71 pages 2 hours read

Joseph Kesselring

Arsenic and Old Lace

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1941

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.


Act Summaries & Analyses

Act III, Scene 1 Summary

Later that night, Abby and Martha, dressed in funeral regalia and holding hymnals, try to stop Jonathan and Einstein from burying Mr. Spenalzo. Martha loudly proclaims that she will “not have our cellar desecrated” (69). As they fight, Mortimer returns to the house, telling them he brought Teddy’s signed commitment papers. He plans to frame Teddy for the murders so that Abby and Martha are protected from punishment. Abby and Martha vehemently reject this plan, as their main concern is forcing Jonathan out and telling the authorities about Mr. Spenalzo. Mortimer notes that if the police find Mr. Spenalzo, they will find Mr. Hoskins and the other bodies. The sisters remain steadfast, and tell Mortimer that if Jonathan, Einstein, and Mr. Spenalzo are still in the house in the morning, they will call the police. Mortimer promises to remove them.

Jonathan and Einstein return to the living room after burying Mr. Spenalzo. Abby and Martha insist that Jonathan digs Spenalzo up and tell him that Mortimer promised they would be out in the morning. This enrages Jonathan, who swears to kill Mortimer right then and there. He tells Einstein that he wants to use the “Melbourne method,” which is long, painful, and requires special equipment.