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The Crucible

 



Summary

Act I

The play begins with Reverend Parris praying over his daughter Betty who lies unconscious in her bed. Through conversations between Parris and his niece Abigail Williams, and between several girls, the audience learns that the girls, including Abigail and Betty, were engaged in occultist activities in a nearby forest. These, apparently, were led by Tituba, Parris's slave from Barbados. On catching them in the act, Parris jumped from a bush, startling them. Betty promptly fainted and has not yet recovered. During this session, Abigail also drank chicken blood in a bid to kill Elizabeth Proctor. She tells the girls that she will murder anyone who utters a word about what happened. The townspeople do not know exactly what the girls were up to, but there are rumors of witchcraft.

John Proctor enters the room in which Betty lies, and Abigail, otherwise alone, tries to seduce him. Proctor, a farmer, had an affair with her a while ago, but now he wants to forget it, and duly rejects her advances.

Reverend John Hale is summoned to look upon Betty and research the incident. He is an expert in occultist phenomena and is eager to put into practice his acquired learning. He questions Abigail, who accuses Tituba of being a witch. Tituba, afraid of being hanged, professes faith in God and accuses Goodwives Good and Osborne of witchcraft. Abigail and Betty, who has by now woken up, claim to have been bewitched and profess their faith in God, too. They sing out a list of people whom they claim to have seen with the Devil.

Act II

Elizabeth questions Proctor to find out if he is late for dinner because of a visit to Salem. She tells him that their servant, Mary Warren, has been there all day. Having previously forbidden Mary from going to Salem, Proctor becomes angry, but Elizabeth explains that the servant has been named an official of the court. Proctor learns that four magistrates have been named to the General Court and that the Deputy Governor of the Province is serving as judge. The court has thus far jailed fourteen people for witchcraft.

Elizabeth tells Proctor that he must go to Salem and reveal that Abigail is a fake. He hesitates and then declares that he cannot prove what she told him because they were alone when they talked. Elizabeth becomes upset because he has not previously mentioned this time alone with Abigail. Proctor believes that she is accusing him of resuming his affair. An argument ensues.

Mary returns. Proctor is furious that she has been in Salem all day, but she advises that she will be gone every day because of her duties as an official of the court. Mary gives Elizabeth a poppet that she made while in court, and tells the couple that thirty-nine people are now in jail, and that Goody Osborne will hang for her failure to confess to witchcraft. Proctor is angry because he believes that the court is condemning people without solid evidence. Mary states that Elizabeth has also been accused, but, as she herself defended her, the court dismissed the accusation.

Elizabeth tells Proctor that Abigail wants to dispose of her. She believes that Abigail will accuse her of witchcraft and then have her executed because she wants to take her place as Proctor's wife. Elizabeth asks Proctor to speak to Abigail and tell her that no chance exists of him marrying her if anything happens to his wife. Elizabeth and Proctor argue once more.

Reverend Hale visits the Proctor house and tells Elizabeth and Proctor that the former has been named in court. Hale questions Proctor about his poor church attendance and asks him to recite the Ten Commandments. When Proctor gets stuck on the tenth, Elizabeth reminds him of the commandment forbidding adultery.

Proctor tells Hale that Abigail has admitted to him that witchcraft was not responsible for the children's ailments. Hale asks Proctor to testify as much in court and then questions Elizabeth to find out if she believes in witches. Giles Corey and Francis Nurse arrive and tell Proctor, Hale and Elizabeth that the court has arrested both of their wives for witchcraft.

Not long after, Ezekiel Cheever and Marshal Herrick turn up with a warrant for Elizabeth's arrest. Cheever discovers the poppet that Mary made for Elizabeth, together with a needle inside it. Cheever tells Proctor and Hale that Abigail has charged Elizabeth with attempted murder. Cheever reports that, after apparently being stabbed with a needle while eating at Parris' house, Abigail accused Elizabeth's spirit of stabbing her.

Mary tells Hale that she made the doll in court that day and stored the needle inside it. She also states that Abigail saw this because she sat next to her. The men still take Elizabeth into custody, and Hale, Corey and Nurse leave.

Proctor tells Mary that she must testify in court against Abigail. Mary replies that she fears doing this because Abigail and the others will turn against her. Proctor discovers that Mary knows about his affair.

Act III

The court questions and accuses Martha Corey of witchcraft. Giles Corey interrupts the court proceedings and declares that Thomas Putnam is "reaching out for land!" He is removed from the courtroom and taken to the vestry room.

Judge Hathorne, Deputy Governor Danforth, Ezekiel Cheever, and Parris enter the vestry room. Corey says that he owns six hundred acres of land, and a large quantity of timber. Corey also states that the court is holding his wife Martha by mistake. Corey tells Danforth that he had asked Hale why Martha read books, but he never accused her of witchcraft.

Corey and Francis Nurse state that they both have evidence for the court. They have been waiting for three days to present the evidence, but to no avail. Danforth responds that they must file the appropriate paperwork for the court to hear them. Nurse tells Danforth the girls are pretending.

Act IV

Act Four starts with Proctor chained to a jail wall totally isolated from the outside. The authorities send Elizabeth to him, telling her to try to convince Proctor to confess to being a warlock. Proctor gives in to the authorities and the advice of Reverend Hale. Hale is now a broken man who spends all his time with the prisoners, praying with them and hoping to save their lives from their unjust fates. Hale advises prisoners to confess to witchcraft, so that they can live. Proctor confesses to the crime of witchcraft, he then signs the document saying that he is a wizard. But then tears it up when Proctor realizes that Danforth is going to nail the signed confession to the church (which Proctor fears will ruin his name and the names of other Salemites). The play ends with Proctor and Rebecca Nurse (an accused witch) being led to the gallows to hang.

 

 

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