[A] person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between.
(See Important Quotations Explained)
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.
- What is the state of the community at the beginning of the play, as the play progresses and at the end of the play? How are insiders and outsiders defined during these times?
- What elements existed or were created within the community to allow Abigail and the other girls to gain power?
- What role did fear play in creating authority? How did some people choose to resist authority? Who are they and what form did their resistance take?
- John and Abigail’s affair serves as a catalyst for the events of the play, yet historically no such affair ever took place. Why did Arthur Miller use his dramatic license to invent this relationship?
- Give an example from The Crucible that demonstrates that certainty can be dangerous.
- Judge Danforth says, “a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between” (Act 3, Scene 1). What happens to a society where there is no “road between”?
- At the end of the play, John Hale has changed his opinion of the trials. What brings about this change?
- John Proctor comes very close to admitting guilt so that he may live, and it’s at this moment that Reverend Parris tells him that his refusal to confess is vanity. John could lie, and confess, and stay alive for his wife and children. Do you agree with Parris?
- How is it different reading the play, versus attending a performance on stage? How do Miller’s comments within the text of the play inform the reading of it?
The Chicago Public Library would like to thank Facing History and Ourselves for contributing to the One Book, One Chicago discussion questions.