Thomas Mendip, a discharged soldier, weary of the world and eager to leave it, comes to a small town, announces he has committed murder and demands to be hanged. A philosophical humorist, Thomas is annoyed when the officials oppose his request, even believing he is not guilty of the crime he suggests. Shortly afterward, a young woman, Jennet, is brought before the Mayor for witchcraft, but for some strange reason she has no wish to be put to death! Thomas tries, in his own way, to prove to the official how absurd it would be to refuse to hang a man who wants to be hanged, and at the same time to kill a woman who is not only guiltless, but doesn't want to die. Jennet enjoys the banter, and soon sees the merit in Thomas the man. The Mayor's family members, clerks and officials gather for an impending wedding and seem to be stuck with the dilemma of two uninvited people—who may or may not be hanged in the morning—who must be included in the pre-nuptual activities. Through the party and the night, the intended bride slips off with the orphan clerk, two brothers fight over the bride and later become bored over her, the Mayor gets the vapors, Jennet becomes the guest of honor and poor Thomas falls helplessly in love. Luckily, Jennet has fallen for him too; and when the so-called murder victim is found alive and inebriated, Thomas can't be hanged. The family, having grown fond of Jennet, and with no proof of her witchcraft, leaves the question of hanging until morning, but Justice Tappercoom indicates he will turn a blind eye if she escapes. Jennet convinces Thomas that a life with her is worth putting off his hanging, and they run away together as dawn rises.
"First produced in England, this play had a successful run in New York. It has proved, because of its delightful freshness, the dramatic thrust of its poetry and the sheer high spirits with which the author has endowed his characters, a joy to producer and actor, as well as to the audience. "A poetic fantasy of rare splendor and delight…a work of magical humor and deep beauty," —NY Herald-Tribune.