The scene opens with the king and queen of hearts sitting on their thrones in the court where the trial is to take place to find out who stole the tarts. The knave is in chains, accused of the crime, and there is a large plate of tarts on a table in the middle of the court. The rabbit has a scroll in one hand and a trumpet in the other.
This is Alice’s first visit to a court of justice but she recognizes many things, such as the judge (who was the king of hearts) and the jury because she had read about them. The jurors, all animals and birds, were writing on slates. Alice asks the Gryphon what they are doing. He said they were putting down their names for fear they would forget them before the trial. At that Alice cries indignantly, ‘Stupid Things!’ The rabbit cries silence at her outburst! Alice looks to see what the jurors are writing…they are writing ‘stupid things’ on their slates…one juror doesn’t know how to spell stupid and has to ask his neighbor. (Was Alice justified in being indignant with the jurors? I guess it would be disturbing to be the one on trial and have a jury with such short-term memories.)
The first witness called is the Hatter who arrives with a teacup and bread and butter. While the hatter is being questioned, Alice feels a curious sensation and realizes that she is beginning to grow larger again which put a squeeze on the doormouse sitting next to her. When he complains, she tells him that she can’t help it because she was growing, to which he replies that she has ‘no right to grow here.’ (I wonder if the term ‘growing pains’ was meant to refer to the one growing or the ones that have to endure our growth.)
The interrogation continues with the poor, trembling Hatter. The judge threatens to execute him for not remembering (there seems to be a widespread problem with memory in the courtroom). Finally he is dismissed and he leaves the room so quickly that he forgets to wear his shoes.
The next witness called is the duchess’s cook who refuses to give her evidence. So the judge asks her what tarts are made of. She replies pepper mostly, but the sleepy dormouse answers ‘treakle’ which causes an uproar with the queen who wants him removed from the court. This caused considerable confusion in the court trying to get the dormouse out. By the time all settles, the cook is nowhere to be found.
The judge asks for the next witness to be called and asks the queen to cross-examine the next witness. The white rabbit looks at the list and Alice curiously waits to see what the next witness will be like because she doesn’t think they have much evidence yet. She must certainly have been surprised to find out the name the Rabbit reads out loud is none other than…..’Alice!’