Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Arsenic and Old Lace” as Want to Read:
Arsenic and Old Lace
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Arsenic and Old Lace

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  19,796 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
We meet the charming and innocent ladies who populate their cellar with the remains of socially and religiously "acceptable" roomers; the antics of their brother who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt; and the activities of the other brother these require no further description or amplification here. ARSENIC AND OLD LACE is a must for all nonprofessionals, a ready-made comedy hi ...more
Paperback, 104 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by Chappell Plays (first published 1939)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Arsenic and Old Lace, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Arsenic and Old Lace

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 06, 2017 Carol rated it it was amazing
The last couple of years, I've made an effort to fit in a few classic plays between novels and am still amazed at how much I enjoy them. Of the 15 or so I've read, I do believe ARSENIC AND OLD LACE has taken over first place on my favorites list.

The old Brewster ladies are really a hoot! Home is Brooklyn and Martha and Abby are set in their ways with their cadaverous routines, but just as sweet as can be (hehehe) as they welcome prospective lodgers in for a glass of their own special blend of el

Rebecca McNutt
Jun 23, 2016 Rebecca McNutt rated it it was amazing
Who doesn't love Arsenic and Old Lace? The classic black-and-white black comedy film is one of the strangest and funniest, and this book gives readers the whole story in a play format so that they can experience it away from the big screen as well.
Apr 22, 2008 Kat rated it it was amazing
Basic plot: two little old ladies while away their golden years by taking care of their nephew Teddy and actively pursuing their charity work. Never mind that Teddy thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt and their charity work consists of poisoning little old men.

This is one of the most wonderful bits of dark humor I've ever read. It's laugh-out-loud funny (even when just reading it) and still manages to be creepy. Oh the irony, oh the death, oh the references to Boris Karloff...

I just got done reading thi
Tina Rae
Jun 18, 2012 Tina Rae rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERYONE.
So I thought this movie was just great but the play is EVEN BETTER. Um, how does that work? HOW ARE THEY BOTH SO UNBELIEVABLY GOOD?! Ugh. So in love. Honestly, this is one of the most entertaining and fantastic stories I've ever had the chance to read/see. I wish I could've seen the original theatre version since I'm sure Boris Karloff as Jonathan was nothing short of perfect.

Honestly, plays are, like, my favorite thing in the world. They are just so easy to read and so, so wonderful. This is de
Jun 27, 2016 sabisteb rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics, play
Ich lese absolut nicht gerne Theaterstücke, muss aber für die Prüfung. Dazu musste ein US Stück her. Ich wollte was Unterhaltsames, durch das man sich nicht durchquälen muss und habe mich für „Arsenic and Old Lace“ entschieden.
Zunächst habe ich mir den alten S/W Film angesehen, der mich wahrlich nicht von den Socken gehauen hat. Er ist überdreht und geht einem schon bald ordentlich auf die Nerven. Die Darsteller sind mir streckenweise zu hysterisch. Das war damals wohl so üblich, vermute ich.
Dec 08, 2014 Samantha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the Common Core State Standards is to look at irony and understatement. This play is a great way to acquaint students with those literary techniques. One of my classes hated the play, but the other class got really into it and began acting it out. When I would tell them we were going to stop, they would ask to read JUST ONE MORE PAGE! It was a good time. The play is cute and funny. Abby and Martha are wonderful characters.
May 07, 2007 Xio rated it really liked it
Shelves: booksfrommy20s
This is such a wonderful idea for a couple of assasins to play with.

They did a great job with the film also.
Oct 24, 2014 Realini rated it really liked it
Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring
A family of lunatics goes on a rampage killing 24 people between them. And they call it a comedy.
Actually, rated among the best ever…

A horror comedy might be a way to describe this crime story with plenty of laughs.
A family of lunatics goes on a rampage killing 24 people between them.
How can you turn this into a comedy?
It can’t be easy, but Frank Capra, with the help of Cary Grant has turned this into one of the best comedy films ever made, on some lists
Oct 13, 2007 Tortla rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: awesome people
This is a play. An awesome play. I have no idea when I read this, but I remember it's still good readin' even though it's supposed to be acted out. I shan't destroy the awesome plot for you, but even if I did you'd still be able to experience the awesome. And I think I've seen parts of the movie....I'm not sure though. Yay!
Nov 10, 2015 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school-reads
The events in this play are hilarious and appalling at the same time. If you've never thought two old ladies were capable of murder, then apparently you've never experienced this play. Kick back with a cup of coffee or tea, never the wine, and enjoy.
Catherine D
Feb 05, 2014 Catherine D rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humor, mystery, 2014
One of my favorite plays of all time - funny, just a little creepy and still fun even many years after it was written.
Jesse Roth
Jan 30, 2017 Jesse Roth rated it it was amazing
Delightfully entertaining:)
Jul 27, 2015 Susan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-pop-sugar
The book is more enjoyable than the movie!
Jul 31, 2015 Michelle rated it really liked it
Very funny! I can't wait to see the movie now.
Stella D.
Mar 13, 2017 Stella D. rated it it was amazing
This is exactly my kind of humor. Chaos, crime, and the Panama Canal.
Mortimer Brewster, upon visiting his aunts’ house, discovers they have been poisoning elderly men with elderberry wine that contains arsenic. They say that they do it to put lonely people with nothing to live for out of their misery.
Then Jonathan Brewster, Mortimer's estranged brother and a hardened criminal, returns home, accompanied by his partner, Dr. Einstein, a plastic surgeon. Comedy ensues as Mortimer tries to hide the
Polly Watson
Mar 01, 2012 Polly Watson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
I LOVE Joseph Kesserling's ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. Granted, I am more familiar with Frank Capra's movie version of the play, but I absolutely LOVE this story. I don't know why I find it funny that two very sweet, little elderly women are killing lonely, elderly men as a CHARITY--with elderberry wine laced with arsenic, strictnine, and another poison I can't remember right at this moment in time! But this is THE FUNNIEST movie EVER!!!! I love it! Aunt Abby is my absolute favorite character. If I ev ...more
Feb 15, 2017 Laura rated it it was amazing
Loved this movie with Cary Grant. Hilarious! Classic!
Jan 02, 2013 Paula rated it really liked it
I think I gave this a 4 rating because of the movie. I absolutely adore it and it never fails to make me laugh... This play it's so similar to the movie, so it always takes a bit of excitement and amusement from the play (and that's probably why I didn't enjoy this 110%), but it's still pretty witty and insane!

Sometimes the only think I like about watching a movie first and then reading the book, is that if an actor fits the character, it sticks with you and its manners and everything stays whe
Callie Rose Tyler
Sep 13, 2014 Callie Rose Tyler rated it really liked it
Shelves: plays
What a strange story.

This play is pure comedy and I'm sure just reading doesn't do it justice but I still found it funny and darkly charming.

I love the dry sense of humor, it reminded me of Gene Wilder and his brand of often understated humor. To badly paraphrase a quote - if the words and situation are funny you don't have to be, meaning you don't have to be over the top or clownish to get laughs, the audience is smart enough to see the humor in the situation. This also sums up this play which
Mar 17, 2012 Rebekah rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, 2015
This play is just plain fun, which revolves around one normal man and his crazy often homicidal family. While considering marriage to the woman he loves, Mortimer has to deal with his two aunts who kill the boarders at their boarding house by poisoning them, his brother who is convinced he is Teddy Roosevelt and that hes living in Panama, and another brother who is a murderer and had plastic surgery to hide his identity.

Of course things are not as sinister as they seem.The Aunts believe they ar
Jun 26, 2014 Lauren rated it liked it
This play has been on my to-read list for over a decade. I first thought I should read it while in high school (it’s a popular piece for the teenage drama geek set, and I still feel deprived that my high school didn’t stage it while I was a student). As I didn’t appreciate dark comedy as a teenager the way I do now, my procrastination paid off.

And wow is Arsenic and Old Lace a dark comedy. From 1940. I don’t associate the 1930s and 1940s with the sort of humor on display in Arsenic and Old Lace,
Anna W.
Feb 10, 2016 Anna W. rated it liked it
This play was performed in 1944. Yes--1944, as in over 70 years ago. Even so, I still see performances of this play publicized often. Such a lengthy publication and performance span surely points to the legitimacy of the content, and I would have to agree. This play details the lives of the Brewster family, the two aunts of which enjoy murders "of mercy." They mercifully kill off old, lonely men so that they do not have to suffer their interpretation of a horrid life. The irony is that their nep ...more
Katy Noyes
Aug 15, 2013 Katy Noyes rated it really liked it
Screwball black comedy. Very funny. I saw the film years ago and thought I'd read the play.

Two elderly sisters, Abby and Martha Brewster are well-liked in their town as well-off do-gooders. Their nephew Mortimer pops in one evening to announce his engagement to their neighbour's daughter only to discover that one of their new 'charity' projects involves poisoning sad and single men, as a kindness, and burying them in their basement. Add to this the slightly deranged 'other' nephew Teddy, who th
Jan 14, 2008 Ellee rated it it was amazing
Another great, hilarious play! I had seen the movie with the same title, but had never read Joseph Kesselring's play. I was delighted that the movie is almost an actual performance of the play! I really enjoyed reading the play and am looking forward to when the movie shows up in my Netflix again!

Recommended for beginning drama readers (very madcap & I hesitate to say it.. zany) and for fans of the movie, especially. People who enjoy reading plays would not find this as high-brow as Harold P
Aug 09, 2016 Eman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, classics
Funniest play I've ever read. I recently saw the 1944 film with Carey Grant and I enjoyed it so much I went ahead and read the original play. I recommend people at least watch the film. It is a well-deserved classic. Very funny and clever.

C. Wilde
Jun 03, 2013 C. Wilde rated it it was amazing
I read this play twice, once as a Freshman and again as a senior. I fell in love both times, it's funny, witty and all together just catches my attention every time. I've also seen the movie where I fell in love with Peter Lorre (Oh woe is me, my darling is dead). This is a black comedy play about two adorable, elderly women whose hobbies include taking care of their nephew, Teddy, who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt and murdering little old men. It's great if you need something to pass the time ...more
Teresa Garcia
Jul 17, 2013 Teresa Garcia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
This was great to read, but even better to act out for drama class. My high school drama teacher I think guaranteed a deeper experience of this for how many times we went over it for rehearsal and in class. Even for those that weren't in it, and were only helping with the set for class, had to hear us practicing and practicing the voices.

I loved how the kindly intent of the ladies went so far astray in religious and cultural acceptability. One of my favorite characters was Teddy though. His disc
Isabela Schwarz
Oct 24, 2013 Isabela Schwarz rated it really liked it
This story reminds me of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (maybe it is???). It was a creepy play because, let’s be honest, what’s creepier than murderous old ladies? Also, it was a lot of fun to read. There were lots of twists in this play, and there was a nice mix of comedy and horror. I think it’s a good story because it’s an easy read and it’s balanced to a point that it will make you shudder but not scream.
Jul 18, 2012 Ken rated it it was amazing
A delightful piece of nonsense. When I finally decided on my midlife crisis, it was to act in at least one play before a live audience. I actually did two, but this was the first. With no experience, I landed two very minor parts in a local production: the last victim of the old ladies' elderberry wine sympathy and the choice part (played in the memorable movie version by Edward Everett Horton) of the insane asylum director. That made the play a lot more meaningful to me.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
2015 Reading Chal...: Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring 3 9 Nov 30, 2015 09:06AM  
The Better Book C...: Arsenic and Old Lace 2 2 Feb 23, 2015 02:10PM  
  • Harvey
  • The Odd Couple
  • You Can't Take it With You
  • Noises Off
  • Blithe Spirit
  • The Lion in Winter
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • Picnic
  • Torch Song Trilogy
  • The Elephant Man
  • Pygmalion & My Fair Lady
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Wait Until Dark
  • Deathtrap
  • Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All for You & The Actor's Nightmare
  • Steel Magnolias (DPS Acting Edition)
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • West Side Story

Share This Book

“You see, insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops.” 21 likes
More quotes…