71 pages 2 hours read

Joseph Kesselring

Arsenic and Old Lace

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1941

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Reading Questions & Paired Texts

Reading Check and Short Answer Questions on key plot points are designed for guided reading assignments, in-class review, formative assessment, quizzes, and more.

Act I

Reading Check

1. Whom does Teddy believe himself to be?

2. Where does Mortimer plan to take Elaine after his proposal?

3. What is Mortimer searching for when he mistakenly discovers the dead body in the window seat?

4. Who does Mortimer believe is responsible for the man’s death?

5. How do Abby and Martha murder their victims?

6. Who arrives at Abby and Martha’s house after Mortimer leaves?

Short Answer

Answer each question in at least one complete sentence. Incorporate details from the text to support your response.

1. How does Reverend Harper describe the Brewster sisters?

2. Why does Teddy dig in the cellar for the Brewster sisters?

3. Why do the Brewster sisters kill, and how are their killings related to the play’s theme of The Absurd Comedy of Contradictions?

Paired Resource

Theodore Roosevelt

  • This article describes the life of Theodore Roosevelt.
  • What are some of Theodore Roosevelt’s characteristics? What changes did Teddy make to American culture? How is Teddy’s life related to the play’s themes of Family Loyalty Versus Independence and The Absurd Comedy of Contradictions?

The Panama Canal

  • This 6-minute video describes the construction of the Panama Canal.
  • What is the Panama Canal? Why was it built? Why was there great difficulty constructing the Panama Canal? Who built the Panama Canal? How are the references to the Panama Canal related to the play’s theme of The Absurd Comedy of Contradictions?