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The Crucible

The Crucible


by Arthur Miller

The Crucible Act II Summary

  • The setting is the Proctor’s house, in the common room (or the living room, as we call it today).
  • Elizabeth and Proctor discuss farm business items, while Proctor eats. He tells her he wants to please her, but when he tries to kiss her, she simply “receives it.” He’s disappointed and returns to eat. They continue discussing everyday things, until Proctor suggests that she seems sad.
  • Elizabeth admits that she is worried that he had gone to Salem that day. Proctor says no, he did not go, and she says that Mary Warren had gone.
  • Proctor wants to know why, when he had forbidden her to leave the farm, but Elizabeth says she could not stop her. She is now part of the court in Salem, an “official,” and there are fourteen people in jail because of the witch trials. Abigail is leading the entire group of accusing girls.
  • Elizabeth suggests that Proctor must go to Salem and tell them it is a fraud. Ezekiel Cheever is the person to tell, and to let them know what Abigail told him last week, that she knew it was not witchcraft.
  • Proctor says he’ll think about it. He just knows that if she’s considered a saint now, his word might not be enough. And they were alone when she mentioned it.
  • Elizabeth asks Proctor to confirm whether Abigail and he were alone together. Proctor admits that for a minute they were, but then the others came.
  • Then, Elizabeth realizes, he must have lied to her the first time he told the story.
  • Irritated, he says he won’t have her suspicion anymore. She tells him he should try not to earn it, then.
  • They continue on this conversation. It becomes clear that Proctor wants her to forget Abigail as he has. He feels she doubts him every minute of the day.
  • Elizabeth says she doesn’t judge him, only the “magistrate sits in your heart” judges him.
  • As they argue, Mary Warren enters.
  • When Proctor grabs her by the wrist, she cries out that she’s sick—the proceedings have worn her out—and she hopes Proctor won’t hurt her.
  • He asks her how the proceedings went and in response Mary goes to Elizabeth and gives her a small rag doll, called a “poppet.” She says she spent many hours making it earlier that day in court and hopes she’ll enjoy it.
  • Elizabeth thanks her.
  • Mary says she’s tired and needs to sleep, but that she’ll clean the house in the morning. Proctor stops her to ask if it’s true that fourteen women have been arrested. Mary says there are now thirty-nine women. She begins to weep.
  • And Sarah Good, Mary continues, confessed that she made a compact with Lucifer to torment Christians.
  • Proctor expresses his doubt and Mary says that she somehow managed to almost choke her and the other girls in court, by sending her spirit out. Apparently, Sarah Good has tried to kill her many times before but until that day, Mary herself didn’t know it.
  • The proof of Sarah Good’s witchery? She was unable to say her ten commandments. And so she was condemned.
  • Proctor says she will not go to court again, and Mary says she must. Proctor suggests this is no proper work (i.e., hanging women) and Mary says they will not hang a woman if she confesses.
  • They try to convince her not to go again. Then Mary claims to have saved Elizabeth’s life today.
  • Elizabeth hasn’t been accused, only mentioned, but Mary said she had never seen Elizabeth send her spirit out. Elizabeth wants to know who accused her and Mary says she cannot tell, by law.
  • Mary goes to bed, and Proctor and Elizabeth stay where they are, horrified. Elizabeth says she has known all week this would happen, that “she” (Abigail) wants Elizabeth dead.
  • Proctor says he will talk to Cheever, and Elizabeth says he needs to talk to Abigail. She says that he made promises with his body, in bed, and he needs to let Abigail know that this promise can never be fulfilled.
  • Proctor is angry, claiming that he gave no promise—no more promise than a “stallion gives a mare”—and he believes Elizabeth will never forgive him for this one mistake.

(Click the summary infographic to download.)

  • As they argue, Reverend Hale appears in the door. He says he is there to see for himself what is going on.
  • He has just come from Rebecca Nurse’s house—she was also mentioned at court, like Elizabeth. He thinks it is possible that Rebecca Nurse has had dealings with the Devil, but he is clearly uneasy.
  • The Proctors both think it is impossible.
  • Hale says he wants to question them both, and he proceeds to question why Mr. Proctor has missed so much church in the last seventeen months.
  • Proctor says his wife has been sick this winter. He could come alone, he admits, but he does not like the minister. He believes the minister is materialistic and greedy.
  • Hale then wants to know why only two of their three children are baptized. Proctor says he has no interest in Reverend Parris baptizing his child.
  • Hale asks them both if they know the Ten Commandments, and then requires Proctor to recite them. Proctor cites nearly all—but fails to remember one, of which Elizabeth reminds him: the commandment against adultery.
  • Proctor reassures Hale that between the two of them (Proctor and Elizabeth), they know all ten. He tells Hale that forgetting one commandment is a small fault; and Hale replies by saying that no crack in a fortress is small.
  • Before Hale goes, Proctor tells him that Abigail Williams told him that the children’s sickness had nothing to do with witches.
  • Hale is suspicious and wants to know why Proctor kept this information for so long.
  • Proctor says that until today, he didn’t know the world had gone mad.
  • Hale gets defensive and says that people have confessed.
  • Proctor says anybody will confess if it prevents them from getting hanged—and Hale admits he has thought of that.
  • Hale wants to know if Proctor will testify in court and Proctor, reluctant, says he will. Hale then questions him about whether he believes in witches, and Proctor says he has questioned it… then Elizabeth says she cannot believe in witches, not if he thinks she is a witch.
  • She thinks Hale should question Abigail Williams about the Gospel, not herself; she believes every word of it.
  • Proctor can see where this is going, and he begins to defend his wife.
  • At that moment, Giles Corey appears. He says they have taken his wife.
  • Then Francis Nurse enters and Giles says they’ve also taken Rebecca. Francis wants to know if Reverend Hale can’t speak to the Deputy Governor because it seems like the world has gone mad. It’s absurd to think that his wife could be a murderer—she’s been charged with killing the Putnams’s babies.
  • Hale is now clearly troubled. But he reminds the men that until Lucifer fell from heaven, he was a beautiful angel.
  • Giles Corey angrily says he wondered about his wife reading books—but he never said she was a witch!
  • Then Giles explains that Walcott, who bought a pig from them and then came back for the money when the pig died, has claimed that his wife Martha Corey has bewitched him so he can’t keep a pig alive for more than four weeks.
  • Ezekiel Cheever, the constable, enters. Everybody is silent, shocked. He is there, he says, on business of the court. Marshal Herrick also enters, but he looks ashamed. They are there to get Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail Williams charged her.
  • Proctor wants to know what proof he has, and Cheever says he’s supposed to look for a poppet that his wife may have. She says she hasn’t kept poppets since she was a little girl. But they all look around and there’s the poppet, the one Mary Warren brought, on the mantel.
  • Elizabeth goes to get it and says this is Mary’s. They want to know what a poppet signifies.
  • But Cheever doesn’t explain.
  • Proctor tells his wife to go get Mary, but Cheever says he can’t let Elizabeth out of his sight. Proctor pushes his hand away and tells his wife to go get Mary.
  • Hale wants to know what a poppet means, and Cheever starts to explain, while lifting the poppet’s skirt. Then he notices that it has a long needle stuck in it.
  • Cheever calls Herrick to him. He then tells Proctor that the Williams girl fell to the floor at dinner this evening, and when the Reverend Parris went to her, he drew out a needle stuck deep in her belly. When he asked how she was stabbed, she said it was Elizabeth Proctor’s “familiar spirit” that did it.
  • Proctor denies that this is proof, but Cheever insists that it is. When Mary and Elizabeth return, Proctor demands that she explain how the poppet got into the house.
  • Mary says it is hers, and even says she stuck the needle in herself, but she meant no harm. Hale wants to know if some spirit might be forcing her to say this, but she says she’s herself.
  • Then she says they should ask Susanna or Abigail, both of whom saw her making it.
  • Hale tells Mary that she is charging Abigail with murder—because if Abigail is faking it, then she is trying to get Elizabeth Proctor killed.
  • Proctor rips up the arrest warrant, despite protests. He tells them all to get out of his house.
  • Hale protests that if she is innocent, the court—
  • But here, Proctor points out that Abigail and Parris may not be innocent.
  • Elizabeth says she’ll go, and Herrick says he has nine men outside.
  • Indeed, she says, she will go.
  • Proctor promises his wife that he’ll bring her home soon, and Elizabeth goes out the door, followed by Herrick and Cheever.
  • Mary Warren starts to weep, and Giles Corey starts taunting Hale, saying that it is all a fraud and yet he is silent.
  • When Herrick and Cheever leave with Elizabeth, Proctor tells Hale to get out of his sight. Hale says he will testify in her favor, but he doesn’t know if she is guilty or innocent.
  • Hale urges Proctor to think about causes. He prays that God will open up their eyes.
  • Then he leaves.
  • Proctor, Francis, and Giles are left alone, shaken. They wonder if all is lost. When the latter two leave, Mary Warren says that they’ll probably let her come home.
  • Proctor replies that she is going with him to the courthouse, and she’ll testify exactly how the poppet came to the house and who stuck the needle in.
  • Mary resists, saying “she’ll” kill Mary for that, and that Abigail will charge Proctor with lechery.
  • Proctor realizes this is a good thing. Abigail's “saintliness” is over and done with.
  • Proctor is even more determined to expose the truth and insists that Mary will help him.
  • Proctor and Mary head outside and toward the town, Mary sobs “I cannot, I cannot, I cannot…” as they walk away.
  • The curtain falls.

(Click the summary infographic to download.)

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