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The Crucible - Revision Guide
Transcript of The Crucible - Revision Guide
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The basis for the Puritan’s beliefs was an emphasis on the righteousness and sovereignty of God. God, they said directed all things by exercise of his will and directed all things to an intelligent end. This differed from the Catholic point of view that priests were holier than the rest of the congregation.
The Puritan life in keeping true to the divine law did everything in moderation. While they did dress in their social classes and drank alcoholic beverages, they condemned those who would take these things to excess.
Morally, the Puritans believed that their role in society was to be a chosen people called to create a New Jerusalem. They truly believed that they were a group apart from the rest of organized religion.
Because Adam sinned, every human is born sinful. This concept of Original Sin has no exceptions; in Michael Wigglesworth's poem "The Day of Doom," even babies who died at birth were condemned to hell (if that fate had been predestined for them). Redemption requires the preliminary overwhelming consciousness of one's own sinful nature.
. God "saves" those he wishes, the doctrine of predestination. Because God is all-knowing, He already knows the final destination of every soul. Although all "deserve" to go to hell because of original sin, God in his mercy has chosen to save a few. However, a person cannot be totally certain of his or her Election, and thus must constantly examine his or her life and motives to see if they show signs of God's grace.
. Jesus died for the chosen Elect only, those predestined for heaven, not for everyone.
God's grace, or merciful love, is freely given (to the Elect) but it cannot be earned or resisted. A person cannot "work" his or her way into heaven. However, if truly saved, he or she will want to live as a saint.
Perseverance of the "Saints."
The Elect have full power to interpret the will of God, and to live uprightly.
Definition: A theocracy ("theo-" = God, "-cracy" = government) is a government operated under divine rule, or the pretence of divine rule. In practice, this term refers to a government operated by religious authorities who claim unlimited power in the name of God or other supernatural forces.
There are many governments - including the United States - in which leaders invoke God, or claim to be inspired by God, or claim to obey the will of God. This does not, in practice, make a government a theocracy. What makes a government a theocracy is when lawmakers actually believe that leaders are governed by the will of God, and write laws predicated on this belief.
Both America and Great Britain owe a great debt to the Puritans for the foundations they laid that gave us the framework for our freedoms today. Philosophies such as the “divine right” of kings gave way to individual liberties and the recognition of the rights of the common man. The “Yankee work ethic” came about because of the belief that a man's work is done first for God's approval. The belief in public education comes from the Puritans, who founded the first school in America (Roxbury, 1635), as well as the first college (Harvard, 1639), so that people would be able to read the Bible for themselves. The moral foundations of the early United States came from the emphasis on godly behaviour by Puritan leaders. Even Alexis de Tocqueville, after studying America in the 1830s, declared that Puritanism was the primary foundation that gave rise to our democratic republic.
Inspired by the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s, Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, focuses on the inconsistencies of the Salem witch trials and the extreme behavior that can result from dark desires and hidden agendas.
Miller bases the play on the historical account of the Salem witch trials. In particular he focuses on the discovery of several young girls and a slave playing in the woods, conjuring — or attempting to conjure — spirits from the dead. Rather than suffer severe and inevitable punishment for their actions, the girls accused other inhabitants of Salem of practicing witchcraft. Ironically, the girls avoided punishment by accusing others of the very things of which they were guilty. This desperate and perhaps childish finger-pointing resulted in mass paranoia and an atmosphere of fear in which everyone was a potential witch. As the number of arrests increased, so did the distrust within the Salem community. A self-perpetuating cycle of distrust, accusation, arrest, and conviction emerged. By the end of 1692, the Salem court had convicted and executed nineteen men and women.
Abigail Williams is the vehicle that drives the play. She bears most of the responsibility for the girls meeting with Tituba in the woods, and once Parris discovers them, she attempts to conceal her behavior because it will reveal her affair with Proctor if she confesses to casting a spell on Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail lies to conceal her affair, and to prevent charges of witchcraft. In order to avoid severe punishment for casting spells and adultery — not to mention attempted murder when she plots Elizabeth's death — Abigail shifts the focus away from herself by accusing others of witchcraft. This desperate act of self-preservation soon becomes Abigail's avenue of power.
Abigail is the exact opposite of Elizabeth. Abigail represents the repressed desires — sexual and material — that all of the Puritans possess. The difference is that Abigail does not suppress her desires. She finds herself attracted to Proctor while working in the Proctor home. According to the Puritanical mindset, Abigail's attraction to Proctor constitutes a sin, but one that she could repent of and refuse to acknowledge. Abigail does the opposite. She pursues Proctor and eventually seduces him.
Abigail's willingness to discard Puritan social restrictions sets her apart from the other characters, and also leads to her downfall. Abigail is independent, believing that nothing is impossible or beyond her grasp. These admirable qualities often lead to creativity and a thirst for life; however, Abigail lacks a conscience to keep herself in check. As a result, she sees no folly in her affair with Proctor. In fact, Abigail resents Elizabeth because she prevents Abigail from being with Proctor.
Abigail gives new meaning to the phrase "all is fair in love and war." She has brooded over her sexual encounter with Proctor for seven months. The more she thinks about the affair, the more Abigail convinces herself that Proctor loves her but cannot express his love because of Elizabeth. Abigail continues to review and edit her memories until they accurately portray her as the center of Proctor's existence. Rather than seeing herself as an awkward seventeen year-old who took advantage of a man's loneliness and insecurity during his wife's illness, Abigail sees herself as Proctor's true love and his ideal choice for a wife. She believes she has only to eliminate Elizabeth so that she and Proctor can marry and fulfill her fantasy.
Abigail's fantasy reflects her age. She is a young girl daydreaming about the ideal male. However, she possesses shrewd insight and a capacity for strategy that reveal maturity beyond that of most other characters. Declaring witchcraft provides her with instant status and recognition within Salem, which translates into power. Abigail uses her authority to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. She threatens the other girls with violence if they refuse to go along with her plans, and she does not hesitate to accuse them of witchcraft if their loyalty proves untrue. Such is the case with Mary Warren.
Abigail develops a detailed plan to acquire Proctor and will stop at nothing to see her plan succeed. Her strategy includes establishing her credibility with the court and then eliminating Elizabeth. The achievement of her plot requires cold calculation, and so Abigail carefully selects the individuals that she accuses in order to increase her credibility. Thus, she first accuses the town drunk and vagrant, knowing that society is already predisposed to convict them. Each arrest strengthens her position, and demonstrating fits and trances increases her authority even more. Her decision to wait until the court sees her as irrefutable before she accuses Elizabeth reveals her determination and obsession with Proctor. Abigail thinks nothing of the fact that she condemns innocent people to die; those people merely serve as necessary instruments for her use in the fulfillment of her plan. At the end of the play, when Abigail realizes that her plan has failed and that she has condemned Proctor to hang, she displays the same cold indifference that governs her actions throughout the play. She flees Salem, leaving Proctor without so much as a second glance.
John Proctor is a tormented individual. He believes his affair with Abigail irreparably damaged him in the eyes of God, his wife Elizabeth, and himself. True, Proctor did succumb to sin and commit adultery; however, he lacks the capacity to forgive himself. Unsurprisingly, his relationship with Elizabeth remains strained throughout the majority of the play. He resents Elizabeth because she cannot forgive him and trust him again, but he is guilty of the same thing. In fact, his own inability to forgive himself merely intensifies his reaction to Elizabeth's lack of forgiveness.
In addition to struggling with the weight of his sin, the fact that he must reveal his transgression torments Proctor. His best possession is his good name and the respect and integrity associated with it. Once he acknowledges his affair with Abigail, Proctor effectively brands himself an adulterer and loses his good name. He dreads revealing his sin because guilt and regret already overwhelm him. Proctor believes a public display of his wrongdoing only intensifies the extent of his sin, thereby multiplying his guilt.
Proctor's decision to tell the court about his affair ironically demonstrates his goodness. He willingly sacrifices his good name in order to protect his wife. Only through his public acknowledgment of the affair does Proctor regain his wife's trust. At the end of the play, Proctor refuses to slander himself by allowing the court to nail his false confession to the church door. This action further exemplifies Proctor's integrity. Proctor knows that he will damn himself, yet again, if he agrees to confess. Although he wants to live, escaping death is not worth basing the remainder of his life on a lie. This realization, along with Elizabeth's forgiveness, enables Proctor to forgive himself and finally regain his good name and self-respect. As the court officials lead him to the gallows, he finds peace for the first time in the play.
Reverend Hale's faith and his belief in the individual divide him. Hales comes to Salem in response to a need. He is the "spiritual doctor" summoned to evaluate Salem. His job is to diagnose witchcraft if it is present, and then provide a necessary cure through conversion or by removing the "infected" inhabitants from Salem. Hale devotes himself to his faith and his work. His good intentions and sincere desire to help the afflicted motivate him.
Unfortunately, Hale is also vulnerable. His zeal for discovering witchcraft allows others, particularly Abigail, to manipulate him. The amount of evidence for witchcraft when he arrives in Salem overwhelms him. Although Hale remains determined not to declare witchcraft unless he can prove it, the expectations of the people of Salem sweep him up, and, as a result, he takes their evidence at face value, rather than investigating it himself.
The audience should not condemn Hale. Like Proctor, he falls — through his inaccurate judgments and convictions — but later attempts to correct his shortcomings. Hale is the only member of the court who questions the court's decisions. He is not a rebel, nor does he want to overthrow the court's authority, but he is striving for justice. Once he realizes that Abigail is a fraud, Hale devotes himself to attempting to persuade the other prisoners to confess so that they may avoid execution — using lies to foil lies. What he does not realize is that the lies he is urging would only reinforce the slanders the court has already committed. There would be no truth left.
The action of the play severely tests Hale's faith and understanding. He must acknowledge that children have manipulated his own irrefutable beliefs, while also realizing that he has sent innocent people to their death. This knowledge is a heavy burden, but it changes Hale for the better. Although he questions his own faith and doctrine, he does not abandon religion altogether. He catches a glimpse of true faith through those he has condemned, particularly Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth Proctor.
Like most women during the colonial days, Elizabeth Proctor was true to her husband, family, and God. This, however, led to the downfall of what she held closest to her, reputation and marriage. At the beginning of the story, she and her husband John Proctor were known as the best judges of character, hypocrisy, and sin. As the plot unfolds, she and her family become resounding examples of their judgements. This occurs when Elizabeth finds out that her husband has been having an affair with their servant Abigail Williams.
The audience quickly comes to unerstand that John Proctor had the affair because Elizabeth's character is somewhat of a cold, emotionless, and detached woman. Elizabeth is naive about the situation (it can be argued that this is a willful ignorance or not), and wants to still believe she is living a perfect life. At one point in the narrative she states, "My husband is a good and righteous man. He is never drunk as some are, or wastin' his time at the shovelboard, but always his work."
Upon realization of the affair, Elizabeth begins to blame herself and sees understanding in John's actions. As the story continues, you begin to see different traits from Elizabeth as she faces different accusations as does her husband. She can't bear to let go of the pride that she has, or her loyalty to her husband.
In the final act, Elizabeth can no longer hold back the emotions she has had buried for so long. In her final words to her husband she says, "Do what you will. But let none be your judge. There be no higher judge under Heaven than Proctor is! Forgive me, forgive me, John- I never knew such goodness in the World!" as she covers her faces and begins to sob wildly.
Parris is something of a weak and selfish character. Miller says in his notes that he found nothing redeemable about the historical Parris. As a result, he evidently felt no need to make his fictional version any better. The first thing of all to note about Parris is that he is greedy. John Proctor accuses Parris of this several times in the play. The Reverend gives weak justifications, but never denies any of the accusations. Some examples of Parris's greed include: quibbling over firewood, insisting on gratuitous golden candlesticks for the church, demanding (against time-honored tradition) that he have the deed to the house he lives in.
Parris' repeated demonstrations of exceedingly selfish behavior don't help to endear him to the audience. In the very first scene, we see him standing over his daughter Betty's sick bed. At first the audience might feel sorry for him. However, we quickly realize that Parris is more concerned for his own reputation than he is for his daughter. He is afraid that if people think there is witchcraft in his household, he will lose his position as minister of Salem. In Act Three, when he shows his true selfishness nature once again, he perjures himself in the court. He tells the court that he saw no naked dancing in the woods, yet we know that he did, because he said as much to Abigail.
Parris's lack of redeemable qualities become even more apparent in Act Four. At first it seems like he may have come to his senses, because he's asking Danforth to postpone the hangings. Abigail has disappeared, making it clear and obvious she was lying the whole time. As it goes on we become aware that Parris isn't pleading out of remorse at all, though, he's merely concerned for his own life. He found a dagger in his front door, and is afraid that if respectable citizens like John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse are hanged, the town will revolt. Most despicably we see Parris in tears – not because of all the people who he's helped to senselessly murder, but because Abigail stole his money and he is now broke and has lost his status in society.
Reputation is tremendously important in theocratic Salem, where public and private moralities are one and the same. In an environment where reputation plays such an important role, the fear of guilt by association becomes particularly pernicious. Focused on maintaining public reputation, the townsfolk of Salem must fear that the sins of their friends and associates will taint their names. Various characters base their actions on the desire to protect their respective reputations. As the play begins, Parris fears that Abigail’s increasingly questionable actions, and the hints of witchcraft surrounding his daughter’s coma, will threaten his reputation and force him from the pulpit. Meanwhile, the protagonist, John Proctor, also seeks to keep his good name from being tarnished. Early in the play, he has a chance to put a stop to the girls’ accusations, but his desire to preserve his reputation keeps him from testifying against Abigail. At the end of the play, however, Proctor’s desire to keep his good name leads him to make the heroic choice not to make a false confession and to go to his death without signing his name to an untrue statement. “I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” he cries to Danforth in Act IV. By refusing to relinquish his name, he redeems himself for his earlier failure and dies with integrity.
Religion is woven into the everyday life of the Salem of the play. Its exclusive form of Christianity centered on a set of clearly defined rules: you went to church every Sunday, you didn’t work on the Sabbath, you believed the Gospel, you respected the minister’s word like it was God’s, and so on. For people accused of witchcraft, any deviation from these rules in the past can be used as evidence for much greater sins in the present. However, in the play, this strict adherence to the rules was only taken advantage of when it suited those who were accusing.
Throughout the play there is also a divide in how religion is perceived, even in such a strictly structured religion such as Puritanism. You have those that look to it as a way of understanding themselves and other whole look to it as a way of understanding the world around them. Both of these can be taken to extremes and become motivational factors in terms of characters behaviour, as well as excuses for their actions.
Many of the characters are motivated by jealousy and greed in The Crucible. Jealousy is a corrupting influence on the people and the narrative. There are several cases where jealousy becomes the main motivating factor in the actions of several members of the community. The theme of jealousy is intrinsically linked to greed: the selfishness of wants and desires are compared and contrasted to the haves (both actual and perceived) of others. For this reason many characters become more clearly defined by the true motivations for their actions. They are defined by their lack (both actual and perceived) and this means that in an attempt to gain they end up losing more than they started with.
Fear supplants logic and enables people to believe that their neighbours, whom they have always considered upstanding people, are committing absurd and unbelievable crimes—communing with the devil, killing babies, and so on. In The Crucible, the townsfolk accept and become active in the hysterical climate, generated by fear, not only out of genuine religious piety but also because it gives them a chance to express repressed sentiments and to act on long-held grudges.
In the end, fear can thrive into the hysteria only because people benefit from it. It suspends the rules of daily life and allows the acting out of every dark desire and hateful urge under the cover of righteousness.
The most obvious case is Abigail, who uses the situation to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft and have her sent to jail
Reverend Parris strengthens his position within the village, albeit temporarily, by making scapegoats of people like Proctor who question his authority.
The wealthy, ambitious Thomas Putnam gains revenge on Francis Nurse by getting Rebecca, Francis’s virtuous wife, convicted of the supernatural murders of Ann Putnam’s babies.
"Take courage, you must give us all their names. How can you bear to see this child suffering? Look at her, Tituba. (
He is indicating Betty on the bed.
) Look at her God-given innocence; her soul is so tender; we must protect her, Tituba; the Devil is out and preying on her like a beast upon the flesh of the pure lamb. God will bless you for your help."
"Theology, sir, is a fortress; no crack in a fortress may be accounted small. (
He rises; he seems worried now. He paces a little, in deep thought.
"I have this morning signed away the soul of Rebecca Nurse, Your Honour. I'll not conceal it, my hand shakes yet as with a wound!"
"I come to do the Devil's work. I come to counsel Christians they should belie themselves. (
His sarcasm collapses.
Hale is the one that truly ignites the fear and hysteria in town. He uses the goodness of the people in such a way that they are bent to his will. He ensures the chance to open the floodgates and incorporate as many people as possible in this supposed crisis.
Hale shows us that he is struggling with what is happening from his own actions. His pacing in worry suggest his unsettled nature. Whilst he talks of Theology, this can also be taken as an allusion to his own conviction.
Hale clearly no longer feels that what he is doing and what he is responsible for can be justified. The cracks he talked of before have now led to him being far more than merely conflicted. It is now that we see him accepting some of the responsibility.
Hale has now taken a full about-turn. Not only is he seeking lies rather than the truth, but he is even referencing working for the Devil. He makes a vain attempt to cover this truth through sarcasm, but he cannot sell it. He is clearly trying to make amends for his sins.
"Now look you child, your punishment will come in its time. But if you trafficked with spirits in the forest I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it."
"I like it not that Mr Parris should lay his hand upon my baby. I see no light of God in that man."
All innocent and Christian people are happy for the courts in Salem! These people are gloomy for it. (
To Danforth directly.
) And I think you will want to know, from each and everyone of them what discontents them with you!"
"Judge Hathorne - it were another sort that hanged till now. Rebecca Nurse is no Bridget that lived three year with Bishop before she married him. John Proctor is not Isaac Ward that drank his family to ruin. (To Danforth.) I would to God it were not so, Excellency, but these people have great weight yet in the town."
Parris is more concerned with the potential impact on himself than on the actions of Abigail. He is completely convinced that everyone is out to get him. Whilst he may not be entirely wrong about this, we come to realise that this is because of his own selfish actions (as seen here) towards others that have ensured this.
Proctor is a man that clearly is not impressed with Parris. It is because of the fact that Proctor is a man that both the town and the audience believe to be a reputable man that influences our opinion of Parris in this case. This continues to suggest that Parris' intentions are not as they should be for a Reverend and that the town are correct in feeling like he does not serve them well.
Parris is clearly trying to suggest that the inhabitants of Salem are not what they should be, especially if they complain. This shows us that he expects these people to simply blindly follow whatever is told to them by those considered above them (either by way of church or court). His direct address to Danforth also appears as a continuation of his fear that those around him are against him, and he is trying to get Danforth to both join him in this feeling and get rid of those that would oppose him.
If previously we were unsure about whether or not Parris knew was fully aware of what he was doing then we are no longer. With this statement Parris is acknowledging that what has come before was only possible because of the people it was perpetrated against, rather than it being based on the validity of the accusations. Parris' attempts to carry favour with Danforth appears even more desperate.
"Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I'll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby."
"Learn charity, woman. I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven month since she is gone. I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart. I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judged for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house!"
He has to clamp his jaw to keep from weeping.
) A man may think God sleeps but God sees everything, I know it now. I beg you, sir, I beg you - see her what she is."
"You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor."
John Proctor is not an easy man to like. Here we see a man that has previously lost his way, morally speaking. In his haste to put the affair beind him and move on he manages to both get across how much he does not want to repeat his actions and antagonize Abigail. However, there is a suggestion that his reaction is so over the top that maybe he is also trying to convince himself.
Proctor's main flaw is his inability to understand and control himself. He spends a large amount of time lashing out at those around him when he is actually angry at himself. The frustration he feels about the affair with Abigail has built up such guilt inside him that he doesn't know how to deal with it and, therefore, he seems to take it out on his wife. There is also an interesting piece of foreshadowing here, when he takes of being "judged for lies". This has a direct link to Act Four, when he is asked to be judged on lies and be hung or to tell lies and mercy will be granted.
When proctor finally confesses to the affair he does so in a way that shows complete humility. This apparent self-sacrifice is done in an attempt to show Abigail to be untrustworthy. He is aware of the impact this will have on his reputation and the repercussions this will have. However, the tears that he is trying to hold back can be construed in a far different manner. There is a cleansing to this act where he can now be freed of the burden that this secret has placed upon him. He can be honest with his wife and be honest about his reputation.
Proctor had previously given up on the idea of being a good man. His reputation now in tatters and his life about to be ended, he couldn't see any way for him to claim anything back from this. However, through the actions of a man who truly sacrificed for others (with no personal gain in any way) we see a man arise from the play that can be considered honorable. He does not die for his sins, but instead he dies for the sins of others. His words here show a lack of ego and an awareness of his place in the grander scheme of things.
"She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her!"
"You'll tear it free - when you come to know that I will be your only wife, or no wife at all! She has an arrow in you yet, John Proctor, and you know it well!"
"Your Honour, I - in that time I were sick. And I - My husband is a good and righteous man. He is never drunk as some are, nor wasting time at the shovelboard, but always at his work."
"He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!"
Here we see the venom from Abigail, but it is the things that she picks on that tell us the most about Elizabeth. From this we understand that Elizabeth is well-respected and influential in the village. We also understand that Elizabeth is not particularly physically healthy, but she has a power over John that cannot be denied. We realise that this power actually comes from the love and devotion John has towards Elizabeth, even is he suffers from a weakness of will.
Elizabeth is a character that has a greater insight into what is going on around her than any character will give her credit for. She is far more aware of what is going on, but because she usually represses the urge to shout, or talk, about it, then we are do not necessarily notice. Here, however, we see her lose her grip on herself and make John aware of what she feels and fears. This more steely edge provides us with a greater understanding of their relationship and how it works.
The downfall of Elizabeth's character is that she is undoubtedly loyal. She stumbles over her words in an attempt to protect her husband and make excuses for him. Whilst she is the reason that John's initial sacrifice does not work, it was bred of fear. She is terrified that others have more power than she does. This is not to be confused with a pursuit of power, but rather that her worst nightmare is that things are completely out of her control - and so much is in the play. This leaves us with a character that is all too often desperate to say and do what she thinks others believe to be right. Until, that is, the end when she realises for herself what she should do.
Here we see Elizabeth at her most enlightened. She can see that the sacrifice that John is making is necessary: not just for the town, but for his soul as well. She is probably the only one (still alive) that fully understands why John must do this. It also helps to confirm his feelings about her, as he previously was going to confess so that he could be with her. As far final words go these rank up there with the best. Not only do they summarise the journey of John's character, but they also contain a damning statement on the motivations of those who perpetrated these crimes.
"Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you."
If the girl's a saint now, I think it is not easy to prove she's a fraud, and the town gone so silly. She told it to me in a room alone - I have no proof for it."
beware, Mr Danforth. Think you be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits? Beware of it! There is - (
Suddenly, from an accusatory attitude, her face turns, looking into the air above - it is truly frightened.
"Excellency, I think they be aboard a ship. (
Danforth stands agape.
) My daughter tells me how she heard them speaking of ships last week, and tonight I discover my - my strongbox is broke into."
Parris confesses his humiliating situation to Danforth about Abigail's disappearance and from this we are able to further condemn her character. Not only does her secretive escape suggest guilt, but her thievery also counts against her virtue. However, it should not be misconstrued that she has left as a result of her moral conscience. It is clear, from the rest of the conversation between these two, that she has left because she is concerned that she is losing her control over Salem.
Abigail shows her true and vicious nature here and this is the first we see of the kind of awareness and manipulation that defines her character throughout the narrative. Not only does she try to threaten and intimidate, she is careful enough to do it when no one else is around.
Abigail is not even in Act Two, but her influence is felt throughout. The affair with John Proctor is a key topic that is brought up throughout, but it is her increasing power is what causes the greatest concern. John recognises the power she possesses and this contributes to the conflict between himself and Elizabeth. However, he does not know what to do about it. At this stage he is still in denial about the current implications that the affair manages to exert. From this, Abigail can be determined to be the main antagonist in the narrative: she is the one who disrupts the lives of all those around her, especially that of John Proctor.
Abigail has now managed to allow the power that has come from these accusations to go to her head. She challenges Danforth in a way that has never been seen before. It is at this point that she realises the limitations of what she can and cannot do. She deflects the transgression by feigning another vision of evil.
All of this reminds us first that Abigail is still very young and has allowed her lack of understanding of the world to get the better of her. It also shows the cracks start to appear that eventually open up and cause her to flee in fear of what might come next.
with a bitter anger
) - Oh, I marvel how such a strong man may let such a sickly wife be-
Proctor - (angered-at himself as well) - You'll speak nothin' of Elizabeth!
Abigail - She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her! Let her turn you like a-"
) - John-grant me this. You have a faulty understanding of young girls. There is a promise made in any bed-
Proctor - striving against his anger: What promise!
Elizabeth - Spoke or silent, a promise is surely made. And she may dote on it now-I am sure she does-and thinks to kill me, then to take my place.
Proctor's anger is rising; he cannot speak."
Giles - If Jacobs hangs for a witch he forfeit up his property - that's law! And there is none but Putnam with the coin to buy so great a piece. This man is killing his neighbours for their land.
Whilst this appears to be Abigail merely lashing out against Elizabeth, there is an edge to it that can be clearly seen. She is not so much just trying to deride Elizabeth for casting her out, she is also trying to cast a doubt into Proctor's mind about whether he should be with Elizabeth instead of Abigail.
Elizabeth shows here an understanding of what Proctor feels. It is this understanding that breeds the greatest source of conflict in her, she seems to accept that Abigail is a better choice over her. Her jealousy comes from her own insecurities. When she makes her observations known to Proctor his anger is more to do with his own guilt about making his wife feel that way, than him actually being annoyed at her for saying such things.
Whilst this type of jealousy crosses over into the theme of greed, it is an integral part to understanding the motivations of the characters and how they play along side the theme of religion. Here we have a society that is built on the idea that each man works for and helps each other; however, jealousy of what other people have is a base motivation that all are influenced by and Putnam's character is used to display this side of humanity in its fullest.
Proctor - Can you speak one minute without we land in Hell again? I am sick of Hell!
Parris - It is not for you to say what is good for you to hear!
Abigail - I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!
Hale - Mr. Proctor, your house is not a church; your theology must tell you that.
Proctor - It does, sir, it does; and it tells me that a minister may pray to God without he have golden candlesticks upon the altar.
Hale is pointing out that their religion carries with it certain rules and doctrines that must be upheld in order for there to be the proper amount of respect attributed to it. Proctor does not deny these things, but he does point out that there are those who interpret these rules and ideas in a different way from others. He is not pleased with the way that Parris seems to think that he is better than those around him because he is a man of God. Miller is pointing out the hypocrisy that can come from focusing too much on a singular interpretation of such teachings.
Abigail invokes the name of God and the Devil as a way to manipulate those around her. The fear that comes from both of these ideas is such that those in the community are less likely to question her, for fear that they might be speaking against God or that it might be interpreted as them speaking for the Devil.
This clever use of her own religion forms the key component for her development of power over the following two acts.
Miller is clearly try to suggest that people are far too afraid of religion and the power that comes with it. The idea of not challenging a dogma, merely allowing it to pass unquestioned, can lead to the kind of problems that are displayed in the play (and in the McCarthy witch-hunts).
Parris is shocked at the idea that his word would be questioned by someone like Proctor. Whilst this is clearly not the first time these two will have had a disagreement on this matter, Parris is very much still of the opinion that he should not have to put up with this. He believes that because he is considered a man of God he is entitled to tell others how they should lead their lives. Proctor clearly has issues with the idea that anyone should tell him how to live.
Here we have Proctor being the one who is alienated from those around him because of his out spoken beliefs.
studies her, then nods, half convinced
) Abigail, I have fought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me, and now, just now when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character. I have given you a home, child. I have put clothes upon your back – now give me an upright answer. Your name in the town – it is entirely white, is it not?
with an attempt at a laugh
) - You will never believe, I hope, that Rebecca trafficked with the Devil.
Hale - Woman, it is possible.
Proctor (taken aback) - Surely you cannot think so.
Hale - This is a strange time, Mister. No man may longer doubt the powers of the dark are gathered in monstrous attack upon this village. There is too much evidence now to deny it. You will agree, sir?
When Proctor confesses to his relationship with Abigail it is a huge turning point in the play. He has given up his reputation, which was built on a high level of moral integrity. This is actually his sin in the first place (the pride that he has, even though he knows that it is not true) and why he must make a sacrifice in order to redeem himself.
The Other Villain
Danforth's character is one that can easily be over looked in some ways because he is an outsider. However, it s important to remember that he is just as guilty of many of the same sins as those that he sees before him in his court. He is prideful in his exchanges with Hale; he looks to use his position of power as a way to bend others to his will; he even suffers from denial, as the idea that someone could lie to him and he not be aware is inconceivable.
Danforth - I judge nothing. (
Pause. He keeps watching Proctor, who tries to meet his gaze.
) I tell you straight, Mister-I have seen marvels in this court. I have seen people choked before my eyes by spirits; I have seen them stuck by pins and slashed by daggers. I have until this moment not the slightest reason to suspect that the children may be deceiving me. Do you understand my meaning?
Danforth - Disrespect indeed! It is disruption, Mister. This is the highest court of the supreme government of this province, do you know it?
The turning point in this play is when Elizabeth is taken to Jail. Before this the play was mostly concerned with the narrative of who was being accused and the impact it was having on the community. The affair between Proctor and Abigail was out there, but had not been dealt with, so we knew that was going to come back and bite them all in the ass. This then forms the change in focus for the rest of the play.
Firstly, this act seems to push Hale over the edge and he then questions everything, even if he doesn't do anything about it straight away. Secondly, this is when we are given a character that we know well enough (and care enough about) to be placed in harm's way. This means that the stakes of the narrative have been raised. However, the biggest influence that this turning point has is on the character of Proctor. He must now confront is own weaknesses if he is to save his innocent wife from the evil clutches of his former lover. This means that his confession and death serve to allow him a chance at redemption, as he is not just doing these things for himself, but instead he is doing them for the good of the community and his family.
The Turning Point