1. As the act begins, Rev. Parris finds the girls ____________ in
the forest; ______________ is there conjuring spirits.
2. Abigail has been _______________ blood, a charm to kill _________________.
3. _________ Parris and _________ Putnam are both sick, supposedly
under a spell of the devil.
4. Goody ___________ has lost seven children in childbirth; she
believed they were __________ by familiar spirits.
5. Goody __________ also believes that witchcraft is present because
Betty “cannot bear to hear the name of” the Lord.
6. Rev. ___________ has been sent for to rid the town of witchcraft.
7. Rev. _____________ is paranoid believing that everyone in the
village is out to destroy him.
8. Mr. ____________ has tried to accumulate all of the land in the
9. __________________ and __________________ have had an affair.
10. _______________ is accused of enlisting the girls to do the work
of the Devil.
11. Abigail accuses _________________ of causing her to ____________
at prayer and to __________________ corruptions; she has previously accused ______________________ of causing her to dream
and not be able to sleep.
12. Abigail describes Goody _____________________ as “a cold,
13. Mr. Corey says he cannot pray when his wife is _______________________.
14. Numerous people are accused of being _______________ by the girls
as Act I ends.
1. __________________ and ___________________ argue over Abigail
as the act begins.
2. Goody ___________________ is given a _______________ by Mary
3. Mary tells the Proctors that Goody ________________, who “sleeps
in ditches”, and Goody _________________, who is “drunk and half-witted”, have been accused of witchcraft,
and that Goody Proctor has been named by ___________________.
4. Goody ______________ will be spared death because she is pregnant.
5. Rev. Hale questions Mr. Proctor because he rarely goes to ________________
and one of his sons has not been ________________; in addition, he cannot recite the Ten Commandments because he forgets the
one about _________________.
6. Goody ________________and Goody ___________________have been
named as witches also.
7. Goody ________________ is accused of murdering Goody Putnam’s
8. Goody ________________ is accused of bewitching Walcott’s
pigs with her ________________.
9. Officials come to arrest Goody _______________________; she is
accused of stabbing Abigail with a _____________________ by using her familiar spirit.
10. The officials find a __________________ with a needle inside;
it had been a gift from Mary, but ___________________ was responsible for the needle.
11. Goody Proctor agrees to go with the officials but asks John not
to tell the ________________ about the witchcraft but to tell them that she has “gone to visit someone sick.”
12. Mr. Proctor says of ____________________, “You are a coward!”
13. Act II ends with ______________ sobbing, “I cannot”
because Mr. Proctor has demanded that she go with him to court and tell the truth about how “the poppet come here and
who stuck the needle in.”
14. She also says “Abby’ll charge __________________
on you, Mr. Proctor!” and
She’ll _____________ me for sayin’ that!”
1. Act III begins inside the ________________________________ with Judge Hathorne questioning
2. When questioned, ________________________ admits that she only pretended that people
were sending their spirits against her.
3. Mr. Proctor learns that Elizabeth says she is ____________________________.
4. “That woman will never lie, Mr. Danforth,” says __________________________
in describing Goody __________________________.
5. “This man is killing his neighbors for their land!” cries __________________;
he is talking about _____________________________.
6. When questioned, ___________________________ announces that Mary Warren is lying
about the poppet and about not seeing familiar spirits.
7. Mr. Proctor confesses his affair with ________________ and accuses her of being
8. “In her life, sir, she have never lied;” she cannot lie, says ____________________
9. When questioned why she dismissed ____________ Goody Proctor said, “I thought
I saw my husband somewhat turning from me. And this girl -- ….I came to think he fancied her…”
10. When asked if her husband ever committed the crime of _____________, Goody Proctor answered no.
11. Too late, she learns that _______________ has confessed; he acknowledges that she lied because she
“thought to save my name!”
12. Only one of the officials believes Mr. Proctor; this person is ____________________________.
13. Abigail pretends to see a _________________ up in the ceiling beams; she says it is ________________________,
who has used sorcery to change her shape.
14. __________________ tries to get Mary Warren to confuse that she is trying to harm the other girls;
finally Mary screams in horror and begins to accuse _________________ of coming to her at night clawing her neck and demanding
that she join in the Devil’s work.
15. Act III ends with Mr. Proctor laughing insanely and with ___________ denouncing the proceedings and
leaving the court.
1. Act IV begins inside the ____________________.
2. ________________ and _________________ have disappeared along with Rev. Parris’
3. _____________ and ___________________ plead with Danforth to postpone the hangings,
but he refuses.
4. Goody _________________ refuses to confess to being a witch.
5. ______________ says, I come to do the Devil’s work. I come to counsel Christians
they should belief themselves. There is blood on my head!”
6. Goody ____________________ is brought in to try to get Mr. Proctor to confess.
7. ___________________ has been pressed to death because he would not confess.
8. “Only be sure of this, for I know it now: Whatever you will do, it is a good
man does it,” says ______________________________.
9. Goody Proctor confesses “It needs a cold wife to prompt ________________.”
10. ________________ agrees to confess, but he refuses to name any others as witches.
11. Mr. Proctor signs his confession but refuses to give it to ___________________ and finally tears it
12. The couple embraces; ______________ is again strongly encouraged to try to get Mr. Proctor to confess
and save his life.
13. Act IV and the play ends with _________________________ crying, ”He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!”
Act I: Opening scene
to the entrance of John Proctor
The play is set in Salem, Massachusetts,
1692; the government is a theocracy—rule by God through religious officials.
Hard work and church consume the majority of a Salem resident's time. Within the community, there are simmering disputes over
land. Matters of boundaries and deeds are a source of constant, bitter disagreements.
As the play opens, Reverend Parris
kneels in prayer in front of his daughter's bed. Ten-year-old Betty Parris lies in an unmoving, unresponsive state. Parris
is a grim, stern man suffering from paranoia. He believes that the members of his congregation should not lift a finger during
religious services without his permission. The rumor that Betty is the victim of witchcraft is running rampant in Salem, and
a crowd has gathered in Parris's parlor. Parris has sent for Reverend John Hale of Beverly, an expert on witchcraft, to determine
whether Betty is indeed bewitched. Parris berates his niece, Abigail Williams, because he discovered her, Betty, and several
other girls dancing in the forest in the middle of the night with his slave, Tituba. Tituba was intoning unintelligible words
and waving her arms over a fire, and Parris thought he spotted someone running naked through the trees.
Abigail denies that she and the girls
engaged in witchcraft. She states that Betty merely fainted from shock when her father caught them dancing. Parris fears that
his enemies will use the scandal to drive him out of his ministerial office. He asks Abigail if her name and reputation are
truly unimpeachable. Elizabeth Proctor, a local woman who once employed Abigail at her home but subsequently fired her, has
stopped attending church regularly. There are rumors that Elizabeth does not want to sit so close to a soiled woman. Abigail
denies any wrongdoing and asserts that Elizabeth hates her because she would not work like a slave. Parris asks why no other
family has hired Abigail if Elizabeth is a liar. Abigail insinuates that Parris is only worried about her employment status
because he begrudges her upkeep.
Thomas Putnam and his wife enter
the room. Putnam holds one of the play's many simmering grudges. His brother-in-law was a candidate for the Salem ministry,
but a small faction thwarted his relative's aspirations. Mrs. Putnam reports that their own daughter, Ruth, is as listless
as Betty, and she claims that someone saw Betty flying over a neighbor's barn.
Mrs. Putnam had seven babies that
each died within a day of its birth. Convinced that someone used witchcraft to murder them, she sent Ruth to Tituba to contact
the spirits of her dead children in order to discover the identity of the murderer. Parris berates Abigail anew and asserts
that she and the girls were indeed practicing witchcraft. Putnam urges Parris to head off his enemies and promptly announce
that he has discovered witchcraft. Mercy Lewis, the Putnams' servant, drops in and reports that Ruth seems better. Parris
agrees to meet the crowd and lead them in a prayer, but he refuses to mention witchcraft until he gets Reverend Hale's opinion.
Once they are alone, Abigail updates
Mercy on the current situation. Mary Warren, the servant for the Proctor household, enters the room in a breathless, nervous
state. She frets that they will all be labeled witches before long. Betty sits up suddenly and cries for her mother, but her
mother is dead and buried. Abigail tells the girls that she has told Parris everything about their activities in the woods,
but Betty cries that Abigail did not tell Parris about drinking blood as a charm to kill Elizabeth Proctor, John Proctor's
wife. Abigail strikes Betty across the face and warns the other girls to confess only that they danced and that Tituba
conjured Ruth's dead sisters. She threatens to kill them if they breathe a word about the other things that they did. She
shakes Betty, but Betty has returned to her unmoving, unresponsive state.
The Crucible is a play about the intersection of private sins with paranoia, hysteria, and religious intolerance. The citizens
of Arthur Miller's Salem of 1692 would consider the very concept of a private
life heretical. The government of Salem, and of Massachusetts as a whole, is a theocracy, with the legal system based on the
Christian Bible. Moral laws and state laws are one and the same; sin and the status of an individual's soul are public concerns.
An individual's private life must conform to the moral laws, or the individual represents a threat to the public good.
Regulating the morality of citizens
requires surveillance. For every inhabitant of Salem, there is a potential witness to the individual's private crimes. State
officials patrol the township, requiring citizens to give an account of their activities. Free speech is not a protected right,
and saying the wrong thing can easily land a citizen in jail. Most of the punishments, such as the stocks, whipping, and hangings,
are public, with the punishment serving to shame the lawbreaker and remind the public that to disagree with the state's decisions
is to disagree with God's will.
The Crucible introduces a community full of underlying personal grudges. Religion pervades
every aspect of life, but it is a religion that lacks a ritual outlet to manage emotions such as anger, jealousy, or resentment.
By 1692, Salem has become a fairly established community, removed from its days
as an outpost on a hostile frontier. Many of the former dangers that united the community in its early years have lessened,
while interpersonal feuds and grudges over property, religious offices, and sexual behavior have begun to simmer beneath the
theocratic surface. These tensions, combined with the paranoia about supernatural forces, pervade the town's religious sensibility
and provide the raw materials for the hysteria of the witch trials.
On the surface, Parris appears to
be an anxious, worried father. However, if we pay close attention to his language, we find indications that he is mainly worried
about his reputation, not the welfare of his daughter and their friends. He fears that Abigail, Betty, and the other girls
were engaging in witchcraft when he caught them dancing, and his first concern is not the endangerment of their souls but
the trouble that the scandal will cause him. It is possible—and likely, from his point of view—that members in
the community would make use of a moral transgression to ruin him. Parris's anxiety about the insecurity of his office reveals
the extent to which conflicts divide the Salem community. Not even those individuals who society believes are invested with
God's will can control the whim of the populace.
The idea of guilt by association
is central to the events in The Crucible, as it is one of the many ways in which the private, moral behavior of citizens
can be regulated. An individual must fear that the sins of his or her friends and associates will taint his or her own name.
Therefore, the individual is pressured to govern his or her private relationships according to public opinion and public law.
To solidify one's good name, it is necessary to publicly condemn the wrongdoing of others. In this way, guilt by association
also reinforces the publicization of private sins. Even before the play begins, Abigail's increasingly questionable reputation,
in light of her unexplained firing by the upright Elizabeth Proctor, threatens her uncle Parris's tenuous hold on power and
authority in the community. The allegations of witchcraft only render her an even greater threat to him.
Putnam, meanwhile, has his own set
of grudges against his fellow Salemites. A rich man from an influential Salem family, he believes that his status grants him
the right to worldly success. Yet he has been thwarted, both in his efforts to make his brother-in-law minister, and in his
family life, where his children have all died in infancy. Putnam is well positioned to use the witch trials to express his
feelings of persecution and undeserved failure, and to satisfy his need for revenge. His wife feels similarly wronged—like
many Puritans, she is all too willing to blame the tragic deaths of her children on supernatural causes—and seeks similar
retribution for what she perceives as the malevolent doings of others.
Act I: The entrance
of John Proctor to the entrance of Reverend Hale
John Proctor, a local farmer, enters
Parris's house to join the girls. Proctor disdains hypocrisy, and many people resent him for exposing their foolishness. However,
Proctor is uneasy with himself because he had conducted an extramarital affair with Abigail. His wife, Elizabeth, discovered
the affair and promptly dismissed Abigail from her work at the Proctor home.
Proctor caustically reminds Mary Warren, who now works for him, that he forbade her to leave his
house, and he threatens to whip her if she does not obey his rules. Mercy Lewis and Mary depart. Abigail declares that she
waits for Proctor at night. Proctor angers her by replying that he made no promises to her during their affair. She retorts
that he cannot claim that he has no feelings for her because she has seen him looking up at her window. He admits that he
still harbors kind feelings for her but asserts that their relationship is over. Abigail mocks Proctor for bending to the
will of his “cold, sniveling” wife's. Proctor threatens to give Abigail a whipping for insulting his wife. Abigail
cries that Proctor put knowledge in her heart, and she declares that he cannot ask her to forget what she has learned—namely,
that all of Salem operates on pretense and lies.
The crowd in the parlor sings a psalm.
At the phrase “going up to Jesus,” Betty covers her ears and collapses into hysterics. Parris, Mercy, and the
Putnams rush into the room. Mrs. Putnam concludes that Betty is bewitched and cannot hear the Lord's name without pain. Rebecca
Nurse, an elderly woman, joins them. Her husband, Francis Nurse, is highly respected in Salem, and many people ask him to
arbitrate their disputes. Over the years, he gradually bought up the 300 acres
that he once rented, and some people resent his success. He and Thomas Putnam bitterly disputed a matter of land boundaries.
Moreover, Francis belonged to the faction that prevented Putnam's brother-in-law from winning the Salem ministry. Giles Corey,
a muscular, wiry eighty-three-year-old farmer, joins the crowd in the room as Rebecca stands over Betty. Betty gradually quiets
in Rebecca's gentle presence. Rebecca assures everyone that Ruth and Betty are probably only suffering from a childish fit,
derived from overstimulation.
Proctor asks if Parris consulted
the legal authorities or called a town meeting before he asked Reverend Hale to uncover demons in Salem. Rebecca fears that
a witch-hunt will spark even more disputes. Putnam demands that Parris have Hale search for signs of witchcraft. Proctor reminds
Putnam that he cannot command Parris and states that Salem does not grant votes on the basis of wealth. Putnam retorts that
Proctor should not worry about Salem's government because he does not attend church regularly like a good citizen. Proctor
announces that he does not agree with Parris's emphasis on “hellfire and damnation” in his sermons.
Parris and Giles bicker over the
question of whether Parris should be granted six pounds for firewood expenses. Parris claims that the six pounds are part
of his salary and that his contract stipulates that the community provide him with firewood. Giles claims that Parris overstepped
his boundaries in asking for the deed to his (Parris's) house. Parris replies that he does not want the community to be able
to toss him out on a whim; his possession of the deed will make it more difficult for citizens to disobey the church.
Parris contends that Proctor does
not have the right to defy his religious authority. He reminds Proctor that Salem is not a community of Quakers, and he advises
Proctor to inform his “followers” of this fact. Parris declares that Proctor belongs to a faction in the church
conspiring against him. Proctor shocks everyone when he says that he does not like Parris's kind of authority and would love
to find and join this enemy faction.
Putnam and Proctor argue over the
proper ownership of a piece of timberland where Proctor harvests his lumber. Putnam claims that his grandfather left the tract
of land to him in his will. Proctor says that he purchased the land from Francis Nurse, adding that Putnam's grandfather had
a habit of willing land that did not belong to him. Putnam, growing irate, threatens to sue Proctor.
In Puritan Salem, young women such
as Abigail, Mary, and Mercy are largely powerless until they get married. As a young, unmarried servant girl, Mary is expected
to obey the will of her employer, Proctor, who can confine her to his home and even whip her for disobeying his orders.
Proctor, in his first appearance,
is presented as a quick-witted, sharp-tongued man with a strong independent streak. These traits would seem to make him a
good person to question the motives of those who cry witchcraft. However, his guilt over his affair with Abigail makes his
position problematic because he is guilty of the very hypocrisy that he despises in others. Abigail, meanwhile, is clearly
not over their affair. She accuses Proctor of “putting knowledge” in her heart. In one sense, Abigail accuses
him of destroying her innocence by taking her virginity. In another sense, she also accuses him of showing her the extent
to which hypocrisy governs social relations in Salem. Abigail's cynicism about her society reveals that she is well positioned
to take advantage of the witch trials for personal gain as well as revenge. Her secret desire to remove Elizabeth Proctor
from her path to John Proctor drives the hysteria that soon develops.
Proctor's inquiry as to whether Parris
consulted anyone before seeking out Reverend Hale illustrates another constricting aspect of Salem society: the emphasis on
public morality and the public good renders individual action suspect. Proctor's question subtly insinuates that Parris has
personal, private, motives for calling Reverend Hale. He compounds the tension between the two by hinting that Parris's fire
and brimstone sermons further the minister's individual interests by encouraging people to obey him, lest they risk going
Parris is one of the least appealing
characters in the play. Suspicious and grasping, he has a strong attachment to the material side of life. It is obvious that
his emphasis on hellfire and damnation is, at least in part, an attempt to coerce the congregation into giving him more material
benefits out of guilt. Parris, Miller mentions in an aside to the audience, was once a merchant in Barbados. His commercialist
zeal shows in the way he uses sin as a sort of currency to procure free firewood and free houses. He would have his congregation
pay God for their sins, but he wants to collect on their debts himself.
Parris's desire to own the deed to
his house is likewise telling. He explains his reasons in terms of the community's fickle attitude toward its ministers—in
this, at least, he has a point. Before his arrival, the Putnams and the Nurses engaged in a bitter dispute over the choice
of minister, a quarrel that offers ample evidence of a minister's vulnerability to political battles and personal grudges
between families. However, Parris's claim that he wants only to ensure “obedience to the Church” is suspect, given
that he reacts to disagreement with the Church's edicts as though it were a personal insult. His allegation that Proctor leads
a church faction intent on bringing about his downfall reveals that Parris is fairly paranoid. This paranoia, coupled with
his actual political vulnerability, primes him to take advantage of the witch trials to protect his personal interests.
Rebecca's insistence to Proctor that
he not “break charity” with the minister suggests that there are few ways to express individual disagreements
in Salem because doing so is considered immoral. Feelings of jealousy and resentment have no outlet other than the court,
which, in theocratic Salem, is also an institution of religious authority. The entire community of Salem is thus ripe for
the witch trials to become an outlet for the expression of economic, political, and personal grudges through the manipulation
of religious and moral authority. The land dispute between Proctor and Putnam adds the final touch to the implication that
the real issues in the witch trials have much more to do with intra-societal and interpersonal concerns than with supernatural
manifestations of the devil's influence.
Act I: The entrance of Reverend Hale to the closing scene
Reverend Hale is an intellectual man, and he has studied witchcraft
extensively. He arrives at Parris's home with a heavy load of books. Hale asks Proctor and Giles if they have afflicted children.
Giles says that Proctor does not believe in witches. Proctor denies having stated an opinion on witches at all and leaves
Hale to his work.
Parris relates the tale of finding
the girls dancing in the forest at night, and Mrs. Putnam reports having sent her daughter to conjure the spirits of her dead
children. She asks if losing seven children before they live a day is a natural occurrence. Hale consults his books while
Rebecca announces that she is too old to sit in on the proceedings. Parris insists that they may find the source of all the
community's troubles, but she leaves anyway.
Giles asks Hale what reading strange
books means because he often finds his wife, Martha, reading books. The night before, he tried to pray but found that he could
not succeed until Martha closed her book and left the house. (Giles has a bad reputation in Salem, and people generally blame
him for thefts and random fires. He cares little for public opinion, and he only began attending church regularly after he
married Martha. Giles does not mention that he only recently learned any prayers and that even small distractions cause him
problems in reciting them.) Hale thoughtfully considers the information and concludes that they will have to discuss the matter
later. Slightly taken aback, Giles states that he does not mean to say that his wife is a witch. He just wants to know what
she reads and why she hides the books from him.
Hale questions Abigail about the
dancing in the forest, but Abigail maintains that the dancing was not connected to witchcraft. Parris hesitantly adds that
he saw a kettle in the grass when he caught the girls at their dancing. Abigail claims that it contained soup, but Parris
insists that he saw something moving in it. Abigail says that a frog jumped in. Under severe questioning, she insists that
she did not call the devil but that Tituba did. She denies drinking any of the brew in the kettle, but when the men bring
Tituba to the room, Abigail points at her and announces that Tituba made her drink blood. Tituba tells Parris and Hale that
Abigail begged her to conjure and concoct a charm.
Tituba insists that someone else
is bewitching the children because the devil has many witches in his service. Hale counsels her to open herself to God's glory,
and he asks if she has ever seen someone that she knows from Salem with the devil. Putnam suggests Sarah Good or Goody Osburn,
two local outcasts. In a rising tide of religious exultation, Tituba says that she saw four people with the devil. She informs
Parris that the devil told her many times to kill him in his sleep, but she refused even though the devil promised to grant
her freedom and send her back to her native Barbados in return for her obedience. She recounts that the devil told her that
he even had white people in his power and that he showed her Sarah Good and Goody Osburn. Mrs. Putnam declares that Tituba's
story makes sense because Goody Osburn midwifed three of her ill-fated births. Abigail adds Bridget Bishop's name to the list
of the accused. Betty rises from the bed and chants more names. The scene closes as Abigail and Betty, in feverish ecstasy,
alternate in piling up names on the growing list. Hale calls for the marshal to bring irons to arrest the accused witches.
In a theocracy, part of the state's
role is policing belief. Therefore, there is a good deal of pressure on the average citizen to inform on the blasphemous speech
of his or her neighbors in the name of Christian duty. Giles's claim to Hale that Proctor does not believe in witches does
not necessarily arise out of a desire to do his Christian duty—he may only be making a joke. However, the very offhand
nature of his statement indicates that reporting a neighbor's heretical words or thoughts is a deeply ingrained behavior in
Rebecca, a figure of respectability and good sense, fears that an
investigation into witchcraft will only increase division within the Salem community. Parris's declaration that a thorough
investigation could get at the root of all the community's problems proves accurate, though not in the way that he foresees.
The witch trials do bring out all of the community's problems, but in the worst possible way. The specter of witchcraft allows
citizens to blame political failures, the deaths of children, and land squabbles on supernatural influences. No one has to
accept individual responsibility for any of the conflicts that divide the community or confront any of his or her personal
issues with other individuals because everyone can simply say, “The devil made me do it.”
Reverend Hale's reaction to Giles's
story about Martha reveals the dangerous implications of a zealous witch-hunt. Ordinarily, reading books not related to the
Bible would be considered an immoral use of one's time, but it certainly would not be interpreted as evidence of witchcraft.
But with Hale present and the scent of witchcraft in the air, the slightest unorthodox behavior automatically makes someone
Abigail's reaction to the mounting
pressure determines the way in which the rest of the witch trials will play out. Because she can no longer truly deny her
involvement in witchcraft, she accepts her guilt but displaces it onto Tituba. She admits being involved in witchcraft but
declares that Tituba forced her into it. Tituba's reaction to being accused follows Abigail's lead: she admits her guilt in
a public setting and receives absolution and then completes her self-cleansing by passing her guilt on to others. In this
manner, the admission of involvement with witchcraft functions like the ritual of confession.
The ritual of confession in the witch
trials also allows the expression of sentiments that could not otherwise be verbalized in repressive Salem. By placing her
own thoughts in the devil's mouth, Tituba can express her long-held aggression against the man who enslaves her. Moreover,
she states that the devil tempted her by showing her some white people that he owned. By naming the devil as a slave owner,
she subtly accuses Parris and other white citizens of doing the devil's work in condoning slavery. Tituba is normally a powerless
figure; in the context of the witch trials, however, she gains a power and authority previously unknown to her. No one would
have listened seriously to a word she had to say before, but she now has a position of authority from which to name the secret
sins of other Salem residents. She uses that power and authority to make accusations that would have earned her a beating
before. The girls—Abigail and Betty—follow the same pattern, empowering themselves through their allegedly religious
John Proctor sits down to dinner
with his wife, Elizabeth. Mary Warren, their servant, has gone to the witch trials, defying Elizabeth's order that she remain
in the house. Fourteen people are now in jail. If these accused witches do not confess, they will be hanged. Whoever Abigail
and her troop name as they go into hysterics is arrested for bewitching the girls.
Proctor can barely believe the craze,
and he tells Elizabeth that Abigail had sworn her dancing had nothing to do with witchcraft. Elizabeth wants him to testify
that the accusations are a sham. He says that he cannot prove his allegation because Abigail told him this information while
they were alone in a room. Elizabeth loses all faith in her husband upon hearing that he and Abigail were alone together.
Proctor demands that she stop judging him. He says that he feels as though his home is a courtroom, but Elizabeth responds
that the real court is in his own heart.
When Mary Warren returns home, she
gives Elizabeth a doll that she sewed in court, saying that it is a gift. She reports that thirty-nine people now stand accused.
John and Mary argue over whether Mary can continue attending the trials. He threatens to whip her, and Mary declares that
she saved Elizabeth's life that day. Elizabeth's name was apparently mentioned in the accusations (Mary will not name the
accuser), but Mary spoke out in Elizabeth's defense. Proctor instructs Mary to go to bed, but she demands that he stop ordering
her around. Elizabeth, meanwhile, is convinced that it was Abigail who accused her of witchcraft, in order to take her place
in John's bed.
Hale visits the Proctors because
he wants to speak with everyone whose name has been mentioned in connection with witchcraft. He has just visited Rebecca Nurse.
Hale proceeds to ask questions about the Christian character of the Proctor home. He notes that the Proctors have not often
attended church and that their youngest son is not yet baptized. Proctor explains that he does not like Parris's particular
theology. Hale asks them to recite the Ten Commandments. Proctor obliges but forgets the commandment prohibiting adultery.
At Elizabeth's urging, Proctor informs Hale that Abigail told
him that the children's sickness had nothing to do with witchcraft. Taken aback, Hale replies that many have already confessed.
Proctor points out that they would have been hanged without a confession. Giles and Francis rush into Proctor's home, crying
that their wives have been arrested. Rebecca is charged with the supernatural murders of Mrs. Putnam's babies. A man bought
a pig from Martha Corey and it died not long afterward; he wanted his money back, but she refused, saying that he did not
know how to care for a pig. Every pig he purchased thereafter died, and he accused her of bewitching him so that he would
be incapable of keeping one alive.
Ezekiel Cheever and Herrick, the
town marshal, arrive with a warrant for Elizabeth's arrest. Hale is surprised because, last he heard, Elizabeth was not charged
with anything. Cheever asks if Elizabeth owns any dolls, and Elizabeth replies that she has not owned dolls since she was
a girl. Cheever spies the doll Mary Warren gave her. He finds a needle inside it. Cheever relates that Abigail had a fit at
dinner in Parris's house that evening. Parris found a needle in her abdomen, and Abigail accused Elizabeth of witchcraft.
Elizabeth brings Mary downstairs. Mary informs the inquisitors that she made the doll while in court and stuck the needle
in it herself.
As Elizabeth is led away, Proctor
loses his temper and rips the warrant. He asks Hale why the accuser is always considered innocent. Hale appears less and less
certain of the accusations of witchcraft. Proctor tells Mary that she has to testify in court that she made the doll and put
the needle in it. Mary declares that Abigail will kill her if she does and that Abigail would only charge him with lechery.
Proctor is shocked that Abigail told Mary about the affair, but he demands that she testify anyway. Mary cries hysterically
that she cannot.
Abigail and her troop have achieved
an extremely unusual level of power and authority for young, unmarried girls in a Puritan community. They can destroy the
lives of others with a mere accusation, and even the wealthy and influential are not safe. Mary Warren is so full of her newfound
power that she feels able to defy Proctor's assumption of authority over her. She invokes her own power as an official of
the court, a power that Proctor cannot easily deny.
Proctor's sense of guilt begins to
eat away at him. He knows that he can bring down Abigail and end her reign of terror, but he fears for his good name if his
hidden sin of adultery is revealed. The pressing knowledge of his own guilt makes him feel judged, but Elizabeth is correct
when she points out that the judge who pursues him so mercilessly is himself. Proctor has a great loathing for hypocrisy,
and, here, he judges his own hypocrisy no less harshly than that of others.
Proctor's intense dilemma over whether
to expose his own sin to bring down Abigail is complicated by Hale's decision to visit everyone whose name is even remotely
associated with the accusations of witchcraft. Hale wants to determine the character of each accused individual by measuring
it against Christian standards. His invasion of the home space in the name of God reveals the essential nature of the trials—namely,
to root out hidden sins and expose them. Any small deviation from doctrine is reason for suspicion. Proctor tries to prove
the upright character of his home by reciting the Ten Commandments. In forgetting to name adultery, however, just as he “forgot”
it during his affair with Abigail, he not only exposes the deficiency of his Christian morality but also suggests the possibility
that his entire household has succumbed to the evil influence of the devil and witchcraft.
When Proctor asks indignantly why
the accusers are always automatically innocent, he comments upon the essential attractiveness of taking the side of the accusers.
Many of the accusations have come through the ritual confession of guilt—one confesses guilt and then proves one's “innocence”
by accusing others. The accusing side enjoys a privileged position of moral virtue from this standpoint. Proctor laments the
lack of hard evidence, but, of course (as Danforth will later point out), in supernatural crimes, the standards of evidence
are not as hard and fast. The only “proof” is the word of the alleged victims of witchcraft. Thus, to deny these
victims' charges is almost a denial of the existence of witchcraft itself—quite a heretical claim. Therefore, those
who take the side of the accusers can enjoy the self-justifying mission of doing God's will in rooting out the devil's work,
while those who challenge them are threatening the very foundations of Salem society.
Hale, meanwhile, is undergoing an
internal crisis. He clearly enjoyed being called to Salem because it made him feel like an expert. His pleasure in the trials
comes from his privileged position of authority with respect to defining the guilty and the innocent. However, his surprise
at hearing of Rebecca's arrest and the warrant for Elizabeth's arrest reveals that Hale is no longer in control of the proceedings.
Power has passed into the hands of others, and as the craze spreads, Hale begins to doubt its essential justice.
Back in Salem, the court is in session. Giles interrupts the proceedings
by shouting that Putnam is only making a grab for more land. He claims to have evidence to back up this assertion. Judge Hathorne,
Deputy Governor Danforth, and the Reverends Hale and Parris join Giles and Francis in the vestry room to get to the bottom
of the matter. Proctor and Mary Warren enter the room. Mary testifies that she and the other girls were only pretending to
be afflicted by witchcraft. Judge Danforth, shocked, asks Proctor if he has told the village about Mary's claims. Parris declares
that they all want to overthrow the court.
Danforth asks Proctor if he is attempting
to undermine the court. Proctor assures him that he just wants to free his wife, but Cheever informs the judge that Proctor
ripped up the warrant for Elizabeth's arrest. Danforth proceeds to question Proctor about his religious beliefs. He is particularly
intrigued by the information, offered by Parris, that Proctor only attends church about once a month. Cheever adds that Proctor
plows on Sunday, a serious offense in Salem.
Danforth and Hathorne inform Proctor
that he need not worry about Elizabeth's imminent execution because she claims to be pregnant. She will not be hanged until
after she delivers. Danforth asks if he will drop his condemnation of the court, but Proctor refuses. He submits a deposition
signed by ninety-one land-owning farmers attesting to the good characters of Elizabeth, Martha, and Rebecca. Parris insists
that they all be summoned for questioning because the deposition is an attack on the court. Hale asks why every defense is
considered an attack on the court.
Putnam is led into the room to answer
to an allegation by Giles that he prompted his daughter to accuse George Jacobs of witchcraft. Should Jacobs hang, he would
forfeit his property, and Putnam is the only person in Salem with the money to purchase such a tract. Giles refuses to name
the man who gave him the information because he does not want to open him to Putnam's vengeance. Danforth arrests Giles for
contempt of court.
Danforth sends for Abigail and her
troop of girls. Abigail denies Mary's testimony, as well as her explanation for the doll in the Proctor home. Mary maintains
her assertion that the girls are only pretending. Hathorne asks her to pretend to faint for them. Mary says she cannot because
she does not have “the sense of it” now. Under continued pressure, she falters and explains that she only thought
she saw spirits. Danforth pressures Abigail to be truthful. Abigail shivers and the other girls follow suit. They accuse Mary
of bewitching them with a cold wind.
Proctor leaps at Abigail and calls
her a whore. He confesses his affair with her and explains that Elizabeth fired her when she discovered it. He claims that
Abigail wants Elizabeth to hang so that she can take her place in his home. Danforth orders Abigail and Proctor to turn their
backs, and he sends for Elizabeth, who is reputed by Proctor to be unfailingly honest. Danforth asks why she fired Abigail.
Elizabeth glances at Proctor for a clue, but Danforth demands that she look only at him while she speaks. Elizabeth claims
to have gotten the mistaken notion that Proctor fancied Abigail, so she lost her temper and fired the girl without just cause.
As marshal, Herrick removes Elizabeth from the room. Proctor cries out that he confessed his sin, but it is too late for Elizabeth
to change her story. Hale begs Danforth to reconsider, stating that Abigail has always struck him as false.
Abigail and the girls begin screaming
that Mary is sending her spirit at them. Mary pleads with them to stop, but the girls repeat her words verbatim. The room
erupts into a hectic frenzy of fear, excitement, and confusion. Mary seems to become infected with the hysteria of the other
girls and starts screaming too. Proctor tries to touch her, but she dashes away from him, calling him the devil's man. She
accuses him of consorting with the devil and pressuring her to join him in his evil ways. Danforth orders Proctor's arrest
against Hale's vocal opposition. Hale denounces the proceedings and declares that he is quitting the court.
The desperate attempt by Giles, Proctor,
and Francis to save their respective wives exposes the extent to which the trials have become about specific individuals and
institutions struggling to maintain power and authority. Deputy Governor Danforth and Judge Hathorne do not want to admit
publicly that they were deceived by a bunch of young women and girls, while Parris does not want the trials to end as a fraud
because the scandal of having a lying daughter and niece would end his career in Salem. Predictably, the judge and the deputy
governor react to Proctor's claims by accusing him of trying to undermine “the court,” which, in theocratic Salem,
is tantamount to undermining God himself.
In order to dispose of Proctor's
threat, Danforth and Hathorne exercise their power to invade his privacy. Although Proctor has not yet been formally accused
of witchcraft, Danforth and Hathorne, like Hale earlier, question him about his Christian morals as though he were already
on trial. They hope to find in his character even the slightest deviation from Christian doctrine because they would then
be able to cast him as an enemy of religion. Once thus labeled, Proctor would have virtually no chance of anyone in God-fearing
Salem intervening on his behalf.
The reaction of Danforth and Hathorne
to the deposition signed by ninety-one land-owning citizens further demonstrates the power of the court to invade the private
lives of citizens, and indicates the extent to which the court believes in guilt by association. In the witch trials, guilt
need not be proven by hard evidence, and signing a deposition attesting to the good character of the accused is enough to
put oneself under the same suspicion of guilt. Over the protests of Francis, Danforth states that the signers should have
nothing to worry about if they are innocent. The desire for privacy becomes an automatic sign of guilt. Revealingly, Parris
states that the goal of the trials is to find precisely what is not seen—in both the supernatural realm and the realm
of people's private lives.
During a bout of hysteria such as
the witch trials, authority and power fall to those who can avoid questioning while forcing others to speak. By virtue of
their rank, Danforth and Hathorne have the authority to cast any questions put to them as an attack on the court. Similarly,
Abigail responds to Proctor's charges of harlotry with a refusal to answer questions. Although Danforth's patience with her
presumptuous manner is limited, the fact that a young girl can so indignantly refuse to answer a direct question from a court
official indicates that she possesses an unusual level of authority for her age and gender.
Much of Act III has to do with determining
who will define innocence and guilt. Proctor makes one desperate bid for this authority by finally overcoming his desire to
protect his good name, exposing his own secret sin. He hopes to replace his wife's alleged guilt with his own guilt and bring
down Abigail in the process. Unfortunately, he mistakes the proceedings for an actual search for the guilty, when, in fact,
the proceedings are better described as a power struggle. He exposes his private life to scrutiny, hoping to gain some authority,
but he does not realize that too many influential people have invested energy into the proceedings for him to be able to stop
them now. Too many reputations are at stake, and Proctor's revelation comes too late to stop the avalanche.
Summary: Act IV
That fall, Danforth and Hathorne
visit a Salem jail to see Parris. Parris, worn and gaunt, greets them. They demand to know why Reverend Hale has returned
to Salem. Parris assures them that Hale only wants to persuade the holdout prisoners to confess and save themselves from the
gallows. He reports that Abigail and Mercy vanished from Salem after robbing him. Hale now appears, haggard and sorrowful.
He begs the men to pardon the prisoners because the prisoners will not confess. Danforth replies that postponement or pardons
will cast doubt not only on the guilt of the seven remaining prisoners but also on that of the twelve who have hanged already.
Hale warns that the officials are courting rebellion. As a result of the trials, cows are wandering loose, crops are rotting
in the fields, and orphans are wandering without supervision. Many homes have fallen into neglect because their owners were
in jail or had to attend the proceedings. Everyone lives in fear of being accused of witchcraft, and there are rumors of revolt
in nearby Andover.
Hale has not yet spoken to Proctor. Danforth hopes that Elizabeth
can persuade him to confess. Elizabeth agrees to speak with Proctor, but she makes no promises. Everyone leaves the room to
allow Elizabeth and Proctor privacy. Elizabeth tells Proctor that almost one hundred people have confessed to witchcraft.
She relates that Giles was killed by being pressed to death by large stones, though he never pleaded guilty or not guilty
to the charges against him. Had he denied the charges, the court would have hanged him, and he would have forfeited his property.
He decided not to enter a plea, so that his farm would fall to his sons. In order to force him to enter a plea, the court
tortured him on the press, but he continually refused, and the weight on his chest eventually became so great that it crushed
him. His last words were “more weight.”
Proctor asks Elizabeth if she thinks
that he should confess. He says that he does not hold out, like Rebecca and Martha, because of religious conviction. Rather,
he does so out of spite because he wants his persecutors to feel the weight of guilt for seeing him hanged when they know
he is innocent.
After wrestling with his conscience
for a long time, Proctor agrees to confess. Hathorne and Danforth are overjoyed and Cheever grabs paper, pen, and ink to write
the confession. Proctor asks why it has to be written. Danforth informs him that it will be hung on the church door.
The men bring Rebecca to witness Proctor's confession, hoping that
she will follow his example. The sight of Rebecca shames Proctor. He offers his confession, and Danforth asks him if he ever
saw Rebecca Nurse in the devil's company. Proctor states that he did not. Danforth reads the names of the condemned out loud
and asks if he ever saw any of them with the devil. Proctor again replies in the negative. Danforth pressures him to name
other guilty parties, but Proctor declares that he will speak only about his own sins.
Proctor hesitates to sign the confession,
saying that it is enough that the men have witnessed him admitting his alleged crimes. Under pressure, he signs his name but
snatches the sheet from Danforth. Danforth demands the confession as proof to the village of Proctor's witchcraft. Proctor
refuses to allow him to nail the paper with his name on the church door and, after arguing with the magistrates, tears the
confession in two and renounces it. Danforth calls for the marshal. Herrick leads the seven condemned prisoners, including
Proctor, to the gallows. Hale and Parris plead with Elizabeth to remonstrate with Proctor, but she refuses to sway him from
doing what he believes is just.
Not long afterward, Parris is voted
out of office. He leaves Salem, never to be heard from again. Rumors have it that Abigail became a prostitute in Boston. Elizabeth
remarries a few years after her husband's execution. In 1712, the excommunications
of the condemned are retracted. The farms of the executed go fallow and remain vacant for years.
Months have passed, and things are
falling apart in Massachusetts, making Danforth and Hathorne increasingly insecure. They do not want to, and ultimately cannot,
admit that they made a mistake in signing the death warrants of the nineteen convicted, so they hope for confessions from
the remaining prisoners to insulate them from accusations of mistaken verdicts. Danforth cannot pardon the prisoners, despite
Hale's pleas and his obvious doubts about their guilt, because he does not want to “cast doubt” on the justification
of the hangings of the twelve previously condemned and on the sentence of hanging for the seven remaining prisoners. In the
twisted logic of the court, it would not be “fair” to the twelve already hanged if the seven remaining prisoners
were pardoned. Danforth prioritizes a bizarre, abstract notion of equality over the tangible reality of potential innocence.
Clearly, the most important issue
for the officials of the court is the preservation of their reputations and the integrity of the court. As a theocratic institution,
the court represents divine, as well as secular, justice. To admit to twelve mistaken hangings would be to question divine
justice and the very foundations of the state and of human life. The integrity of the court would be shattered, and the reputations
of court officials would fall with it. Danforth and Hathorne would rather preserve the appearance of justice than threaten
the religious and political order of Salem.
Danforth and Hathorne's treatment
of Proctor reveals an obsessive need to preserve the appearance of order and justify their actions as well as a hypocritical
attitude about honesty. They want Proctor to sign a confession that admits his own status as a witch, testifies to the effect
that he saw the other six prisoners in the company of the devil, and completely corroborates the court's findings. While they
seek to take advantage of Proctor's reputation for honesty in order to support their claims of having conducted themselves
justly, Danforth and Hathorne are wholly unwilling to believe Proctor when he says that he has conducted himself justly.
Proctor's refusal to take part in
the ritual transfer of guilt that has dominated the play—the naming of other “witches”—separates him
from the rest of the accused. His unwillingness to sign his name to the confession results in part from his desire not to
dishonor his fellow prisoners' decisions to stand firm. More important, however, Proctor fixates on his name and on how it
will be destroyed if he signs the confession. Proctor's desire to preserve his good name earlier keeps him from testifying
against Abigail, leading to disastrous consequences. Now, however, he has finally come to a true understanding of what a good
reputation means, and his defense of his name, in the form of not signing the confession, enables him to muster the courage
to die heroically. His goodness and honesty, lost during his affair with Abigail, are recovered.