Justice (play)

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Justice was a 1910 crime play by the British writer John Galsworthy. It was part of a campaign to improve conditions in British prisons.

Winston Churchill attended an early performance of the play at the Duke of York's Theatre in London.[1]


  • James How, solicitor
  • Walter How, solicitor
  • Robert Cokeson, their managing clerk
  • William Falder, their junior clerk
  • Sweedle, their office-boy
  • Wister, a detective
  • Cowley, a cashier
  • Mr Justice Floyd, a judge
  • Harold Cleaver, an old advocate
  • Hector Frome, a young advocate
  • Captain Danson, VC, a prison governor
  • The Rev Hugh Miller, a prison chaplain
  • Edward Clement, a prison doctor
  • Wooder, a chief warder
  • Moaney, convict
  • Clifton, convict
  • O'Cleary, convict
  • Ruth Honeywill, a woman
  • a number of barristers, solicitors, spectators, ushers, reporters, jurymen, warders and prisoners

Time: The Present


(Note: The following synopsis was that of Emma Goldman, as published in a 1914 collection entitled The Social Significance of the Moden Drama:[2])

The play opens in the office of James How & Sons, solicitors. The senior clerk, Robert Cokeson, discovers that a check he had issued for nine pounds has been forged to ninety. By elimination, suspicion falls upon William Falder, the junior office clerk. The latter is in love with a married woman, the abused and ill-treated wife of a brutal drunkard. Pressed by his employer, a severe yet not unkindly man, Falder confesses the forgery, pleading the dire necessity of his sweetheart, Ruth Honeywill, with whom he had planned to escape to save her from the unbearable brutality of her husband. Notwithstanding the entreaties of young Walter How, who holds modern ideas, his father, a moral and law-respecting citizen, turns Falder over to the police.

The second act, in the court room, shows Justice in the very process of manufacture. The scene equals in dramatic power and psychologic verity the great court scene in "Resurrection". Young Falder, a youth of twenty-three, stands before the bar. Ruth, his faithful sweetheart, full of love and devotion, burns with anxiety to save the young man, whose affection for her has brought about his present predicament. Falder is defended by Lawyer Frome, whose speech to the jury is a masterpiece of social philosophy. He does not attempt to dispute the mere fact that his client had altered the check; and though he pleads temporary aberration in his defense, the argument is based on a social consciousness as fundamental and all-embracing as the roots of our social ills. He shows Falder to have faced the alternative of seeing the beloved woman murdered by her brutal husband, whom she cannot divorce, or of taking the law into his own hands. He pleads with the jury not to turn the weak young man into a criminal by condemning him to prison.

In prison the young, inexperienced convict soon finds himself the victim of the terrible "system." The authorities admit that young Falder is mentally and physically "in bad shape," but nothing can be done in the matter: many others are in a similar position, and "the quarters are inadequate."

The third scene of the third act takes place in Falder's prison

Falder leaves the prison, a broken man. Thanks to Ruth's pleading, the firm of James How & Son is willing to take Falder back in their employ, on condition that he give up Ruth. Falder resents this:

It is then that Falder learns the awful news that the woman he loves had been driven by the chariot wheel of Justice to sell herself. At this moment the police appear to drag Falder back to prison for failing to report to the authorities as ticket-of-leave man. Completely overcome by the inexorability of his fate, Falder throws himself down the stairs, breaking his neck.

The socio-revolutionary significance of "Justice" consists not only in the portrayal of the in-human system which grinds the Falders and Honeywills, but even more so in the utter helplessness of society as expressed in the words of the Senior Clerk, Cokeson, "No one'll touch him now! Never again! He's safe with gentle Jesus!"



  1. ^ Havighurst p.163
  2. ^ http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/clsc92w1.html
  3. ^ Nagendra (1981). Premchand: an anthology. Bansal. p. 70. OCLC 8668427. 


  • Havighurst, Alfred F. Radical journalist: H. W. Massingham (1860-1924). Alden and Mowbray, 1974