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The Magistrate (play)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

middle=aged man in Victorian evening dress, much muddied and torn, clutching a chair for support
Arthur Cecil as Mr Posket in the original 1885 production

The Magistrate is a farce by English playwright Arthur Wing Pinero. It concerns a respectable magistrate who finds himself caught up in scandalous events that threaten to disgrace him.

The first production opened at the Court Theatre in London on 21 March 1885. It was Pinero's first attempt at farce, after several dramas, and took audiences and critics by surprise.[1] It was very favourably reviewed, and became a box-office hit, running for a year until 24 March 1886.[2]

In 1917 it was adapted as a musical comedy that ran in London for 801 performances under the title The Boy. The plot was unchanged, but the characters received new names. In 1934, it was adapted for the screen as Those Were the Days, starring Will Hay.

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  • The Magistrates' Court
  • Inside the Magistrates' Court


ok ok We are the magistrates and we hear all the evidence in the case and decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. It is for the prosecution to prove their case beyond all reasonable doubt otherwise we will dismiss it. Traditionally there are three magistrates. I'm the chair and will decide the case with my two colleagues If my two colleages can't agree I will have the deciding vote occasionally we may have to sit as a pair and then decide the case between us Although we've had some training, we are not legal professionals and we are not paid. Magistrates hear all summary offences within their jurisdiction. They can also hear triable either way offences where the defendant has agreed that this can be case. If we believe that a trial is too serious we can refer the case up to the crown court . Even after we have heard a case we can refer that case to the crown court if we believe that our sentencing powers are not sufficient. I'm the legal adviser to the justices although you make still hear me referred to as the clerk of the court or the magistrates clerk and I am legally trained. My job is to ensure that everything runs properly and all the proper procedures are followed I'll ask a defendant to enter a plea and I will ask witnesses to identify themselves. I will advise the magistrates on legal matters and I will ensure that only admissible evidence is put before the court. If a defendant is unrepresented, I will advise them to ensure they get a fair trial I'm the Usher and I ensure that all witnesses have answered their summons I'll fetch witnesses in when they're called and administer the oath or affirmation when the witness is giving evidence I'll pass exhibits around the court. I can even fetch a glass of water for someone if they are thirsty. You'll hear me say all rise on the prosecutors mister doctors and prosecution caps there are three things that I was proved to the satisfaction of the court firstly the offenses being committed secondly that the defendant has committed the offence lastly that all the evidence has been gathered in accordance with the correct evidence gathered procedures fell to do any of those things and the defendant is entitled to an acquittal ok I will ask questions prosecution witnesses to enable them to give evidence kind of us leading questions will suggest answers obviously I can only present evidence that has been gathered help if there is a case to answer and the defense call witnesses that I can cross examine those witnesses remember the prosecutors are only as good as the evidence they'll skip up photos miss la rollet interests Moncler I can challenge evidence is not been gathered family in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and have the evidence excluded if if so required if you fat for exercise your house correctly can account adequately for all your actions initially little for me to challenge remember it's not for the defense to win the case for the prosecution's lose ok

Original cast

  • Mr. Poskett – Arthur Cecil
  • Mr. Bullamy – Fred Cape
  • Colonel Lukyn – John Clayton
  • Captain Horace Vale – F. Kerr
  • Cis Farringdon – H. Eversfield
  • Achille Blond, proprietor of the Hôtel des Princes – Mr. Chevalier
  • Isidore, a waiter – Mr. Deane
  • Mr. Wormington, chief clerk at Mulberry Street Court – Gilbert Trent
  • Inspector Messiter – Albert Sims
  • Sergeant Lugg – William Lugg
  • Constable Harris – Mr. Burnley
  • Wyke, a servant at Mr. Posket's – Mr. Fayre
  • Agatha Poskett, late Farringdon, née Verrinder – Mrs. John Wood
  • Charlotte Verrinder, Mrs Posket's sister – Marion Terry
  • Beatie Tomlinson – Miss Norreys
  • Popham – Miss La Coste[1]


Theatre poster from a performance at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in 1886

Act I

At Mr. Posket's, Bloomsbury
Some years before the play begins, Mr. Posket, a London magistrate, married a widow, Agatha Farringdon. At the time she had pretended to be 31 rather than her true age, which was 36. Accordingly, she found that she needed also to knock five years off the supposed age of her son by her first marriage, Cis Farringdon. When the play opens, the Poskets are preparing to entertain to dinner the following day an old friend of Posket, Colonel Lukyn. The Colonel knew Mrs. Posket in her earlier days, and is Cis's godfather. He is well aware of Mrs. Posket's true age. Fearful that the Colonel may be indiscreet about dates, she slips out that evening to see him privately. She takes with her her sister Charlotte who is staying with the Poskets for a few days, getting over a broken engagement.

Agatha's son Cis takes advantage of his mother's absence. Although he is supposed to be 14, he is in fact 19 without knowing it, and his precocity is far in advance of his supposed age. He smokes, he flirts, he gambles, and now, as soon as his mother has left, he coolly proposes to his staid stepfather that they should go to the Hôtel des Princes, where he has a room. Posket allows himself to be persuaded.[1]

Act II

Room in the Hôtel des Princes, Meek Street
Greatly to his surprise Posket finds himself "making a night of it". Colonel Lukyn has also arranged to dine at the Hôtel des Princes, with his friend Captain Horace Vale. The latter is the man who has broken Charlotte's heart, throwing her over in a fit of jealousy. When Agatha and Charlotte arrive to see the Colonel, there is a lengthy reconciliation scene between Vale and Charlotte. Equally lengthy are the carousings of Posket and Cis in the adjoining room – so much so that a breach of the licensing laws is committed and the police arrive to search the house.

The landlord, having put out the lights, brings all his law-breaking guests into one room and bids them conceal themselves as best they can. Posket and his wife hide under the same table, each unaware of the other's identity. When the police burst in, Posket and Cis make a dash to the balcony, which collapses under their weight, depositing them in the street below. The others are all taken into custody.

Posket and Cis, with the police in pursuit, run through muddy streets, scramble over spiked fences into sloppy ditches, out of London and into the suburbs. In the chase they are separated.[1]


The magistrate arrives at his court: photograph of the 1917 musical version, called The Boy.

Scene I – The magistrates' room, Mulberry Street
Posket staggers back to London just in time to perform his magisterial duties at Mulberry Street court. He is tattered, bruised and dirty. He pretends to be much shocked when the chief clerk tells him that the first case he has to hear involves his friend Lukyn. Despite Lukyn's appeal, Posket permits no favours, and insists that the case must be tried in the normal way. He puts on a show of moral outrage when Lukyn tells him that there are ladies in the case. On going into court, Posket is so shocked to find his wife in the dock that he finds himself, in a trance-like state, sentencing her to seven days' imprisonment without the option of a fine.

Scene II – At Mr. Posket's again
Posket's excessive sentence of his wife and the other guests at the hotel is over-ruled on a technicality by Posket's fellow magistrate, Bullamy. Back at home, Posket feels the force of his wife's indignation, but she cannot avoid explaining her presence at the hotel, and the truth about her deception about her age comes out. He forgives her.[1]

Critical reception

The Times said that for "deftness of construction, ingenuity and genuine fun" the play was the equal of any French farce, and said that it made the public laugh until their sides ache.[3] The Era said "the fun is fast and furious … ingeniously constructed … supremely bright and comical."[1]


The play has been frequently revived. Productions include those at Terry's Theatre in 1892; the Arts Theatre, 1943; St Martin's Theatre in 1944; and the Old Vic in 1959.[4] Another was at the Cambridge Theatre, London, from 18 September 1969, starring Alastair Sim as Mr. Posket, Patricia Routledge as Agatha Posket, Michael Aldridge as Captain Vale, Renée Asherson as Charlotte, Robert Coote as Colonel Lukyn and Tamara Ustinov as Beatie Tomlinson. A more recent London revival, starring Ian Richardson as Posket, was at the Savoy Theatre in 1997.[5]

Between 14 November 2012 and 10 February 2013, a production of The Magistrate was presented at the National Theatre in London, and streamed live to cinemas across the UK. Directed by Timothy Sheader, the production featured John Lithgow in the title role opposite Nancy Carroll.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "The London Theatres", The Era, 28 March 1885, p. 14
  2. ^ "Advertisements & Notices", Daily News, 23 March 1886, p. 4
  3. ^ "The Theatres – Court", The Times, 23 March 1885, p. 8
  4. ^ Gaye, p. 1427
  5. ^ "Theatres", The Observer, 21 December 1997, p. 66
  6. ^ "The Magistrate". Archived from the original on 7 September 2012. Retrieved 14 September 2012."The Magistrate", National Theatre, accessed 10 February 2013


  • Gaye, Freda, ed. (1967). Who's Who in the Theatre (fourteenth ed.). London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons. ISBN 0-273-43345-8.

External links

This page was last edited on 5 December 2023, at 18:58
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