by Arthur Miller
The Crucible Justice Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Line) Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue.
MARY WARREN, like one awakened to a marvelous secret insight: So many time, Mr. Proctor, she come to this very door, beggin' bread and a cup of cider—and mark this: whenever I turned her away empty, she mumbled.
ELIZABETH: Mumbled! She may mumble if she's hungry.
MARY WARREN: But what does she mumble? You must remember, Goody Proctor. Last month—a Monday, I think—she walked away, and I thought my guts would burst for two days after. Do you remember it?
ELIZABETH: Why—I do, I think, but—
MARY WARREN: And so I told that to Governor Danforth, and he asks her so. "Goody Osburn," says he, "what curse do you mumble that this girl must fall sick after turning you away?" And then she replies (mimicking an old crone) "Why, your excellence, no curse at all. I only say my commandments; I hope I may say my commandments," says she!
ELIZABETH: And that's an upright answer.
MARY WARREN: Aye, but then Governor Danforth say, "Recite for us your commandments!" (leaning avidly toward them) and of all the ten she could not say a single one. She never knew no commandments, and they had her in a flat lie!
PROCTOR: And so condemned her?
MARY WARREN, now a little strained, seeing his stubborn doubt: Why, they must when she condemned herself.
PROCTOR: But the proof, the proof!
MARY WARREN, with greater impatience with him: I told you the proof. It's hard proof, hard as rock, the judges said. (II.118-128)
The court’s decision is made without evidence or hard proof, which is hardly “justice” in Proctor’s judgment. Mary, on the other hand, is caught up in the excitement and prestige of the court. She is incapable of reflecting on the process itself—she just defers to what “the judges said.”
PROCTOR, with difficulty: I—I have no witness and cannot prove it except my word be taken. But I know the children's sickness had naught to do with witchcraft.
Hale, stopped, struck: Naught to do—?
PROCTOR: Mr. Parris discovered them sportin' in the woods. They were startled and took sick.
HALE: Who told you this?
PROCTOR, hesitates, then: Abigail Williams.
HALE, his eyes wide: Abigail Williams told you it had naught to do with witchcraft!
PROCTOR: She told me the day you came, sir.
HALE, suspiciously: Why—why did you keep this?
PROCTOR: I never knew until tonight that the world is gone daft with this nonsense.
HALE: Nonsense! Mister, I have myself examined Tituba, Sarah Good, and numerous others that have confessed to dealing with the Devil. They have confessed it.
PROCTOR: And why not, if they must hang for denyin' it? There are them that will swear to anything before they'll hang; have you never thought of that?
HALE: I have. I—I have indeed. (It is his own suspicion, but he resists it. He glances at Elizabeth, then at John.) And you—would you testify to this in court?
PROCTOR: I—had not reckoned with goin' into court. But if I must I will.
HALE: Do you falter here?
PROCTOR: I falter nothing, but I may wonder if my story will be credited in such a court. I do wonder on it, when such a steady-minded minister as you will suspicion such a woman that never lied, and cannot, and the world knows she cannot! I may falter somewhat, Mister; I am no fool. (II.258-276)
The Reverend Hale and John Proctor connect on this level, at least—their recognition that the justice of the court is not “just” if an accusation is equal proof of guilt and if the only way you can avoid punishment is by confessing. But Hale has a hard time believing that someone would confess to something they did not do. He’s either a complete fool or he’s lying to himself.
HALE: Proctor, if she is innocent, the court—
PROCTOR If she is innocent! Why do you never wonder if Parris be innocent, or Abigail? Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God's fingers? I'll tell you what's walking Salem—vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! This warrant's vengeance! I'll not give my wife to vengeance! (II.389-390)
Proctor points out the fundamental problem with the witchcraft trial scheme: the assumption that the accusers—a minister and a child—are innocent. And more importantly, he points out that the accusations have personal objectives—they are not unbiased.