"Inherit the Wind," Vocabulary from Act 2 Scene 2

Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee collaborated on "Inherit the Wind," a fictional account of the Scopes trial where the teaching of evolution in schools was debated. The play, both for its subject matter and its depiction of the legal system, is still relevant today.

Learn these word lists for the play: Act 1 Scene 1, Act 1 Scene 2, Act 2 Scene 1, Act 2 Scene 2, Act 3

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. wretched
    very unhappy; full of misery
    He is wretched in a starched collar and Sunday suit.
  2. prompt
    assist by suggesting the next words of something
    (DRUMMOND is about to protest against prompting the witness; then he decides it isn't worth the trouble.)
  3. peddler
    an unlicensed dealer in illegal drugs
    And the legislature of this sovereign state has had the wisdom to demand that the peddlers of poison—in bottles or in books—clearly label the products they attempt to sell!
  4. ridicule
    language or behavior intended to mock or humiliate
    The courtroom seems to resent DRUMMOND’S gentle ridicule of the orator.
  5. orator
    a person who delivers a speech
    The courtroom seems to resent DRUMMOND’S gentle ridicule of the orator.
  6. morality
    the quality of being in accord with right or good conduct
    The defense is asking that a thirteen-year-old boy hand down an opinion on a question of morality!
  7. instrument
    the means whereby some act is accomplished
    Suppose that makes the telephone an instrument of the Devil?
  8. bewilder
    cause to be confused emotionally
    (Turning to DRUMMOND) Why do you bewilder this child?
  9. plead
    appeal or request earnestly
    Arms out, DAVENPORT pleads to the court, but is unheard.
  10. prejudice
    disadvantage by bias
    Realizing that I may prejudice the case of my client, I must say that “Right” has no meaning to me whatsoever!
  11. peculiar
    beyond or deviating from the usual or expected
    But one of the peculiar imbecilities of our time is the grid of morality we have placed on human behavior: so that every act of man must be measured against an arbitrary latitude of right and longitude of wrong—in exact minutes, seconds, and degrees!
  12. emerge
    come out into view, as from concealment
    RACHEL emerges from among the spectators.
  13. perfunctorily
    in a set manner without serious attention
    MEEKER swears her in perfunctorily.
  14. ample
    more than enough in size or scope or capacity
    So you have had ample opportunity to know the defendant, Mr. Cates, professionally?
  15. stricken
    put out of action (by illness)
    Your Honor, I request that the defendant’s remarks be stricken from the record.
  16. bigoted
    blindly and obstinately attached to some creed or opinion
    But how can we strike this young man’s bigoted opinions from the memory of this community?
  17. trump
    a card in the suit declared to rank above other suits
    (BRADY turns, about to play his trump card) Now, my dear.
  18. hearsay
    heard through another rather than directly
    Hearsay testimony is not admissible.
  19. pertinent
    having precise or logical relevance to the matter at hand
    May I remind you, Miss Brown, that you are testifying under oath, and it is unlawful to withhold pertinent information.
  20. guffaw
    laugh boisterously
    HORNBECK guffaws and pointedly scribbles this down.
  21. matrimony
    state of being a married couple voluntarily joined for life
    What did he say about the holy state of matrimony?
  22. plague
    annoy continually or chronically
    Don’t plague her.
  23. babble
    gibberish resembling the sounds of a baby
    There is a hushed babble of excitement) Does the prosecution wish to call any further witnesses?
  24. alleged
    declared but not proved
    Any testimony relating to his alleged infringement of the law must be admitted!
  25. heresy
    any opinions at variance with the official position
    And I refuse to allow these agnostic scientists to employ this courtroom as a sounding board, as a platform from which they can shout their heresies into the headlines!
  26. incontrovertible
    impossible to deny or disprove
    It is incontrovertible as geometry in every enlightened community of minds!
  27. flabbergasted
    as if struck dumb with astonishment and surprise
    DRUMMOND is flabbergasted.
  28. unorthodox
    breaking with convention or tradition
    I—well, it’s highly unorthodox.
  29. grandiose
    impressive because of unnecessary largeness or magnificence
    BRADY moves to the witness stand in grandiose style.
  30. pagan
    relating to a polytheistic, pre-Christian religion
    I am not in the least interested in the pagan hypotheses of that book.
  31. condescension
    showing arrogance by patronizing those considered inferior
    (BRADY is annoyed at DRUMMOND’S elementary attitude and condescension.)
  32. doggedly
    with obstinate determination
    ( Doggedly)
  33. beget
    generate children
    (He reads) “And Aphraxad begat Salah; and Salah begat Eber” and so on and so on.
  34. mock
    constituting a copy or imitation of something
    (With mock amazement)
  35. sanctity
    the quality of being holy
    In a child’s power to master the multiplication table there is more sanctity than in all your shouted “Amens!”
  36. glib
    marked by lack of intellectual depth
    DRUMMOND ignores this glib gag.
  37. ignoramus
    an ignorant person
    I’m trying to stop you bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States!
  38. oratory
    addressing an audience formally
    So you, Matthew Harrison Brady, through oratory, legislation, or whatever, pass along God’s orders to the rest of the world!
  39. frenzy
    state of violent mental agitation
    BRADY is almost in a frenzy.

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