Old Lace

by Joseph Kesselring

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Topics for Further Study

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• Some scholars suggest that Kesselring wrote the play as a thriller and then was prompted to turn it into a farce. Would the play work as a thriller? Propose a general outline of the play as a thriller and rewrite in detail a key scene that would illustrate this genre.

• Compare and contrast the Broadway hit Sweeney Todd, another play in the comic/thriller genre, with Arsenic and Old Lace.

• Research the treatment of the mentally ill in America in the 1930s and 1940s. Were there ‘‘Happy Dales’’ then that provided comfortable living arrangements for those like Teddy and the Brewster sisters?

• Investigate the accepted theories on biological determinism during the 1930s and 1940s. Discuss the debate over nature versus nurture during this period.

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