Trifles

About the Play

Date
1916
First Production

August 8, 1916. Wharf Theatre, Provincetown, MA
First Publication: Plays, Susan Glaspell, Boston, 1920

Cast Breakdown
3M, 2F
Genre
Drama,
Length
One act
 
Availability

In the public domain

Online:

In print:
Susan Glaspell: The Complete Plays, ed. Linda Ben-Zvi and J. Ellen Gainor; Plays by Susan Glaspell, ed. C.W.E. Bigsby; Plays by American Women: 1900-1930, ed. Judith E. Barlow; and numerous other anthologies.


Summary

The county attorney, the sheriff, and a neighbor gather at the isolated Wright farmhouse on a freezing winter day to try to discover who murdered John Wright. His wife, Minnie, has been taken into custody, and the men are seeking evidence of a motive. While they blindly go about their official business, two of their wives “read” her despair in a broken stove, a dead pet, and a badly sewn quilt square.


Background

Trifles is largely based on the killing of John Hossack, a crime Glaspell had covered almost sixteen years earlier. In The Road to the Temple, her biography of husband George Cram Cook, Glaspell claimed that she was compelled to write Trifles when Cook (without her consent) announced a new play of hers for the next Provincetown bill. She recalled: “When I was a newspaper reporter out in Iowa, I was sent down-state to do a murder trial, and I never forgot going into the kitchen of a woman locked up in town.” In the original production, Glaspell played the role of Mrs. Hale.

Written in less than two weeks, the tightly-structured Trifles (later turned into the short story “A Jury of Her Peers”) is Glaspell’s most famous play and one of the finest short works in the dramatic canon. It has been translated into countless languages and performed on stages worldwide. Trifles was adapted into a chamber opera by John G. Bilotta, and director Sally Heckel’s film version, under the title “A Jury of her Peers,” was nominated for an Academy Award.

About the Playwright

Susan Glaspell
Susan Glaspell
Susan Keating Glaspell (1876-1948) Born July 1, 1876, in Davenport, Iowa, Susan Glaspell published news articles and short stories even before entering Drake University, from which she received a degree in philosophy. Over the course of her career, she wrote more than fifty short stories, nine novels, fourteen plays, and a biography of her husband, George Cram (Jig) Cook. It is difficult to imagine the Provincetown Players (1916-1922) without Glaspell, a founding member who acted as well as w…
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