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9'18 Riders to theSea

CATHLEEN (slowly and clearly) An Id


anythingshewill do andisn'tit o. will be soon tired with
keening, and great aysherselfis aftercryingand
MAURYA (putsth sorrowm thehouse?
temptycupmouthdownwards h
togetheronBARTLEY'Sfeet) Th' ont etable, and/c,ys her hands
is come. May theAlmightyG ;r;ealltogetherthistime,andtheend
Michael'ssoul,andonthe mercyonBartley'ssoul,andon
andShawn (bending her head)' d earnus andPatch,andStephen
Nora,andonthesoul ofe ' ' an He have mercy on my soul
very oneIS left livingin theworld '
She pa'" --'.l._ "
....es, auuW", keen rises l' le
away. , a Itt more loudlyfrom the women, then sinks
MAURYA (continuing) Mich;elhasa . .
graceoftheAlmightyGod B I bunalmthefarnorth,by the
whiteboards andad'artey wdl havea finecoffinoutofthe
h ' eepgravesurely Wh
t at? No manatall can beIivin f, . atmorecanWe Want than
Shekneelsdo' g.Or ever,and we must besatisfied.
wnagain andthecurtainfalls slowly.
QUESTIONS
1. Intragedy th .
. I .'. eprotagoOlstgenerally ff,
15 Cearm thiS play; butwhatabout acts, ers;andlearns. Thesufferin
a. Does the protagonistact theactmgandlearning? g
b. she learn? aretheeffectsofheractions?
1 erentat the play's end thanatthe'
2. What,!S theeffectofa traged in w ' '..
; ratherthanactive?Supi:ort trotagomstIS essentially "acted
an ,to other tragedies that fit th' eSls yreferencestoRidersto theSea
any)., ,,,',. ' ' IS notvery-common pattern l'fy' k
now
'
3 :n' I ' , ,. ' , ou
IS!:.USS thelanguageofthe la:' '" ,.. " : ' ' ,
tra81F aspects ofthedrama?p ,r,' does It'Supportboth and ","
, , """>"'jf .!,' ,; Il,.J1.; '.'".,'
.; ':",i1:'.L, \1,', ,';
,1"." " :J
.j .: t !" ';', r
iJ: ,',
SUSANGLASPELL (1882-1948)
Trifles
CHARACTERS
SHERIFF PETERS
MltS. PETERS
HALE
MltS. HALE
COUNTY ATTORNEY HENDEltSON
SCENE. The kitchen in the now abandonedfarmhouse ofJohn Wright, agloomy
kitchen, andleft without havingbeenput in order-thewalls covered withafaded
wallpaper. Downright is adoorleadingto,theparlor. Ontherightwallabovethis
door is abuilt-in kitchen cupboard with shelves in the upper portion and drawers
below. Inthe rearwallatright. up twostepsis adooropeningontostairsleadingto
the secondfloor. In the rearwallat left is adoor to the shedandfrom there to the
outside. Betweenthesetwodoorsisanold{ashifmedblackironstove. Runningalong
the left wallfrom theshed'dooris an oldiron sinkandsinkshelf, in which is seta
handpump.Downstageof the sinkisanuncurtainedwindow.Nearthewindowisan
oldwooden rocker. Genterstage is anunpaintedwooden kitchen table withstraight'
chairs on eitherside. There is asmallchairdown right. Unwashed pans underthe
sink. aloafof bread outside the breadbox, adish towel on the table-othersigns of
incompletedwork.ttltherearthesheddooropensandtheSHERIFFcomesinfollowed
by the COUNTY ATTORNEY andHALE.TheSJiERlFFandHALEaremeninmiddle
life, the COUNTY ATTORNEY is ayoungman; allare much bundledup andgo at
once to the stove. They arefollowed by the two women-theSHERIFF'S wife, MRS.
PF:rERS,first; sheisaslightwirywoman, athinnervousface. MRS. is larger
,andwouldordinarilybecalledmorectmifortablelooking, butsheisdisturbednowand
100Rsfearfully aboutasshe enters, The women havecome inslowly, andstandclose
togethernearthe door.
COUNTY ATTORNEY (at stove rubbinghis handS) This feels good. Come
uptothefire, ladies.
MRS. PETERS (aftertakingastepforward) I'mnot-cold.
SHERIFF (unbuttoninghisovercoatandsteppingawayfrom thestove to rightof
table as ifto mark the beginning ofofficial business) Now, Mr. Hale,
before we move things about, you explain to Mr. Hendersonjust
whatyou saw whenyoucame yesterday morning.
COUNTY ATTORNEY (crossing down to left ofthe table) By the way, has
anythingbeenmoved? Arethingsjustas you leftthemyesterday?
SHERIFF (looking about) It's just about the When it dropped
belowzerolastnightIthoughtI'dbettersendFrankoutthismorning
tomakeafireforus-(sitsrightof center nousegettingpneumo-
979
980 Trifles
niawithahigcaseon,butItoldhimnotto touchanythingexceptthe
stove-andyou know Frank.
COUNTY ATTORNEY Somebodyshould havebeen left hereyesterday.
SHERIFF Oh-yesterday.When I hadtosendFrankto MorrisCenter
for thatmanwho wentcrazy-Iwantyou to know I had my hands
full yesterday. I knewyoucould getbackfromOmahaby todayand
as longas I wentovereverythingheremyself--
COUNTY ATTORNEY Well, Mr. Hale,telljustwhathappenedwhenyou
camehereyesterday morning.
HALE (crossing down to above table}' 'Harry and I had started to town
withaloadofpotatoes.Wecamealongtheroadfrommyplaceandas
I.gothereIsaid, "I'mgoingtoseeifIcan'tgetJohnWrighttogoin
withmeonapartytelephone.",I toWrightaboutitoncebefore
and he putme off,saying folks talked too much anyway, andall he
asked was peace and quiet-Iguess you know about how much he
talkedhimself;but1thoughtmaybeif1wenttothehouseandtalked
aboutit beforehis wife, though1said to Harrythat1didn'tknowas
what his wife wanted mademuchdifference toJohn--
COUNTY ATTORNEY .Let's talkaboutthatlater, Mr. Hale. 1dowantto
talkaboutthat,buttellnowjustwhathappenedwhen you gottothe
.house. . .
HALE J didn'thearor anything; I knockedatthedoor,andstill it
wasallquietinside.I knewthey mustbeup,itwas pasteighto'clock.
SoI knockedagain,andIthoughtIheardsomebodysay,"Comein."
'. I wasn't sure, I'm not sure yet, but I opened the door-this door
(indicating the door by which the two women are stiU standing) andtherein
'.,,: thatrocker-(pointing to it) satMrs. Wright.(They all look at the rocker
.,down .,. .. i" . : ' '
COUNTY shedoing? " . , "
HALE.,She.was rockin'backandforth.Shehadheraproninherhand
,,andwas kindof-pleatingit... ;.,. '.
COUNTY ATTO.mEY And howdidshe-look? .
HALE Well. shelookedqueer.
COUNTY ATTORNEY Howdoyo';mean-queer? , ' ,
HALE Well, as ifshedidn'tknowwhat shewas goingtodonext.And
kindofdone up. '. ..' ..)1',. .., . .
couNTY ATTORNEY (takes out notebook and penal and sits left of center
table) Howdidsheseem tofeel aboutyourcoming? .
HALE Why, I don'tthink,she minded-oneway orother,Shedidn't
pay muchattention.1said,"Howdo,Mrs. Wright,it'scold,ain'tit?"
And shesaid, "Is it?".:.-and went on kind ofpleatingatherapron.
Well,Iwassurprised;shedidn'taskmetocomeupto thestove,orto
setdown,but justsatthere.notevenlookingatme,so Isaid,"Iwant
to seeJohn. II And then she-laughed. I guess you would call it a
laugh. I thought ofHarry and the team outside. so I said a little
Susan Glaspell 981
sharp: "Can'tIseeJohn?""No,"shesays, kind0'dulllike. "Ain'the
home?" says I. "Yes," says she, "he's home." "Then why can't 1see
him?" I asked her, out ofpatience. "'Cause he's dead," says she.
"Dead?" says I. Shejustnoddedherhead, notgetting a bitexcited,
butrockin'backandforth. "Why-whereis he?"says I,notknowing
what to say. Shejustpointed upstairs-likethat. (Himself pointing to
the room above.) Istartedforthestairs,withtheideaofgoingupthere.
Iwalkedfromtheretohere-then1says,"Why,whatdidhedieof?"
"Hediedof aroperoundhisneck,"saysshe,andjustwentonpleatin'
atherapron.Well,1wentoutandcalledHarry. Ithought1might-
need help. We wentupstairsandtherehewas lyin'--
COUNTY ATTORNEY I think I'd ratherhave you go into that upstairs,
whereyoucanpointitallout.Justgoonnowwith therestofthestory.
HALE Well, my first thought was to get that ropeoff. It looked ...
(staps, his face twitches) ...butHarry,hewentuptohim, andhesaid,
"No, he'sdeadall right,andwe'd betternottouchanything."Sowe
went backdownstairs. She was still sitting thatsameway.."Hasany-
bodybeennotified?"1asked."No,"saysshe,unconcerned."Whodid
this, Mrs. Wright?" said Harry. I1e said it business-like-and she
stopped pleatin' ofherapron. HI don't know," shesays. "You don't
know?" says Harry. "No," says she. "Weren'tyou sleepin' in the bed
with him?" says Harry. "Yes," says she, "but 1was on the inside."
slippedaroperoundhisneckandstrangledhimandyou
dtdn'twake up?"says Harry."Ididn'twake up,"shesaidafterhim.
We must'a'lookedasifwe didn'tseehow thatcould be,foraftera
minuteshesaid, "Isleepsound." Harrywas going to ask hermore
questionsbut1saidmaybeweoughttolethertellherstoryfirsttothe
coroner,orthesheriff,soHarrywentfastashecouldtoRivers'place,
where there'satelephone.
COUNTY ATTORNEY AndwhatdidMrs.Wrightdowhensheknewthat
you hadgonefor thecoroner?
HALE Shemovedfromtherockertothatchairoverthere(pointing to a
small chair in. the down right corner) andjustsat there with herhands
heldtogetherandlookingdown. IgotafeelingthatIoughtto make
some convtH"sation, so I said I hadcome into,see if Johnwantedto
put in a telephone, and at that shestarted to laugh, and then she
stoppedand lookedatme....,..scared. (The COUNTY ATTORNEY, who has
had his notebook out; makes a note.) I dunno,maybe it wasn'tscared. I
wouldn'tliketosay it was. SoonHarrygotback,andthenDr. Lloyd
cameand you, Mr. Peters, andso I guess that's all 1know thatyou
don't.
COUNTY ATTORNEY (rising and looking around) 1guess we'll go upstairs
first-andthen outto the barnandaround there. (To the SHERIFF.)
You're convinced thatthere was nothing important here-nothing
thatwould pointto any motive?
982 Trifles
SHERIFF Nothing here but kitchen things. (The COUNTY ATTORNEY,
afteragainlookingaroundthe kitchen, opensthedoorofacupboardcloset in
rightwall. Hebringsasmallchairfromright-getsonitandlooksonashelf.
Pulls his handaway, stjcky.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY Here'sa nice mess. (The women draw nearerup cen-
Wr.)
MRS. PETERS (to the other woman) Oh, her fruit; it did freeze. (To the
Lawyer.) Sheworriedaboutthatwhen itturnedsocold. Shesaid the
fire'd go outandher jarswould break.
SHERIFF (rises) Well, can you beat the woman! Held for murderand
worryin'aboutherpreserves.
COUNTY ATTORNEY (getting downJrom chair) I guess before we're
through she may have something more serious than preserves to
worryabout. (Crosses down right center.)
HALE Well, women are used to worryingover trifles. (The two women
movealittle closer together.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY (with the gallantry ofayoungpolitician) Andyet, for
all theirworries,whatwouldwe dowithouttheladies?(Thewomendo
not unbend. He goes below the center table to the sink, takes adipperful of
waterfrom thepailandpouringitintoabasin, washeshishands. Whilehe is
doingthis the SHERIFF and HALE cross to cupboard, whichthey inspect. The
COUNTYATTORNEYstartstowipehishandsontherollertowel, turnsitfora
cleanerplace.)Dirtytowels! (Kickshisfoot againsJthepansunderthesink.)
Notmuchofa housekeeper, wouldyousay, ladies?
MRS. HALE (stiffly) .There'sa greatdealofworktobedoneona farm.,
COUN'fY ATTORNEY Tobesure.Andyet(with alittle bow to her) Iknow
therearesomeDicksonCountyfarmhouseswhichdonothavesuch
rollertowels. (He gives itapullto expose itsfuUlength again.)
MRS. HALE Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men's hands aren't
always as cleanas theymightbe. ,I"",,
COUNTY ATTORNEY Ah, loyal to your sex,.I see. But;you and Mrs.
Wrightwereneighbors. I supposeyou were friends, too. '
MRS. HALE (shaking herhead) notseen muchofheroflate years.
I've notbeeninthis house-it'smorethana year:. ;' , i ;
COUNTYATTORNEY (crossingtowomenupcenter) Andwhywasthat?You
didn'tlike her? .
MRS. HALE Ilikedherallwellenough.Farmers'wiveshavetheirhands
full,Mr. Henderson.Andthen--
COUNTY ATTORNEY Yes--?.
MRS. HALE (looking about) Itneverseemeda verycheerfulplace.
COUNTY ATTORNEY No-it'snotcheerful. I shouldn'tsayshehadthe
homemakinginstinct.
MRS. HALE Well, I don'tknow as Wrighthad,either. "-
COUNTY ATTORNEY You meanthattheydidn'tgetonverywell?
MRS. HALE No, 1don'tmeananything. ButI don'tthinka place'dbe
anycheerfullerforJohnWright'sbeinginit.
\'" ' r'.,"
Susan Gla.speU 983
COUNTY ATTORNEY I'dlike to talk moreofthatalittlelater. I want to
getthe lay ofthings upstairs now. (He goes past the women to up right
where steps lead to astairdoor.)
SHERIFF IsupposeanythingMrs. Petersdoes'llbeall right.Shewas to
takeinsomeclothesforher,youknow,andafew littlethings.Weleft
insucha hurryyesterday.
COUNTY ATTORNEY Yes, but I would like to see what you take, Mrs.
Peters, andkeepaneyeoutforanythingthatmightbeofuse to us.
MRS. PETERS Yes,Mr.Henderson.(Themenleavebyuprightdoortostairs.
The women listen to themen'ssteps onthestairs, then look aboutthe kitchen.)
MRS. HALE (crossing left to sink) I'd hate to have mencoming into my
kitchen,snoopingaroundandcriticizing. (She arranges thepans under
sink which the LAWYER hadshoved out ofplace.)
MRS. PETERS Ofcourseit'snomorethantheirduty.(Crosses to cupboard
up right.)
MRS. HALE Duty'S all right, butI guess thatdeputysheriffthatcame
;'
outto makethefire mighthavegotalittleofthison: (Gives the roller
towel apull.) Wish I'd thought ofthat sooner. Seems mean to talk
about her for not having things slicked up when she had to come
away in sucha hurry. (Crosses right to MRS. PETERS at cupboard.)
MRS. PETERS (who hasbeenlookingthroughcupboard, liftsoneendof towelthat
covers apan) Shehadbreadset. (Stands still.)
MRS. HALE (eyesfixed onaloafofbreadbeside the breadbox, which is onalow
shelfofthecupboard.) Shewasgoingtoputthisinthere.(Picksuploaf,
then abruptly drops it. Inamannerofreturning to familiar things.) It'sa
,shameaboutherfruit.Iwonderifit'sallgone.(Getsuponthechairand
looks.) I think there's some here that's all right, Mrs. Peters. Yes- '
here;(holdingittowardthewindow)thisischerries,too. (Lookingagain.)
IdeclareI believethat'stheonlyone.(Gets down,jarinherhand. Goes
to the sinkand wipes it offon the outside.) She'll feel awful badafterall
herhardworkinthehotweather.IremembertheafternoonIputup
my lastsummer.(Sheputsthejaronthebigkitchentable,centerof
theroom. Withasigh, isabout tositdownintherockingchair. Beforesheis
seated realizes what chair it is; with aslow look at it, steps back. The chair
which she has tou.ched rocks back andforth. MRS. PETERS moves to center
table andthey both watchthe chairrockforamoment ortwo.),
MRS. PETERS (shaking offthe mood which the empty rocking chairhas evoked.
Now inabusinesslikemannershespeaks.) Well I mustgetthosethings
from the front roomcloset. (She goes to the door at the right but, after
,
,'.
lookingintotheotherroom, stepsback.) Youcomingwithme, Mrs.Hale?
You could help me carry them. (They go in the other room; reappear,
MRS. PETERScarryingadress, petticoatandskirt, MRS. HALEfollowingwith
apairof shoes.) My,it'scoldinthere.(Sheputstheclothesonthebigtable,
andhurriesto the stove.)
MRS. HALE (right ofcenter table examining the skirt) Wright was close. I
thinkmaybethat'swhyshekeptso muchtoherself.Shedidn'teven
984 Trifles
belongtotheLadies'Aid.Isupposeshefeltshecouldn'tdoherpart,
and thenyou don'tenjoy things when you feel shabby. I heardshe
usedtowearprettyclothesandbelively,whenshewas MinnieFoster,
one ofthe town girls singing in the choir. But that-oh, that was
thirtyyearsago. all youwantto take in?
MRS. PETERS Shesaidphe wanted anapron. Funnythingtowant, for
thereisn'tmuchto getyou dirty injail,goodness knows. ButI sup-
posejusttomakeherfeelmorenatural.(Crosses to cupboard.)Shesaid
,theywasinthetopdrawerin thisc,upboard.Yes,here.Andthenher
little shawl that always hung behind the door. (OPens stair door and
looks.) Yes, hereitis. (Quickly shuts door leadingupstairs.)
MRS. HALE (abruptly movingtoward her) Mrs. Peters?
MRS. PETERS Yes, Mrs. Hale? (At'UP right door.) .;
MRS. HALE Doyou think shedidit?
MRS. PETERS (in afrightened voice) Oh, I don't know.
MRS. HALE Well, I don'tthinkshedid. Asking for an apronand her
littleshawl. Worryingaboutherfruit.
MRS. PETERS (starts tospeak, glances up, wherefootst8pS areheardintheroom
above. Inalow voice) Mr. Peterssays itlooksbad forher. Mr. Hen-
dersonisawfulsarcasticinaspeechandhe'llmakefunofhersayin'
shedidn'twake up. '
MRS. HALE Well, I guessJohnWrightdidn'twakewhenthey wasslip-
pingthatropeunderhis neck.
MRS. PETERS(crossingslowlytotableandplacingsha'wlandapronontablewith
otherclothing) No, it'sstrange:Itmust havebeendoneawfulcrafty'
andstill.Theysayitwassucha-funnywaytokillaman,riggingitall
uplikethat.
MRS. HALE (crossing to leftofMRS. PETERS attable). That'sjustwhatMr.
,,'Halesaid.Therewasaguninthehouse;Hesaysthat's hecan't
.:understand. , ," >
MRS.PETERS Mr.Hendersonsaidcomingoutthatwhatwasneededfor
thecasewasafIlotive;somethingto showanger,!>r-suddenfeeling.
MRS. HALE (who is standing by the.table) Well, I don'tsee any signs of
angeraroundhere.(Sheputsherhandontlui dish towelwhichlies onthe
, table, standslookingdown attable, one-halfof whichis clean, the other'half
messy.)It'swipedtohere.(Makesamoveasiftoftnishwork,thenturnsand
looks at loafofbread outside tlui breadbox. Drops towel. In that voice of
coming back to familiar things.) Wonder how they are finding things
upstairs. (Crossing below table to down right.) I hope she had ita little
morered-upupthere.Youknow,it seemskindof sneaking. Locking
herupintownandthencomingouthereandtryingtogetherown
housetoturnagainsther!
MRS. PETERS But,Mrs. Hale, thelaw is thelaw.
MRS. HALE I s'pose 'tis. (Unbuttoning hercoat.) Betterloosen up your
things, Mrs. Peters. You won't feel them when you go out. (MRS.
'.
SusanGlaspel/ 985
PETERS takes offherfur tippet, goes to hang it on chair back left oftable,
stands lookingat the work basket onfloorneardown left window.)
MRS. PETERS Shewaspiecingaquilt.(Sluibringsthe largesewingbasketto
thecentertableandtheylookatthe brightpieces, MRS. HALEabove thetable
and MRS. PETERS left ofit.)
MRS. HALE It'sa logcabinpattern.Pretty,isn'tit? Iwonderifshewas
goin'toquiltitor justknotit?(Footsteps havebeenluiardcomingdownthe
stairs. TheSHERIFF entersfollowed by HALEandtMCOUNTY ATTORNEY.)
SHERIFF Theywonderifshewas going toquiltitorjustknotit! (Tlui
men laugh, the women look abashed.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY (rubbing his hands overthe stove) Frank's fire didn't
domuch upthere,didit? Well, let'sgoouttothebarnandgetthat
cleared up. (The men go outside by up left door.)
MRS. HALE (resentfully) Idon'tknowasthere'sanythingsostrange,our
takin'upourtimewithlittlethingswhilewe'rewaitingforthemto ,.
.,
the evidence. (She sits in chair right oftable smoothing out a block unth
decision.) I don'tsee as it'sanythingtolaughabout.
MRS. PETERS (apologetically) Of course they've got awful important
thingsontheirminds.(PullsupachairandjoinsMRS. HALEattheleftof
the table.)
MRS. HALE (examininganotherblock): Mrs.Peters,lookatthisone.Here,
this is the oneshe was workingon,and look at thesewingl All the
rest ofit hasbeen sonice and even. And lookat' thisl It'sall over
the place! Why, itlooks as ifshedidn't know what she was about!
(AftersMhassaidthis they look at each other, tMnstarttoglancebackatthe
door. After an instant MRS. HALE, has pulled. at a knot and ripped the
sewing,) .
MRS. PETERs .' Oh" whatarerou,doing.Mrs. Hale?
MRS. HALE(mildly). Justpullingoutastitchortwothat'snotsewedvery
good.(Thr'fUlinganeedle.) Bad sewingalways made fidgety.
MRS. PETERS (wilh aglance atdoor, nervously) Idon'tthlOk we oughtto
touch things. .. . .
MRS. HALE I'll JUSt fi.nish-up. this end; (Suddenly stopping and leaning
fontlard.) Mrs.
MRS. PETERS Yes, Mrs. Hale?
MRS. HALE, Whatdoyou supposeshewas so nervousabout?
MRS. PETERS Oh-Idon'tknow. I don't know as she was nervous. I
sometimessew awfulqueerwhen I'mjusttired. (MRS. HALE starts to
saysomething,looksatMRS. PETERS,thengoesonsewing.)Well,Imustget
these things wrapped up. They may be through sooner than.we
think. (Puttingapron and otherthings together.) I wonderwhere I can
find a pieceofpaper,andstring. (Rises.)
MRS. HALE Inthatcupboard, maybe.
MRS. pETERS (crosses rightlookingincupboard) Why, here!s a bird-cage.
(Holds itup.) Didshehayea bird, Mrs. Hale?
986 Trifles
MRS. HALE Why, I don'tknowwhethershedidornot-I'venotbeen
here forsolong. Therewas a manaroundlastyearsellingcanaries
cheap,butI don'tknowasshetookone;maybeshedid.Sheused to
singreal prettyherself.
PETERS (glancing tf.round) Seemsfunnytothinkofabirdhere.But
shemusthavehadone,orwhywouldshehaveacage?I wonderwhat
happenc:c! to it? \
MRS. HALE I s'posemaybethecatgotit.
MRS. PETERS No, she didn't have a cat. She's got that feeling some
peoplehaveaboutcats-being<\fraidofthem.Mycatgotinherroom
andshe was real upsetand asked me to take itout.
MRS. HALE My sister Bessie was like that. Queer,ain't it?
MRS. PETERS (examining the cage) Why,lookatthisdoor.It'sbroke.One
hinge is pulledapart. (Takes a step doum to MRS. HALE'S right.)
MRS. HALE (looking too) Looksasifsomeonemusthavebeenroughwith
it.
MRS. PETERS Why,yes.(She brings the cageforwardandputsit on the table.)
MRS. HALE (glancing toward up left door) I wish ifthey'regoingto find
anyevidence they'dbeaboutit. I don'tlike this place.
MRS. PETERS But rm awful glad you came with me, Mrs. Hale. It
would belonesomeformesitting herealone.
MRS. HALE It would, wouldn'tit? (Dropping her sewing.) ButI tell you
whatIdowish, Mrs. Peters. Iwish I hadcomeoversometimeswhen
she was here. I-(looking around the room)-wishI had.
MRS. PETERS But ofcourse you were awfulbusy, Mrs. Hale-your
houseandyourchildren. . '.. .
t1RS.,HALE (rises and crosses left) Icould'vecome.Istayedawaybecause
itweren'tcheerful-andthat'swhy.!oughttoh<l-ye come. I-:-(Iooking
i out left window)-l'veneverliked this place. Maybebec;:ause ifsdown
.. in.ahollowandyou don'tseetheroad. I dunnowhat it is, butit's a
I lonesomeplaceandalwayswas. IwishIhadcomeovertoseeMinnie
Fostersometimes. I cansee now-(Sh4kes her head.) ,. ;, .
(left of table and above it) ., Well,youmustn't'reproachyour-
self, Mrs.,Hale.Somehowwejustdon'tseehowitis withotherfolks
until-somethingturns up. .. ,..
MRS. HALE Nothavingchildrenmakeslesswork...,...butitmakesaquiet
house,andWrightouttoworkallday,andnocompanywhenhedid
come in. (Turning from window.) Did you know John Wright,Mrs.
Peters?
MRS. PETERS Notto knowhim;I'veseenhimintown.Theysayhewas
a good man.
MRS. HALE Yes-good; he didn'tdrink,and kepthis word as well as
most,Iguess,andpaidhisdebts.Buthewasahardman,Mrs.Peters.
Justto pass the timeofdaywith him-(Shivm.) Like a raw wind
thatgetstothebone.(Pauses, her eyefalling on the cage.) Ishouldthink
shewould'a'wanteda bird. Butwhatdoyousupposewentwith it?
Susan Glaspell 987
MRS. PETERS I don'tknow, unlessit gotsickanddied.(She reaches over
and swings the broken door, swings it again, both women watch it.)
MRS. HALE You weren'traised round here, were you? (MRS. PETERS
shakes her head.) Youdidn'tknow-her?
MRS. PETERS Nottill theybroughtheryesterday.
MRS. HALE She-cometo think ofit, shewas kind oflike abird her-
self-realsweetand pretty,butkind oftimid and-fluttery.How-
she-did-change. (Silence: then as if struck by a happy thought and
relieved to get back to everyday things. Crosses right PETERS to
cupboard, replaces small chair used to stand on to tis ongmal dor;m
right.) Tellyouwhat,Mrs. Peters,whydon'tyoutakethequilt10 With
you? It mighttake uphermind.
MRS. PETERS Why, I think that's a real nice idea, Mrs. Hal.e. There
couldn't possibly beany objection to it could there? Now,Just
would I take? I wonderifherpatchesarein here-andherthmgs.
(They look in the sewing basket.), ' , .
MRS. HALE (crosses to right oftable) Heressomered.IexpectthiShasgot
sewingthingsin it. (Brings out afancy box.) Whata pretty,box.
likesomethingsomebodywould giveyou. Maybe herSCissors are10
here. (OPens box. Suddenly puts her hand to her nose.) Why-(MRS.
PETERS bends nearer, then turns her face away.) There's something
wrapped upinthis pieceofsilk.
MRS. PETERS Why,thisisn'therscissors.
MRS. HALE (lifting the silk) Oh,Mrs.Peters-it's--(MRS.PETERS bends
closer.)
MRS. PETERS It's thebird.
MRS. HALE But,Mrs.Peters-lookatit! Its neck! Lookatitsneck! It's
all-othersideto.
MRS. PETERS .&mebody-wrung-its-neck.(Their eyes meet. A look of
growing comprehension, of horror. Steps are outside. MRS. HALEslips
box under quilt pieces, and sinks into her chatr. Enter SHERlFFand COUNTY
ATTORNEY. MRS. PETERSsteps down left and stands looking out ofwindow.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY (as one turning from serious things to little pleasantries)
Well. ladies, have you decided whethershe was goingto quilt itor
knotit? (Crosses to center above table.)
MRS. PETERS We think she was going to-knotit. (SHERlFF crosses to
right of stove, lifts stove lid and glances at fire, then stands warming hands at
stove.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY Well, that's interesting, I'm sure. the bird-
cage.) Hasthebird flown?
MRS. HALE (putting more quilt pieces over the box) We thinkthe-catgot
k. L
COUNTY ATTORNEY (preoccupied) Is thereacat? (MRS. HALEgwnce
s
tna
quick covert way at Mas. PETERS.)
MRS. PETERS Well, not now. They're superstitious, you'know. They
leave.
988 Trifles
COUNTY ATTORNEY (to SHERIFF PETERS, continuing an interrupted conver-
sation) Nosignatallof anyonehavingcomefromtheoutside.Their
own rope. Now let'sgoupagainandgooveritpiece by piece. (They
start upstairs.) It would have to have been someone who knewjust
.the-- (MRS. PETERS sits down left of table. The two women sit there not
looking at One but as ifpeering into something and at the same time
holding back. When they talk now it is in the manner of feeling their way over
strange ground, as if afraid of what they are saying, but as if they cannot help
saying it.)
MRS. HALE Sheliked the bird. Shewas going to bury itin thatpretty
box. '
MRS. PETERS (in a whisper) When I was agirl-mykitten-therewas a
boy took a hatchet, and befo,re my eyes-and before I could get
there-- (Covers her face an instant.).lf they hadn't held me back I
would have-(catches herself, looks upstairs where steps are heard, falters
weakly)-hurt him.
MRS. HALE (with a slow look around her) I wonder how it would seem
nevertohavehadanychildrenaround.(Pause.) No,Wrightwouldn't
likethebird-athingthatsang.Sheusedtosing. Hekilled that.too.
MRS. PETERS (moving uneasily) Wedon'tknowwho killed thebird.
MRS. HALE I knew'JohnWright. ,
MRS. PETERS Itwas anawful thingwas done in this house that night,
Mrs. Hale. Killing a man while heslept,slippinga ropearound his
neckthatchokedthelifeoutofhim. ,'
MRS. HALE Hisneck.Chokedthelifeoutofhim.(Her hand goes out and
rests on the bird-cage.),
M:RS. (with rising voice) Wedon'tknowwhQ killedhim.Wedon't
know.
M:RS. HALE (her own feeling not interrupted) ,Ifthere'd been years and
.yea,rs ofoothing, abird tosingtoyou, itwould beawful-still,
! afterthebird was still. '. '.' "., ;, '...
MRS.. PETERS.(something within her speaking) ,I,'know what stillness,is.
,Whenwe homesteadedinDakota, andmyfirst babydied-afterhe
;.was two yearsold. andme wit11 nootherthen--,,,! ,.' "
MRS. HALE (moving) Howsoondoyousupposethey'llbethroughlook-
,jng,fortheevidence? .))',:'.:1. ,
MRS. PETERS., I knowwhatstillnessis. (Pulling herself back.) Thelawhas
gotto punishcrjme,Mrs. Hale.
MRS. HALE (not as if answering that) I wish you'd seen Minnie Foster
whensheworea whitedresswithblueribbonsandstooduptherein
thechoirandsang. (A look around the room.) Oh,I wish I'dcomeover
here once in a whilel That was a crime! That was a crime! Who's
goingto punish that?
MRS. PETERS (looking upstairs) Wemustn't-takeon.
MRS. HALE I mighthave knownsheneeded helpl 1know how things
Susan Glaspell 989
can be-forwomen. I tell you, it's queer, Mrs. Peters. We liv: close
togetherandwe live farapart. We all gothroughthesame thm?s.-
it'salljustadifferentkindofthesamething.(Brushes her eyes,
the jar offruit, reaches out for it.) Iflwasyou1 te,lI her
was gone.Tellheritain't, Tellherit'sallright.TakethiSmtoproveIt
toher.She-shemay neverknow whetherit broke
MRS. PETERS (takes the jar, looks about for somethmg to wrap tt m;
petticoat from the clothes brought from the ?ther room: begtns
. winding this around the jar. In afalse votce) My. Its good the
mencouldn'thearus.Wouldn'ttheyjustlaughlGettmgallstirred,up
overalittlethinglikea-deadcanary.As ifthatcouldhave
to do with-with-wouldn't they laugh! (The men are heard comtng
downstairs,) ,
MRS. HALE (under her breath) Maybetheywould-maybetheywouldnt.
COUNTY ATTORNEY No, Peters, it's all perfectly.clearexcepta reason
fordoingit. Butyou knowjurieswhen itcomestowomen. Ifthere
was some definite thing. (Crosses slowly to above table. SHERIFF crosses
down right. MRS. HALE and MRS. PETERS remain seated at either of
t4ble.) Somethingtoshow-somethingtomakeastory thmg
that would connect up with this strange way ofdomg It--(The
women's eyes meet for an instant. Enter HALEfrom outer door.)
HALE(remaining by door) Well,I'vegottheteamaround.Prettycoldout
there.
COUNTY ATTORNEY I'mgoingtostayawhilebymyself.(To the SHERIFF,)
You cansend Frankoutfor me,can'tyou? Iwanttogooverevery-
thing. I'm notsatisfied thatwe can'tdobetter.
SHERIFF Doyou wanttoseewhatMrs. Petersis goingto takein?(The
LAWYER picks up the apron, laughs.) .
COUNTY ATIORNEY Oh,I guess they'renotvery thmgs
ladies have picked out. (Moves a few things about. dtsturbing qutlt
pieces which cover the box. StqJs back.) No, Mrs. Peters doesnt need
supervising. For that matter a sheriff's wife is married tothe law.
Everthinkofitthatway, Mrs. Peters? .
MRS. PETERS Not-justthatway. . .
SHERIFF (chuckling) Married tothelaw. (Moves to down nght door to the
other room.) Ijustwant you to come in here a minute, George. We
oughtto take a lookatthesewindows.
cOUNTY ATIORNEY (scoffingly) Oh,windowsI
SHERIFF We'll berightout, Mr. Hale. (HALE goes outside. SHERIFF
follows the COUNTY ATTORNEYinto the room. Then MRS. HALErues, hands
tight together, looking intensely at MRS. PETERS,whose eyes make a slow turn,
finally meeting MRS. HALE'S.A moment MRS. HALEholds her, then her own
eyes point the way to where the box is MRS..
throws back quilt pieces and tries to put the box mthe bag she IS carrymg. It IS
too big. She opens box, starts to take bird out, cannot touch it, goes to puces,
7
990 Trifles
stands there helpless. Sound of a knob turning in the other room. MRS. HALE
snatches the box and puts it in the pocket of her big coat. Enter COUNTY
ATTORNEY and SHERIFF, who remains down right.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY(crosses to up left doorfacetiously) Well,Henry,atleast
we found outthatshewas notgoing to quiltit. She was going to-
whatis ityou call if; ladies?
MRS. HALE (standing cfnter below table facing front, her hand against her
pocket) Wecall it-knotit, Mr. Henderson.
Curtain
QUESTIONS
1. WhatdoesTrifles sayaboutmen?about aboutthewaysinwhichthey
toward each ?ther? In how many differentways does Glaspell touch on
thiS (Noucethespeech patternsofthe menand thewomen. How do
th,ey differ? Whatthemes andconcernsdoyou hearfrom each?)
2. the use of"trifles" in the play.
3. DIscuss the, characterization of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. How are they
contrasted In the early partofthe play? What happens to them duringthe
course ofthe play?
4. With which ofthecharacters in this play do yoursympathies lie? Why? To
whatextentdo you approveoftheiractions?
i
I.
.:;
5.contemporary Drama

'j'l
It
1\
Our final readings in.dramabring our study up to the middle of the (
twentiethcentury.Theyincludetwoplays; onea tragedy,Arthur.Miller's I;,
Death of a Salesman, and the other a comedy, Eugene,Ionesco's The
if
Gap.
11
In'Deatli of a Salesman, Millerhas blended manyof the practices of
the nineteentrr..centuryrealistic drama.with thoseofclassical Greekand iii
,
Shakespearean tragedies to create a modern tragedy, a tragedy ofthe ':(
commonman. Theblend is made'possible.by thedeliberatesettingaside
(I
ofone ofAristotle's rules, which says that:tragic heroes must'be people
we can look up. to. We cannotlook up to Willy Loman. Hamlet and Ii
Oedipuswere both seekers of truth. Willy is afraid of the truth, because
if he should. realize and admit the- truth, he would .admit his failures
\'
as husband, father, and salesman. And failure, by Willy's' standards, is
as great a crime as incest is by Oedipus'. I'
Miller has said that "the tragic feeling is evoked in'us when we are
in the presence of a characterwho is ready to lay downhis life, if need
be, to secure one thing-his sense of personal dignity." In this sense,
Willy is certainly tragic; and the fact that the vision of dignity for
which he kills himself is seen by many to be a false one (including,
'within the play, Willy's son Biff, whobitterly protests hisfather'schoice
of sham dignity over true) merely makes the tragedy the more fearful.
Can we be sure that our own values are truer?
991

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