Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA) in English
Dr. Teresa Reed
Queer theatre during the early 1900s in America seems to be almost non-existent when students study literature, history, and even theatre history because the records were suppressed, leaving the teaching of queer history at a disadvantage. One of the most influential queer plays in theatre history was written in 1934 by Lillian Hellman. The Children’s Hour takes place in an all-girls school ran by Karen Wright and Martha Dobie. The two friends encounter a continuous problem by the name of Mary Tilford – one of the girls who attends the school. In an effort to convince her grandmother to withdraw her from the school, Mary tells a lie about the two teachers, accusing them of “unnatural” and “funny” acts with each other. Hellman dramatizes the consequences of said lie and shows how society reacts to two women accused of homosexuality.
By examining the works of scholarly critics on The Children’s Hour, deeply analyzing the text itself, and theorizing on a supposed production of this play, I intend to thoroughly examine the social, political, and cultural impact that The Children’s Hour had, has, and can have on our surrounding world. Although Hellman has said that her intent was to focus on Mary’s lie rather than the queer relationship between Karen and Martha, it is my intent in this paper to argue that The Children’s Hour actually emphasizes the lesbian relationship between the two women. In doing so, it is my intent to showcase the historical, critical, analytical, and theatrical implications of Hellman’s pivotal play. Furthermore, this paper is intended to act as a critical companion to theatre artists interested in or working on a production of The Children’s Hour.