Cover image for Inherit the wind
Inherit the wind
Lawrence, Jerome, 1915-2004.
Publication Information:
New York : [Random House], 1960.

Physical Description:
129 pages ; 18 cm
Reading Level:
850 Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC High School 8.2 5 Quiz: 05851 Guided reading level: NR.
Subject Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3523 .A932C Young Adult Mass Market Paperback Reading List
PS3523 .A932C Adult Non-Fiction Classics

On Order



The accused was a slight, frightened man who had  deliberately broken the law. His trial was a Roman  circus. The chief gladiators were two great legal  giants of the century. Like two bull elephants  locked in mortal combat, they bellowed and roared  imprecations and abuse. The spectators sat uneasily  in the sweltering heat with murder in their hearts,  barely able to restrain themselves. At stake was  the freedom of every American. One of the most  moving and meaningful plays of our generation. "a  tidal wave of a drama." -- New York  World-Telegram And Sun

Author Notes

Jerome Lawrence was born July 14, 1915, in Cleveland, Ohio, into a literary family. As a teenager, Jerome Lawrence studied writing with Eugene C. Davis. After graduating from Glenville High School in Cleveland in 1933, Lawrence went on to study with Harlan Hatcher, Herman Miller, and Robert Newdick at Ohio State University. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Ohio State in 1937. Between 1937 and 1939, Lawrence was a graduate student at the Universty of California at Los Angeles.

Together, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee have written famous works of American drama, including Inherit the Wind, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, and Auntie Mame. For their work as playwrights, they have won two Peabody Awards, the Variety Critics Poll Award, multiple Tony Award nominations, and many more awards.

Both Lawrence and Lee were fundamentally shaped by their participation in World War II. Staff Sergeant Lawrence served as a consultant to the Secretary of War and later as an Army correspondent in North Africa and Italy. In addition to his service in themilitary, he worked as a journalist, reporter, and telegraph editor of small Ohio daily papers and as a continuity editor at KMPC in Beverly Hills. Before World War II, he had worked from 1939 to 1941, as a senior staff writer for CBS Radio, experience that became useful when he and Lee founded Armed Forces Radio. Lawrence's interest in drama extends back to his high school and college days, when he acted in and directed school and summer theater productions.

Working together on Armed Forces Radio, Lawrence and Lee produced the official Army-Navy radio programs for D-Day, VE-Day, and VJ-Day. After the war, they created radio programs for CBS, including the series "Columbia Workshop." They also co-wrote radio plays including The Unexpected in 1951, Song of Norway in 1957, Shangri-La in 1960, a radio version of Inherit the Wind in 1965, and Lincoln the Unwilling Warrior in 1974. Inherit the Wind earned Lawrence and Lee numerous awards in the year after its production. The play won the Donaldson Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Variety New York Drama Critics Poll Award, and the Critics Award for Best Foreign Play and was nominated for a Tony Award. Since its publication, the play has been translated into thirty languages.

Lawrence and Lee's excellence in theatre has been rewarded by the Ohioana Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Theatre Assocation, and a number of honorary degrees. Lawrence is the recipient of honorary doctorates from Villanova, the College of Wooster, Farleigh Dickinson University, and Ohio State University. Together, Lawrence and Lee have won numerous Tony nominations, in two separate instances keys to the city of Cleveland, the Moss Hart Memorial Award for Plays of a Free World, a US State Department Medal, an Ohio State Centennial Medal, a Pegasus Award, the Ohio Governor's Award, and a Cleveland Playhouse Plaque.

Lawrence was a visiting professor at Ohio State and a master playwright at New York University, Baylor University, and the Salzburg Seminar in American studies. He died in 2004 from complications from a stroke.

(Bowker Author Biography)



ACT ONE SCENE I   In and around the Hillsboro Courthouse. The foreground is the actual courtroom, with jury box, judge's bench and a scattering of trial-scarred chairs and counsel tables. The back wall of the courtroom is non-existent. On a raked level above it is the courthouse square, the Main Street and the converging streets of the town. This is not so much a literal view of Hillsboro as it is an impression of a sleepy, obscure country town about to be vigorously awakened. It is important to the concept of the play that the town is visible always, looming there, as much on trial as the individual defendant. The crowd is equally important throughout, so that the court becomes a cock-pit, an arena, with the active spectators on all sides of it.   "It is an hour after dawn on a July day that promises to be a scorcher. HOWARD, a boy of thirteen, wanders onto the courthouse lawn. He is barefoot, wearing a pair of his pa's cut-down overalls. He carries an improvised fishing pole and a tin can. He studies the ground carefully, searching for something. A young girl's voice calls from off-stage.   MELINDA (Calling sweetly) How-ard! (HOWARD, annoyed, turns and looks toward the voice. MELINDA, a healthy, pigtailed girl of twelve, skips on) Hello, Howard.   (HOWARD is disinterested, continues to search the ground.)   HOWARD 'Lo, Lindy.   MELINDA (Making conversation) I think it's gonna be hotter'n yesterday. That rain last night didn't do much good.   HOWARD (Professionally) It brought up the worms. (Suddenly he spots one in the lawn. Swiftly he grabs for it, and holds it up proudly) Lookit this fat one!   MELINDA (Shivering) How can you touch 'em? It makes me all goose-bumpy! (HOWARD dangles it in front of her face. She backs away, shuddering.)   HOWARD What're yuh skeered of? You was a worm once!   MELINDA (Shocked) I wasn't neither!   HOWARD You was so! When the whole world was covered with water, there was nuthin' but worms and blobs of jelly. And you and your whole family was worms!   MELINDA We was not!   HOWARD Blobs of jelly, then.   MELINDA Howard Blair, that's sinful talk! I'm gonna tell my pa and he'll make you wash your mouth out with soap!   HOWARD Ahhh, your old man's a monkey! (MELINDA gasps. She turns indignantly and runs off.)   HOWARD shrugs in the manner of a man-of-the-world) 'Bye, Lindy. (He deposits the worm in his tin can, and continues looking for more. RACHEL enters. She is twenty-two, pretty, but not beautiful. She wears a cotton summer dress. She carries a small composition-paper suitcase. There is a tense, distraught air about her. She may have been crying. She looks about nervously, as if she doesn't want to be seen. When she sees HOWARD, she hesitates; then she crosses quickly downstage into the courthouse area in the hope that the boy will not notice her. But he does see RACHEL, and watches her with puzzled curiosity. Then he spots another worm, tugs it out of the ground, and holds it up, wriggling. )   (HOWARD addresses the worm) What do you wanta be when you grow up?   (RACHEL stands uncertainly in the courthouse area. This is strange ground to her. Unsure, she looks about.)   RACHEL (Tentatively, calling) Mr. Meeker...?   (After a pause, a door at stage right opens. MR. MEEKER, the bailiff, enters. There is no collar on his shirt; his hair is tousled, and there is shaving soap on his face, which he is wiping off with a towel as he enters.)   MEEKER (A little irritably)   Who is it? (Surprised) Why, hello, Rachel. 'Scuse the way I look. (He wipes the soap out of his ear. Then he notices her suitcase) Not goin' away, are you? Excitement's just startin'.   RACHEL (Earnestly) Mr. Meeker, don't let my father know I came here.   MEEKER (Shrugs) The Reverend don't tell me his business. Don't know why I should tell him mine.   RACHEL I want to see Bert Cates. Is he all right?   MEEKER Don't know why he shouldn't be. I always figured the safest place in the world is a jail.   RACHEL Can I go down and see him?   MEEKER Ain't a very proper place for a minister's daughter.   RACHEL I only want to see him for a minute.   MEEKER Sit down, Rachel. I'll bring him up. You can talk to him right here in the courtroom. (RACHEL sits in one of the stiff wooden chairs. MEEKER starts out, then pauses) Long as I've been bailiff here, we've never had nothin' but drunks, vagrants, couple of chicken thieves. (A little dreamily) Our best catch was that fella from Minnesota that chopped up his wife; we had to extradite him. (Shakes his head) Seems kinda queer havin' a schoolteacher in our jail. (Shrugs) Might improve the writin' on the walls.   (MEEKER goes out. Nervously, RACHEL looks around at the cold, official furnishings of the courtroom. MEEKER returns to the courtroom, followed by BERT CATES. CATES is a pale, thin young man of twenty-four. He is quiet, shy, well-mannered, not particularly good-looking. RACHEL and CATES face each other expressionlessly, without speaking. MEEKER pauses in the doorway.)   MEEKER I'll leave you two alone to talk. Don't run off, Bert. (MEEKER goes out. RACHEL and CATES look at each other.)   RACHEL Hello, Bert.   CATES Rache, I told you not to come here.   RACHEL I couldn't help it. Nobody saw me. Mr. Meeker won't tell. (Troubled) I keep thinking of you, locked up here--   CATES (Trying to cheer her up) You know something funny? The food's better than the boarding house. And you'd better not tell anybody how cool it is down there, or we'll have a crime wave every summer.   RACHEL I stopped by your place and picked up some of your things. A clean shirt, your best tie, some handkerchiefs.   CATES Thanks.   RACHEL (Rushing to him) Bert, why don't you tell 'em it was all a joke? Tell 'em you didn't mean to break a law, and you won't do it again!   CATES I suppose everybody's all steamed up about Brady coming.   RACHEL He's coming in on a special train out of Chattanooga. Pa's going to the station to meet him. Everybody is!   CATES Strike up the band.   RACHEL Bert, it's still not too late. Why can't you admit you're wrong? If the biggest man in the country--next to the President, maybe--if Matthew Harrison Brady comes here to tell the whole world how wrong you are--   CATES You still think I did wrong?   RACHEL Why did you do it?   CATES You know why I did it. I had the book in my hand, Hunter's Civic Biology. I opened it up, and read my sophomore science class Chapter 17, Darwin's Origin of Species. (RACHEL starts to protest) All it says is that man wasn't just stuck here like a geranium in a flower pot; that living comes from a long miracle, it didn't just happen in seven days.   RACHEL There's a law against it.   CATES I know that.   RACHEL Everybody says what you did is bad.   CATES It isn't as simple as that. Good or bad, black or white, night or day. Do you know, at the top of the world the twilight is six months long?   RACHEL But we don't live at the top of the world. We live in Hillsboro, and when the sun goes down, it's dark. And why do you try to make it different? (RACHEL gets the shirt, tie, and handkerchiefs from the suitcase) Here.   CATES Thanks, Rache.   RACHEL Why can't you be on the right side of things?   CATES Your father's side. (RACHEL starts to leave. CATES runs after her) Rache--love me!   (They embrace. MEEKER enters with a long-handled broom.)   MEEKER (Clears his throat) I gotta sweep.   (RACHEL breaks away and hurries off.)   CATES (Calling) Thanks for the shirt!   (MEEKER, who has been sweeping impassively now stops and leans on the broom.)   MEEKER Imagine. Matthew Harrison Brady, comin' here. I voted for him for President. Twice. In nineteen hundred, and again in oh-eight. Wasn't old enough to vote for him the first time he ran. But my pa did. (Turns proudly to CATES) I seen him once. At a Chautauqua meeting in Chattanooga. (Impressed, remembering) The tent-poles shook! (CATES moves nervously) Who's gonna be your lawyer, son?   CATES I don't know yet. I wrote to that newspaper in Baltimore. They're sending somebody.   MEEKER (Resumes sweeping) He better be loud.   CATES (Picking up the shirt)   You want me to go back down?   MEEKER No need. You can stay up here if you want.   CATES (Going toward the jail) I'm supposed to be in jail; I'd better be in jail!   (MEEKER shrugs and follows CATES off. ) Excerpted from Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.