Study Guide

The Crucible Quotes

  • Good vs. Evil

    Act I
    John Proctor

    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!
    PROCTOR: I may speak my heart, I think!
    […]
    PARRIS, now he's out with it: There is a party in this church. I am not blind; there is a faction and a party.
    PROCTOR: Against you?
    PUTNAM: Against him and all authority!
    PROCTOR: Why, then I must find it and join it.
    There is shock among the others.
    REBECCA: He does not mean that.
    PUTNAM: He confessed it now!
    PROCTOR: I mean it solemnly, Rebecca; I like not the smell of this "authority. "
    REBECCA: No, you cannot break charity with your minister. You are another kind, John. Clasp his hand, make your peace.
    PROCTOR: I have a crop to sow and lumber to drag home. (I.275-277; 278-289)

    Parris tries to assert his religious authority over Proctor, but Proctor is uninterested in the minister’s message. Parris suggests that there is a battle going on, a battle of good vs. evil, and that Proctor is on the wrong side. In fact, the battle is more political than religious, with Parris trying to keep a tight grip on his flock.

    Reverend Parris

    ABIGAIL: She heard you singin' and suddenly she's up and screamin'.
    MRS. PUTNAM: The psalm! The psalm! She cannot bear to hear the Lord's name!
    PARRIS: No, God forbid. Mercy, run to the doctor! Tell him what’s happened here!
    Mercy Lewis rushes out.

    MRS. PUTNAM: Mark it for a sign, mark it!
    Rebecca Nurse, seventy-two, enters. She is white-haired, leaning upon her walking-stick.
    PUTNAM, pointing at the whimpering Betty: That is a notorious sign of witchcraft afoot, Goody Nurse, a prodigious sign!
    MRS. PUTNAM: My mother told me that! When they cannot bear to hear the name of—
    PARRIS, trembling: Rebecca, Rebecca, go to her, we're lost. She suddenly cannot bear to hear the Lord's name!
    [...]
    Everything is quiet. Rebecca walks across the room to the bed. Gentleness exudes from her. Betty is quietly whimpering, eyes shut. Rebecca simply stands over the child, who gradually quiets.
    MRS. PUTNAM, astonished: What have you done? (I.213-220; 225-226)

    Betty’s sudden whining at the name of Jesus indicates her relationship with the Devil—a classic sign of good vs. evil. But Rebecca Nurse suggests she just needs a mother’s touch. The more earnestly religious characters, like Rebecca, realize that supernatural conflict has its roots in human suffering, not the other way around.

    The parochial snobbery of these people was partly responsible for their failure to convert the Indians. Probably they also preferred to take land from heathens rather than from fellow Christians. At any rate, very few Indians were converted, and the Salem folk believed that the virgin forest was the Devil’s last preserve, his home base and the citadel of his final stand. To the best of their knowledge the American forest was the last place on earth that was not paying homage to God. (I.10)

    The Puritans in Salem saw the world divided into clear realms of power: good vs. evil. In this case, the narrator suggests that the forest was seen as the realm where evil prevailed, while the town was the realm where good, or God, prevailed.

    Mrs. Ann Putnam

    MRS. PUTNAM: Reverend Parris, I have laid seven babies unbaptized in the earth. Believe me, sir, you never saw more hearty babies born. And yet, each would wither in my arms the very night of their birth. I have spoke nothin', but my heart has clamored intimations. And now, this year, my Ruth, my only—I see her turning strange. A secret child she has become this year, and shrivels like a sucking mouth were pullin’ on her life too. And so I thought to send her to your Tituba—
    PARRIS: To Tituba! What may Tituba—?
    MRS. PUTNAM: Tituba knows how to speak to the dead, Mr. Parris.
    PARRIS: Goody Ann, it is a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!
    MRS. PUTNAM: I take it on my soul, but who else may surely tell us what person murdered my babies?
    PARRIS, horrified: Woman!
    MRS. PUTNAM: They were murdered, Mr. Parris! And mark this proof! Last night my Ruth were ever so close to their little spirits; I know it, sir. For how else is she struck dumb now except some power of darkness would stop her mouth? It is a marvelous sign, Mr. Parris!
    PUTNAM: Don’t you understand it, sir? There is a murdering witch among us, bound to keep himself in the dark. (I.103-110)

    Mr. and Mrs. Putnam are convinced there is a supernatural explanation for all their dead babies. Though there could be a hundred other explanations for their only surviving daughter Ruth Putnam’s behavior (including her relationship with Abigail), they find it more comforting to explain it as proof of witchcraft. If evil took their babies, then there is nothing they can do but seek God’s help—which is more comforting than thinking it might be their own fault or nobody’s. At least this gives them somebody or something to fight against.

    Thomas Putnam

    PUTNAM: Now look you, sir. Let you strike out against the Devil, and the village will bless you for it! Come down, speak to them—pray with them. They're thirsting for your word, Mister! Surely you’ll pray with them.
    PARRIS, swayed: I'll lead them in a psalm, but let you say nothing of witchcraft yet. I will not discuss it. The cause is yet unknown. I have had enough contention since I came; I want no more. (I.125-126)

    Thomas Putnam urges Parris to take spiritual control of the situation and show who is in charge. Parris agrees with him, but still wants to be cautious. He recognizes how the battle of good vs. evil can easily get out of hand. Parris is probably also influenced by Putnam’s wealth and power.

    Reverend John Hale

    HALE: Tituba. You must have no fear to tell us who they are, do you understand? We will protect you. The Devil can never overcome a minister. You know that, do you not?
    TITUBA, kisses Hale's hand: Aye, sir, oh, I do.
    HALE: You have confessed yourself to witchcraft, and that speaks a wish to come to Heaven's side. And we will bless you, Tituba.
    TITUBA, deeply relieved: Oh, God bless you, Mr. Hale!
    HALE, with rising exaltation: You are God's instrument put in our hands to discover the Devil's agents among us. So speak utterly, Tituba, and God will protect you.
    TITUBA, joining with him: Oh, God, protect Tituba! (I.456-469)

    In a world where evil is certain and the faith that God works through ministers is absolute, it is difficult to imagine Tituba making any other choice. The ministers have the power of government behind them. Also, Tituba does not have as much of a stake in the health of the community. As a slave, she has been granted none of its privileges.

    Act III
    John Proctor

    PROCTOR: Mary, tell the Governor what they—(He has hardly got a word out, when, seeing him coming for her, she rushes out of his reach, screaming in horror.)
    MARY WARREN: Don't touch me—don't touch me! (At which the girls halt at the door.)
    PROCTOR, astonished: Mary!
    MARY WARREN, pointing at Proctor: You're the Devil's man!
    He is stopped in his tracks.
    PARRIS: Praise God!
    GIRLS: Praise God!
    PROCTOR, numbed: Mary, how—?
    MARY WARREN: I'll not hang with you! I love God, I love God.
    DANFORTH, to Mary: He bid you do the Devil's work?
    MARY WARREN, hysterically, indicating Proctor: He come at me by night and every day to sign, to sign, to—
    DANFORTH: Sign what?
    PARRIS: The Devil's book? He come with a book?
    MARY WARREN, hysterically, pointing at Proctor, fearful of him: My name, he want my name. "I'll murder you," he says, "if my wife hangs! We must go and overthrow the court," he says!
    Danforth's head jerks toward Proctor, shock and horror in his face.
    PROCTOR, turning, appealing to Hale: Mr. Hale!
    MARY WARREN, her sobs beginning: He wake me every night, his eyes were like coals and his fingers claw my neck, and I sign, I sign...
    HALE: Excellency, this child's gone wild!
    PROCTOR, as Danforth's wide eyes pour on him: Mary, Mary!
    MARY WARREN, screaming at him: No, I love God; I go your way no more. I love God, I bless God. (Sobbing, she rushes to Abigail.) Abby, Abby, I'll never hurt you more! (They all watch, as Abigail, out of her infinite charity, reaches out and draws the sobbing Mary to her, and then looks up to Danforth.)
    DANFORTH, to Proctor: What are you? (Proctor is beyond speech in his anger.) You are combined with anti-Christ, are you not? I have seen your power; you will not deny it! What say you, Mister? (III.496-519)

    Though we, the audience, are aware that the categories of “good” and “evil” have gotten terribly mixed up in this play, Mary is faced with a life-or-death situation. If she does what is really “good” she will die by those who hold the power and declare it “not good”; if she does what is wrong—if she lies—she joins those with power who declare that this is, indeed, good.

    No wonder many people chose to confess and align with powerful forces. According to the play, young people in particular are susceptible to this weakness.

  • Lies and Deceit

    Act I
    Abigail Williams

    ABIGAIL: Gah! I'd almost forgot how strong you are, John Proctor!
    PROCTOR, looking at Abigail now, the faintest suggestion of a knowing smile on his face: What's this mischief here?
    ABIGAIL, with a nervous laugh: Oh, she's only gone silly somehow.
    PROCTOR: The road past my house is a pilgrimage to Salem all morning. The town's mumbling witchcraft.
    ABIGAIL: Oh, posh! (Winningly she comes a little closer, with a confidential, wicked air.) We were dancin' in the woods last night, and my uncle leaped in on us. She took fright, is all.
    PROCTOR, his smile widening: Ah, you're wicked yet, aren't y'! (A trill of expectant laughter escapes her, and she dares come closer, feverishly looking into his eyes.) You'll be clapped in the stocks before you're twenty.
    He takes a step to go, and she springs into his path.
    ABIGAIL: Give me a word, John. A soft word. (Her concentrated desire destroys his smile.)
    PROCTOR: No, no, Abby. That's done with. (I.173-180)

    We learn that both Abigail and John have told lies: they have deceived people about their (past) relationship, and they continue to lie about it. But to this person who knows her deception, Abigail tells the truth that she was dancing in the woods and Betty took fright. However, she doesn’t tell him that she drank a potion so that his wife Elizabeth might die.

    Betty Parris

    ABIGAIL, pulling her away from the window: I told him everything; he knows now, he knows everything we—
    BETTY: You drank blood, Abby! You didn't tell him that!
    ABIGAIL: Betty, you never say that again! You will never—
    BETTY: You did, you did! You drank a charm to kill John Proctor's wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!
    ABIGAIL, smashes her across the face: Shut it! Now shut it!
    BETTY, collapsing on the bed: Mama, Mama! (She dissolves into sobs.)
    ABIGAIL: Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam's dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. 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. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down! (She goes to Betty and roughly sits her up.) Now, you—sit up and stop this!
    But Betty collapses in her hands and lies inert on the bed. (I.113-132)

    We learn the true motives behind Abigail’s actions, even as she tries to get the girls to agree on a story to protect herself. She uses the threat of violence—along with their belief that she might know some real witchcraft—to keep them in line.

    Act II
    John Proctor

    PROCTOR: I am only wondering how I may prove what she [Abigail] told me, Elizabeth. If the girl’s a saint now, I think it is not easy to prove she’s fraud, and the town gone so silly. She told it to me in a room alone—I have no proof for it.
    ELIZABETH: You were alone with her?
    PROCTOR, stubbornly: For a moment alone, aye.
    ELIZABETH: Why, then, it is not as you told me.
    PROCTOR, his anger rising: For a moment, I say. The others come in soon after.
    ELIZABETH, quietlyshe has suddenly lost all faith in him: Do as you wish, then. (She starts to turn.)
    PROCTOR: Woman. (She turns to him.) I'll not have your suspicion any more.
    ELIZABETH, a little loftily: I have no—
    PROCTOR: I'll not have it!
    ELIZABETH: Then let you not earn it. (II.65-74)

    Because of Proctor’s earlier deceit, Elizabeth can’t trust him, no matter how much she would like to. Also, we don’t know why Proctor hid the fact that he was alone with Abigail. It could have been his knowledge that he still desires her, or it could just be that he knows it would make his wife suspicious.

    PROCTOR, moving menacingly toward her: You will tell the court how that poppet come here and who stuck the needle in.
    MARY WARREN: She'll kill me for sayin' that! (Proctor continues toward her.) Abby'll charge lechery on you, Mr. Proctor!
    PROCTOR, halting: She's told you!
    MARY WARREN: I have known it, sir. She'll ruin you with it, I know she will.
    PROCTOR, hesitating, and with deep hatred of himself: Good. Then her saintliness is done with. (Mary backs from him.) We will slide together into our pit; you will tell the court what you know.
    MARY WARREN, in terror: I cannot, they'll turn on me—
    Proctor strides and catches her, and she is repeating, "I cannot, I cannot!"
    PROCTOR: My wife will never die for me! I will bring your guts into your mouth but that goodness will not die for me!
    MARY WARREN, struggling to escape him: I cannot do it, I cannot!
    PROCTOR, grasping her by the throat as though he would strangle her: Make your peace with it! Now Hell and Heaven grapple on our backs, and all our old pretense is ripped away—make your peace! (He throws her to the floor, where she sobs, "I cannot, I cannot." And now, half to himself, staring, and turning to the open door:) Peace. It is a providence, and no great change; we are only what we always were, but naked now. (He walks as though toward a great horror, facing the open sky.) Aye, naked! And the wind, God's icy wind, will blow! (II.427-436)

    Proctor decides that the only way for justice to occur is to let go of his deception, to lay bare his deeds before the court, realizing that he will suffer and be punished because of his past sins. But it is those same past sins that have made his wife vulnerable, and so honesty is now a grave necessity.

    Elizabeth Proctor

    ELIZABETH, reasonably: John, have you ever shown her somewhat of contempt? She cannot pass you in the church but you will blush—
    PROCTOR: I may blush for my sin.
    ELIZABETH: I think she sees another meaning in that blush.
    PROCTOR: And what see you? What see you, Elizabeth?
    ELIZABETH, conceding: I think you be somewhat ashamed, for I am there, and she so close.
    PROCTOR: When will you know me, woman? Were I stone I would have cracked for shame this seven month!
    ELIZABETH: Then go and tell her she's a whore. Whatever promise she may sense—break it, John, break it.
    PROCTOR, between his teeth: Good, then. I'll go. (He starts for his rifle.)
    ELIZABETH, trembling, fearfully: Oh, how unwillingly!
    PROCTOR, turning on her, rifle in hand: I will curse her hotter than the oldest cinder in hell. But pray, begrudge me not my anger!
    ELIZABETH: Your anger! I only ask you—
    PROCTOR: Woman, am I so base? Do you truly think me base?
    ELIZABETH: I never called you base.
    PROCTOR: Then how do you charge me with such a promise? The promise that a stallion gives a mare I gave that girl!
    ELIZABETH: Then why do you anger with me when I bid you break it?
    PROCTOR: Because it speaks deceit, and I am honest! But I'll plead no more! I see now your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!
    ELIZABETH, crying out: 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! (II.170-186),>

    Proctor wants to be trusted, and he believes himself honest—but he hasn’t faced up to his ultimate deceit, his unfaithfulness to his wife. Sensing this, Elizabeth doubts him, which keeps their relationship strained and awkward even seven months after his affair with Abigail ended.

    Reverend John Hale

    HALE, quietlyit has impressed him: Proctor, let you open with me now, for I have a rumor that troubles me. It's said you hold no belief that there may even be witches in the world. Is that true, sir?
    PROCTOR, he knows this is critical, and is striving against his disgust with Hale and with himself for even answering: I know not what I have said, I may have said it. I have wondered if there be witches in the world—although I cannot believe they come among us now.
    HALE: Then you do not believe—
    PROCTOR: I have no knowledge of it; the Bible speaks of witches, and I will not deny them.
    HALE: And you, woman?
    ELIZABETH: I—I cannot believe it.
    HALE, shocked: You cannot!
    PROCTOR: Elizabeth, you bewilder him!
    ELIZABETH, to Hale: I cannot think the Devil may own a woman's soul, Mr. Hale, when she keeps an upright way, as I have. I am a good woman, I know it; and if you believe I may do only good work in the world, and yet be secretly bound to Satan, then I must tell you, sir, I do not believe it.
    HALE: But, woman, you do believe there are witches in—
    ELIZABETH: If you think that I am one, then I say there are none.
    HALE: You surely do not fly against the Gospel, the Gospel—
    PROCTOR: She believe in the Gospel, every word!
    ELIZABETH: Question Abigail Williams about the Gospel, not myself!
    Hale stares at her.
    PROCTOR: She do not mean to doubt the Gospel, sir, you cannot think it. This be a Christian house, sir, a Christian house.
    HALE: God keep you both; let the third child be quickly baptized, and go you without fail each Sunday in to Sabbath prayer; and keep a solemn, quiet way among you. (II.277-292)

    At this point, the Reverend Hale is beginning to suspect that Abigail might not be trustworthy—and that the justice of the court might not be “just” if an accusation is proof of guilt—but he can’t quite bring himself to admit that Abigail is lying unless he knows John Proctor is a good and faithfully religious man. His questions show that he still puts too much stock in the rumors flying around town. But it is Elizabeth who surprises them all, with her steadfast assertion that if the people who have been accused of being witches are, indeed, “witches,” then she doesn’t believe witchcraft exists at all. In the culture of Salem, where no one’s beliefs can be verified, saying the proper thing is all that matters.

    Act III
    Deputy Governor Danforth

    DANFORTH: Then you tell me that you sat in my court, callously lying, when you knew that people would hang by your evidence? (She does not answer.) Answer me!
    MARY WARREN, almost inaudibly: I did, sir.
    DANFORTH: How were you instructed in your life? Do you not know that God damns all liars? (She cannot speak.) Or is it now that you lie?
    MARY WARREN: No, sir—I am with God now.
    DANFORTH: You are with God now.
    MARY WARREN: Aye, sir.
    DANFORTH, containing himself: I will tell you this—you are either lying now, or you were lying in the court, and in either case you have committed perjury and you will go to jail for it. You cannot lightly say you lied, Mary. Do you know that?
    MARY WARREN: I cannot lie no more. I am with God, I am with God.
    […]
    DANFORTH: These will be sufficient. Sit you down, children. (Silently they sit.) Your friend, Mary Warren, has given us a deposition. In which she swears that she never saw familiar spirits, apparitions, nor any manifest of the Devil. She claims as well that none of you have not seen these things either. (Slight pause.) Now, children, this is a court of law. The law, based upon the Bible, and the Bible, writ by Almighty God, forbid the practice of witchcraft, and described death as the penalty thereof. But likewise, children, the law and Bible damn all bearers of false witness. (Slight pause.) Now then. It does not escape me that this deposition may be devised to blind us; it may well be that Mary Warren has been conquered by Satan, who sends her here to distract our sacred purpose. If so, her neck will break for it. But if she speak true, I bid you now drop your guile and confess your pretense, for a quick confession will go easier with you. (Pause.) Abigail Williams, rise. (Abigail slowly rises.) Is there any truth in this?
    ABIGAIL: No, sir.
    DANFORTH, thinks, glances at Mary, then back to Abigail: Children, a very augur bit will now be turned into your souls until your honesty is proved. Will either of you change your positions now, or do you force me to hard questioning?
    ABIGAIL: I have naught to change, sir. She lies. (III.256-263; 266-269)

    Mary asserts that she is telling the truth, but without Abigail’s confirmation, it is one person’s word against another’s. The court had assumed all along that the girls were telling the truth, and now it has too much invested to take only one girl’s word over all the others. Its justice rests upon the fact that Abigail and the other girls are telling the truth. It has, in effect, given over its power to Abigail.

    Ezekiel Cheever

    DANFORTH: You are in all respects a Gospel Christian?
    PROCTOR: I am, sir.
    PARRIS: Such a Christian that will not come to church but once in a month!
    DANFORTH, restrainedhe is curious: Not come to church?
    PROCTOR: I—I have no love for Mr. Parris. It is no secret. But God I surely love.
    CHEEVER: He plough on Sunday, sir.
    DANFORTH: Plow on Sunday!
    CHEEVER, apologetically: I think it be evidence, John. I am an official of the court, I cannot keep it.
    PROCTOR: I—I have once or twice plowed on Sunday. I have three children, sir, and until last year my land give little.
    GILES: You’ll find other Christians that do plow on Sunday if the truth be known.
    HALE: Your Honor, I cannot think you may judge the man on such evidence.
    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?
    PROCTOR: Excellency, does it not strike upon you that so many of these women have lived so long with such upright reputation, and—
    PARRIS: Do you read the Gospel, Mr. Proctor?
    PROCTOR: I read the Gospel.
    PARRIS: I think not, or you should surely know that Cain were an upright man, and yet he did kill Abel.
    PROCTOR: Aye, God tells us that. (To Danforth:) But who tells us Rebecca Nurse murdered seven babies by sending out her spirit on them? It is the children only, and this one will swear she lied to you. (III.116-132)

    Danforth thinks that he can undermine Proctor’s honesty by showing that he isn’t a true Christian. He thinks that being a Christian means following rules, like not plowing on Sunday and knowing the Gospel by heart. On the other hand, Danforth is very trusting—too trusting—of the honesty of the young women who give the accusations. In other words, he’s totally inconsistent.

    John Proctor

    PROCTOR, breathless and in agony: It [Abigail] is a whore!
    DANFORTH, dumfounded: You charge—?
    ABIGAIL: Mr. Danforth, he is lying!
    PROCTOR: Mark her! Now she'll suck a scream to stab me with but—
    DANFORTH: You will prove this! This will not pass!
    PROCTOR, trembling, his life collapsing about him: I have known her, sir. I have known her.
    DANFORTH: You—you are a lecher?
    FRANCIS, horrified: John, you cannot say such a—
    PROCTOR: Oh, Francis, I wish you had some evil in you that you might know me. (To Danforth:) A man will not cast away his good name. You surely know that.
    DANFORTH, dumfounded: In—in what time? In what place?
    PROCTOR, his voice about to break, and his shame great: In the proper place—where my beasts are bedded. On the last night of my joy, some eight months past. She used to serve me in my house, sir. (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. My wife, my dear good wife, took this girl soon after, sir, and put her out on the highroad. And being what she is, a lump of vanity, sir— (He is being overcome.) Excellency, forgive me, forgive me. (Angrily against himself, he turns away from the Governor for a moment. Then, as though to cry out is his only means of speech left:) She thinks to dance with me on my wife's grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore's vengeance, and you must see it now. (III.374-384)

    Proctor sacrifices his reputation in order to save his wife and stop the court proceedings. He also recognizes the truth in what his wife said about the implicit promise of the act of sex, and so he stops lying to himself and admits that lust is not such a simple matter.

    Elizabeth Proctor

    ELIZABETH: Your Honor, 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 wastin’ his time at the shovelboard, but always at his work. But in my sickness—you see, sir, I were a long time sick after my last baby, and I thought I saw my husband somewhat turning from me. And this girl— (She turns to Abigail.)
    DANFORTH: Look at me.
    ELIZABETH: Aye, sir. Abigail Williams— (She breaks off.)
    DANFORTH: What of Abigail Williams?
    ELIZABETH: I came to think he fancied her. And so one night I lost my wits, I think, and put her out on the highroad.
    DANFORTH: Your husband—did he indeed turn from you?
    ELIZABETH, in agony: My husband—is a goodly man, sir.
    DANFORTH: Then he did not turn from you.
    ELIZABETH, starting to glance at Proctor: He—
    DANFORTH, reaches out and holds her face, then: Look at me! To your own knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery? (In a crisis of indecision she cannot speak.) Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher!
    ELIZABETH, faintly: No, sir.
    DANFORTH: Remove her!
    PROCTOR: Elizabeth, tell the truth!
    DANFORTH: She has spoken. Remove her!
    PROCTOR, crying out: Elizabeth, I have confessed it!
    ELIZABETH: Oh, God! (The door closes behind her.)
    PROCTOR: She only thought to save my name! (III.410-426)

    The one moment in Elizabeth’s life when telling the truth would mean salvation, she lies to save her husband’s reputation—an act of forgiveness and compassion. Does the fact that she tells a lie amount to a compromise of her deepest principles, or is it an act of courage?

    Act IV
    Deputy Governor Danforth

    DANFORTH: Mr. Proctor. When the Devil came to you did you see Rebecca Nurse in his company? (Proctor is silent.) Come, man, take courage—did you ever see her with the Devil?
    PROCTOR, almost inaudibly: No.
    Danforth, now sensing trouble, glances at John and goes to the table, and picks up a sheet—the list of condemned.
    DANFORTH: Did you ever see her sister, Mary Easty, with the Devil?
    PROCTOR: No, I did not.
    DANFORTH, his eyes narrow on Proctor: Did you ever see Martha Corey with the Devil?
    PROCTOR: I did not.
    DANFORTH, realizing, slowly putting the sheet down: Did you ever see anyone with the Devil?
    PROCTOR: I did not.
    DANFORTH: Proctor, you mistake me. I am not empowered to trade your life for a lie. You have most certainly seen some person with the Devil. (Proctor is silent.) Mr. Proctor, a score of people have already testified they saw this woman with the Devil.
    PROCTOR: Then it is proved. Why must I say it?
    DANFORTH: Why "must" you say it! Why, you should rejoice to say it if your soul is truly purged of any love for Hell!
    PROCTOR: They think to go like saints. I like not to spoil their names.
    DANFORTH, inquiring, incredulous: Mr. Proctor, do you think they go like saints?
    PROCTOR, evading: This woman never thought she done the Devil’s work.
    DANFORTH: Look you, sir. I think you mistake your duty here. It matters nothing what she thought….
    PROCTOR: I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. (Crying out, with hatred:) I have no tongue for it. (IV.243-258)

    Proctor is willing to lie about himself to save his life—but he is not willing to lie about his friends, publicly or otherwise, and so he goes to his death. Just so we know that Proctor’s decision is really a principled one, Miller has Danforth point out that people like Rebecca Nurse are doomed no matter what, having been accused by other people. So, in this sense, it doesn’t matter if Proctor adds one more voice to the chorus—her death wouldn’t be directly on his hands. But it would be such an outrageous and malicious lie that he simply doesn’t have the “tongue” to say it.

    John Proctor

    PROCTOR, with great force of will, but not quite looking at her: I have been thinking I would confess to them, Elizabeth. (She shows nothing.) What say you? If I give them that?
    ELIZABETH: I cannot judge you, John. (Pause.)
    PROCTOR, simply—a pure question: What would you have me do?
    ELIZABETH: As you will, I would have it. (Slight pause.) I want you living, John. That's sure.
    PROCTOR, pauses, then with a flailing of hope: Giles' wife? Have she confessed?
    ELIZABETH: She will not. (Pause.)
    PROCTOR: It is a pretense, Elizabeth.
    ELIZABETH: What is?
    PROCTOR: I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. I am not that man. She is silent. My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. Nothing's spoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before.
    ELIZABETH: And yet you've not confessed till now. That speak, goodness in you.
    PROCTOR: Spite only keeps me silent. It is hard to give a lie to dogs. (IV.188-200)

    Proctor confesses that it is only spite that has kept him from lying and saving his own life. But now, facing death, he is weak and thinks the deception might not be so bad. He believes he is not a good man, and though his confession would be for witchcraft, he feels it might also be true. If he goes to death, falsely condemned, he will be seen as a martyr, and he believes this, too, is false.

  • Justice

    Act I
    Mrs. Ann Putnam

    MRS. PUTNAM, as though for further details: They say you've sent for Reverend Hale of Beverly?
    PARRIS, with dwindling conviction now: A precaution only. He has much experience in all demonic arts, and I—
    MRS. PUTNAM: He has indeed; and found a witch in Beverly last year, and let you remember that.
    PARRIS: Now, Goody Ann, they only thought that were a witch, and I am certain there be no element of witchcraft here.
    PUTNAM: No witchcraft! Now look you, Mr. Parris—
    PARRIS: Thomas, Thomas, I pray you, leap not to witchcraft. I know that you—least of all you, Thomas—would ever wish so disastrous a charge laid upon me. We cannot leap to witchcraft. They will how me out of Salem for such corruption in my house.
    […]
    MRS. PUTNAM: Reverend Parris, I have laid seven babies unbaptized in the earth. Believe me, sir, you never saw more hearty babies born. And yet, each would wither in my arms the very night of their birth. I have spoke nothin', but my heart has clamored intimations. And now, this year, my Ruth, my only—I see her turning strange. A secret child she has become this year, and shrivels like a sucking mouth were pullin’ on her life too. And so I thought to send her to your Tituba—
    PARRIS: To Tituba! What may Tituba—?
    MRS. PUTNAM: Tituba knows how to speak to the dead, Mr. Parris.
    PARRIS: Goody Ann, it is a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!
    MRS. PUTNAM: I take it on my soul, but who else may surely tell us what person murdered my babies?
    PARRIS, horrified: Woman!
    MRS. PUTNAM: They were murdered, Mr. Parris! And mark this proof! Last night my Ruth were ever so close to their little spirits; I know it, sir. For how else is she struck dumb now except some power of darkness would stop her mouth? It is a marvelous sign, Mr. Parris! (I.89-94; 103-109)

    Parris is concerned with his reputation; the Putnams are concerned about getting justice for their dead babies. But even the Putnams’s “justice” is basically just vengeance. Although these characters claim to be deeply religious, their actions show that they only believe in justice on earth and not, as their Christian values would have it, in another realm. They want immediate satisfaction.

    Mary Warren

    Enter Mary Warren, breathless. She is seventeen, a subservient, naive, lonely girl.
    MARY WARREN: What'll we do? The village is out! I just come from the farm; the whole country's talkin' witchcraft! They'll be callin' us witches, Abby! Abby, we've got to tell.
    MERCY, pointing and looking at Mary Warren: She means to tell, I know it.
    MARY WARREN: Abby, we’ve got to tell. Witchery's a hangin' error, a hangin' like they done in Boston two year ago! We must tell the truth, Abby! You'll only be whipped for dancin', and the other things! (I.144-147)

    Justice in the colony includes punishment for witchcraft crimes as well as dancing. This is, in part, because it is a theocracy.

    Rebecca Nurse

    REBECCA: Pray, John, be calm. (Pause. He defers to her.) Mr. Parris, I think you'd best send Reverend Hale back as soon as he come. This will set us all to arguin' again in the society, and we thought to have peace this year. I think we ought rely on the doctor now, and good prayer.
    MRS. PUTNAM: Rebecca, the doctor's baffled!
    REBECCA: If so he is, then let us go to God for the cause of it. There is prodigious danger in the seeking of loose spirits. I fear it, I fear it. Let us rather blame ourselves and—
    PUTNAM: How may we blame ourselves? I am one of nine sons; the Putnam seed have peopled this province. And yet I have but one child left of eight—and now she shrivels!
    REBECCA: I cannot fathom that.
    MRS. PUTNAM, with a growing edge of sarcasm: But I must! You think it God's work you should never lose a child, nor grandchild either, and I bury all but one? There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!
    PUTNAM, to Parris: When Reverend Hale comes, you should proceed to look for signs of witchcraft here. (I.246-252)

    Rebecca Nurse suggests that they look inside themselves for answers to their problems, rather than blaming supernatural forces. But Mrs. Putnam is bent on finding justice, and she sees the supernatural as perhaps the only way to do so.

    Act II
    Elizabeth Proctor

    ELIZABETH: It is a mouse no more. I forbid her [Mary] go, and she raises up her chin like the daughter of a prince and says to me, "I must go to Salem, Goody Proctor; I am an official of the court!"
    PROCTOR: Court! What court?
    ELIZABETH: Aye, it is a proper court they have now. They've sent four judges out of Boston, she says, weighty magistrates of the General Court, and at the head sits the Deputy Governor of the Province.
    PROCTOR, astonished: Why, she's mad.
    ELIZABETH: I would to God she were. There be fourteen people in the jail now, she says. (Proctor simply looks at her, unable to grasp it.) And they'll be tried, and the court have power to hang them too, she says.
    PROCTOR, scoffing, but without conviction: Ah, they'd never hang—
    ELIZABETH: They'll hang if they'll not confess, John. The town's gone wild, I think. She speak of Abigail, and I thought she were a saint, to hear her. Abigail brings the other girls into the court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel. And folks are brought before them, and if they scream and howl and fall to the floor—the person's clapped in the jail for bewitchin' them.
    PROCTOR, wide-eyed: Oh, it is a black mischief.
    ELIZABETH: I think you must go to Salem, John. (He turns to her.) I think so. You must tell them it is a fraud. (II.46-54)

    Justice in the witchcraft trials means confessing or dying—so even if you’re not guilty, you must confess to avoid death. But both Elizabeth and Proctor know it’s a fraud because of their earlier association with Abigail.

    PROCTOR, with solemn warning: You will not judge me more, Elizabeth. I have good reason to think before I charge fraud on Abigail, and I will think on it. Let you look to your own improvement before you go to judge your husband any more. I have forgot Abigail, and—
    ELIZABETH: And I.
    PROCTOR: Spare me! You forget nothin' and forgive nothin'. 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!
    ELIZABETH: John, you are not open with me. You saw her with a crowd, you said. Now you—
    PROCTOR: I'll plead my honesty no more, Elizabeth.
    ELIZABETH, now she would justify herself: John, I am only—
    PROCTOR: No more! I should have roared you down when first you told me your suspicion. But I wilted, and, like a Christian, I confessed. Confessed! Some dream I had must have mistaken you for God that day. But you're not, you're not, and let you remember it! Let you look sometimes for the goodness in me, and judge me not.
    ELIZABETH: I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you. I never thought you but a good man, John (with a smile), only somewhat bewildered.
    PROCTOR, laughing bitterly: Oh, Elizabeth, your justice would freeze beer! (II.65-87)

    Elizabeth is a good and just woman, but forgiveness is difficult under any circumstances—and as a result, her husband feels judged every day of their marriage. The situation is a difficult one. It’s impossible for Elizabeth to know whether her husband is dishonest because he still desires Abigail or if he is simply too scared of Elizabeth’s suspicions to be honest. They both assume the worst about the other person.

    Mary Warren

    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.”

    John Proctor

    PROCTOR, moving menacingly toward her: You will tell the court how that poppet come here and who stuck the needle in.
    MARY WARREN: She'll kill me for sayin' that! (Proctor continues toward her.) Abby'll charge lechery on you, Mr. Proctor!
    PROCTOR, halting: She's told you!
    MARY WARREN: I have known it, sir. She'll ruin you with it, I know she will.
    PROCTOR, hesitating, and with deep hatred of himself: Good. Then her saintliness is done with. (Mary backs from him.) We will slide together into our pit; you will tell the court what you know.
    MARY WARREN, in terror: I cannot, they'll turn on me—
    Proctor strides and catches her, and she is repeating, "I cannot, I cannot!"
    PROCTOR: My wife will never die for me! I will bring your guts into your mouth but that goodness will not die for me!
    MARY WARREN, struggling to escape him: I cannot do it, I cannot!
    PROCTOR, grasping her by the throat as though he would strangle her: Make your peace with it! Now Hell and Heaven grapple on our backs, and all our old pretense is ripped away—make your peace! (He throws her to the floor, where she sobs, "I cannot, I cannot." And now, half to himself, staring, and turning to the open door:) Peace. It is a providence, and no great change; we are only what we always were, but naked now. (He walks as though toward a great horror, facing the open sky.) Aye, naked! And the wind, God's icy wind, will blow! (II.427-436)

    Proctor appears to be almost relieved that his adultery with Abigail has been revealed to Mary Warren. Now he has even less hesitation about insisting on justice in the court—and expects to lay bare his mistakes so that his wife and her good name may be cleared. The thought of his wife dying is unthinkable for Proctor, especially now that he is beginning to appreciate the value of her honesty.

    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.
    Pause.
    HALE: Who told you this?
    PROCTOR, hesitates, then: Abigail Williams.
    HALE: Abigail!
    PROCTOR: Aye.
    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.

    Reverend John Hale

    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.

    Act III
    Reverend John Hale

    HALE: Excellency, I have signed seventy-two death warrants; I am a minister of the Lord, and I dare not take a life without there be a proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it.
    DANFORTH: Mr. Hale, you surely do not doubt my justice.
    HALE: I have this morning signed away the soul of Rebecca Nurse, Your Honor. I'll not conceal it, my hand shakes yet as with a wound! I pray you, sir, this argument let lawyers present to you.
    DANFORTH: Mr. Hale, believe me; for a man of such terrible learning you are most bewildered—I hope you will forgive me. I have been many years at the bar, sir, and I should be confounded were I called upon to defend these people. Let you consider, now. (To Proctor and the others:) And I bid you all do likewise. In an ordinary crime, how does one defend the accused? One calls up witnesses to prove his innocence. But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other. Now we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself; granted? Therefore, we must rely upon her victims—and they do testify, the children certainly do testify. As for the witches, none will deny that we are most eager for all their confessions. Therefore, what is left for a lawyer to bring out? I think I have made my point. Have I not?
    HALE: But this child claims the girls are not truthful, and if they are not— (III.239-243)

    Reverend Hale begins to fear the justice of God as he realizes his own position—he may have signed the death warrants of seventy-two innocent people. But Danforth remains assured of the justice of his position. The problem with Danforth’s position is that in supposing that there are “victims” at all, he has already posited the existence of a crime. But the point of the trial is to decide if a crime has been committed!

    John Proctor

    PROCTOR, laughs insanely, then: A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud—God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together! (III.596-601)

    Proctor’s guilt complex comes out strongly in this quote. It’s obvious to the reader the Proctor is a more honest and virtuous guy than Danforth, but he insists on lumping himself in with his enemies. It’s a kind of self-inflicted punishment for his sin of adultery. At the same time, there is truth to his claim that the Devil, if he exists at all, exists within people, and not through ghosts or spirits.

    PROCTOR, sensing her weakening: Mary, God damns all liars!
    DANFORTH, pounding it into her: You have seen the Devil, you have made compact with Lucifer, have you not?
    PROCTOR: God damns liars, Mary!
    Mary utters something unintelligible, staring at Abigail, who keeps watching the "bird" above.

    DANFORTH: I cannot hear you. What do you say? (Mary utters again unintelligibly.) You will confess yourself or you will hang! (He turns her roughly to face him.) Do you know who I am? I say you will hang if you do not open with me! (III.483-487)

    Under these sorts of conditions, who wouldn’t “confess”? We already know that Mary pretty much goes along with what the group does, so it’s not a surprise that she would find this situation unbearable. She is usually a meek follower, but here the court makes her into the center of attention.

    Act IV
    John Proctor

    PROCTOR: You will not use me! I am no Sarah Good or Tituba, I am John Proctor! You will not use me! It is no part of salvation that you should use me!
    DANFORTH: I do not wish to—
    PROCTOR: I have three children—how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends?
    DANFORTH: You have not sold your friends—
    PROCTOR: Beguile me not! I blacken all of them when this is nailed to the church the very day they hang for silence!
    DANFORTH: Mr. Proctor, I must have good and legal proof that you—
    PROCTOR: You are the high court, your word is good enough! Tell them I confessed myself; say Proctor broke his knees and wept like a woman; say what you will, but my name cannot—
    DANFORTH, with suspicion: It is the same, is it not? If I report it or you sign to it?
    PROCTOR, he knows it is insane: No, it is not the same! What others say and what I sign to is not the same!
    DANFORTH: Why? Do you mean to deny this confession when you are free?
    PROCTOR: I mean to deny nothing!
    DANFORTH: Then explain to me, Mr. Proctor, why you will not let—
    PROCTOR, with a cry of his whole soul: Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!
    DANFORTH, pointing at the confession in Proctor's hand: Is that document a lie? If it is a lie I will not accept it! What say you? I will not deal in lies, Mister! (Proctor is motionless.) You will give me your honest confession in my hand, or I cannot keep you from the rope. Proctor does not reply. Which way do you go, Mister?
    His breast heaving, his eyes staring, Proctor tears the paper and crumples it. (IV.281-294)

    Danforth’s notion of justice is patently absurd. He realizes that Proctor’s confession is a lie—but without the confession, he cannot spare Proctor’s life. Justice is hung by its own faulty legal reasoning.

    Tituba

    HALE: Why can she not wake? Are you silencing this child?
    TITUBA: I love me Betty!
    HALE: You have sent your spirit out upon this child, have you not? Are you gathering souls for the Devil?
    ABIGAIL: She sends her spirit on me in church; she makes me laugh at prayer!
    PARRIS: She have often laughed at prayer!
    ABIGAIL: She comes to me every night to go and drink blood!
    TITUBA: You beg me to conjure! She beg me make charm—
    ABIGAIL: Don't lie! (To Hale:) She comes to me while I sleep; she's always making me dream corruptions!
    TITUBA: Why you say that, Abby?
    ABIGAIL: Sometimes I wake and find myself standing in the open doorway and not a stitch on my body! I always hear her laughing in my sleep. I hear her singing her Barbados songs and tempting me with—
    TITUBA: Mister Reverend, I never—
    HALE, resolved now: Tituba, I want you to wake this child.
    TITUBA: I have no power on this child, sir.
    HALE: You most certainly do, and you will free her from it now! When did you compact with the Devil?
    TITUBA: I don't compact with no Devil!

    The early scene in which Abigail falsely accuses Tituba of witchcraft lays the foundation for the twisting of justice in Salem, in which good and innocent people are accused and convicted by those without integrity. From this point on, it is apparent to us that something is deeply amiss in Salem—that the beliefs and paradigms of that society allow, or even promote, such unjust outcomes.

  • Respect and Reputation

    Act I
    Abigail Williams

    ABIGAIL, with a bitter anger: Oh, I marvel how such a strong man may let such a sickly wife be—
    PROCTOR, angeredat 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—
    PROCTOR, shaking her: Do you look for whippin'? (I.202-205)

    Abigail accuses Elizabeth Proctor of damaging her reputation, and she also maligns the man she loves. Elizabeth will later admit that there is some truth to the charge that she is “cold.” But “sniveling”? Now that’s just a low blow.

    Reverend Parris

    PARRIS, studies here, 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?
    ABIGAIL, with an edge of resentment: Why, I am sure it is, sir. There be no blush about my name.
    PARRIS, to the point: Abigail, is there any other cause than you have told me, for your being discharged from Goody Proctor’s service? I have heard it said, and I tell you as I heard it, that she come so rarely to the church this year for she will not sit so close to something soiled. What signified that remark?
    ABIGAIL: She hates me, uncle, she must, for I would not be her slave. It’s a bigger woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman, and I will not work for such a woman! (I.63-66)

    After seeing the girls dancing in the forest, Parris recognizes the possibility that the witchcraft being practiced has originated in his own household, and he worries about the possible danger to his reputation if the townsfolk learn that his daughter and niece could be consorting with the devil. More to the point: the townspeople may already have heard rumors that Abigail is not a proper girl, if Elizabeth Proctor has been talking about her around town.

    Mrs. Ann Putnam

    MRS. PUTNAM: Reverend Parris, I have laid seven babies unbaptized in the earth. Believe me, sir, you never saw more hearty babies born. And yet, each would wither in my arms the very night of their birth. I have spoke nothin', but my heart has clamored intimations. And now, this year, my Ruth, my only—I see her turning strange. A secret child she has become this year, and shrivels like a sucking mouth were pullin’ on her life too. And so I thought to send her to your Tituba—
    PARRIS: To Tituba! What may Tituba—?
    MRS. PUTNAM: Tituba knows how to speak to the dead, Mr. Parris.
    PARRIS: Goody Ann, it is a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!
    MRS. PUTNAM: I take it on my soul, but who else may surely tell us what person murdered my babies?
    PARRIS, horrified: Woman!
    MRS. PUTNAM: They were murdered, Mr. Parris! And mark this proof! Last night my Ruth were ever so close to their little spirits; I know it, sir. For how else is she struck dumb now except some power of darkness would stop her mouth? It is a marvelous sign, Mr. Parris! (I.103-109)

    Parris is only concerned with his reputation; Mrs. Putnam is only concerned about getting justice for her dead babies. When things go wrong, the people of Salem need someone to blame for it. Things don’t just happen for no reason. This may seem strange to us, but life was considerably more difficult for the early Puritans, so we have to consider that Mrs. Putnam’s reaction is not wholly irrational.

    Act II
    Reverend John Hale

    HALE: I am a stranger here, as you know. And in my ignorance I find it hard to draw a clear opinion of them that come accused before the court. And so this afternoon, and now tonight, I go from house to house—I come now from Rebecca Nurse's house and—
    ELIZABETH, shocked: Rebecca's charged!
    HALE: God forbid such a one be charged. She is, however—mentioned somewhat.
    ELIZABETH, 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?
    PROCTOR, evading: I—have no knowledge in that line. But it's hard to think so pious a woman be secretly a Devil's bitch after seventy year of such good prayer.
    HALE: Aye. But the Devil is a wily one, you cannot deny it. (II.203-211)

    Elizabeth and Proctor want to believe that Rebecca’s good reputation will save her, but in this time of craziness, nothing is certain. The idea that Rebecca Nurse could be a witch is shocking to Elizabeth and Proctor because their whole religion is based on the idea that a lifetime a prayer and good service should protect one from the Devil. All that Rev. Hale can offer in consolation is the lame explanation that “this is a strange time.” In fact, it’s not strange at all: the community has simply abandoned its principles.

    Act III
    Deputy Governor Danforth

    DANFORTH: Then you tell me that you sat in my court, callously lying, when you knew that people would hang by your evidence? (She does not answer.) Answer me!
    MARY WARREN, almost inaudibly: I did, sir.
    DANFORTH: How were you instructed in your life? Do you not know that God damns all liars? (She cannot speak.) Or is it now that you lie?
    MARY WARREN: No, sir—I am with God now.
    DANFORTH: You are with God now.
    MARY WARREN: Aye, sir.
    DANFORTH, containing himself: I will tell you this—you are either lying now, or you were lying in the court, and in either case you have committed perjury and you will go to jail for it. You cannot lightly say you lied, Mary. Do you know that?
    MARY WARREN: I cannot lie no more. I am with God, I am with God.
    […]
    DANFORTH: These will be sufficient. Sit you down, children. (Silently they sit.) Your friend, Mary Warren, has given us a deposition. In which she swears that she never saw familiar spirits, apparitions, nor any manifest of the Devil. She claims as well that none of you have not seen these things either. (Slight pause.) Now, children, this is a court of law. The law, based upon the Bible, and the Bible, writ by Almighty God, forbid the practice of witchcraft, and describe death as the penalty thereof. But likewise, children, the law and Bible damn all bearers of false witness. (Slight pause.) Now then. It does not escape me that this deposition may be devised to blind us; it may well be that Mary Warren has been conquered by Satan, who sends her here to distract our sacred purpose. If so, her neck will break for it. But if she speak true, I bid you now drop your guile and confess your pretense, for a quick confession will go easier with you. (Pause.) Abigail Williams, rise. (Abigail slowly rises.) Is there any truth in this?
    ABIGAIL: No, sir.
    DANFORTH, thinks, glances at Mary, then back to Abigail: Children, a very augur bit will now be turned into your souls until your honesty is proved. Will either of you change your positions now, or do you force me to hard questioning?
    ABIGAIL: I have naught to change, sir. She lies. (III.256-263; 266-269)

    Mary asserts that she is telling the truth, but without Abigail’s confirmation, it is one person’s word against another's. The Court has assumed all along that the girls are telling the truth, and it has too much invested now to take only one girl’s word against all the others. Having disregarded reputation as a means of deciding who is telling the truth, the court has completely lost its direction. Notice how Danforth almost seems to think he has supernatural powers to make Abigail and the other girls tell the truth, by putting a metaphoric “augur bit” of drill into their souls. In reality, he has no power whatsoever to make them be honest.

    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?
    PROCTOR: Excellency, does it not strike upon you that so many of these women have lived so long with such upright reputation, and—
    PARRIS: Do you read the Gospel, Mr. Proctor?
    PROCTOR: I read the Gospel.
    PARRIS: I think not, or you should surely know that Cain were an upright man, and yet he did kill Abel.
    PROCTOR: Aye, God tells us that. (To Danforth) But who tells us Rebecca Nurse murdered seven babies by sending out her spirit on them? It is the children only, and this one will swear she lied to you. (III.127-132)

    Proctor appeals to the women’s long-standing excellent reputations to demonstrate that there might be something fishy about the accusations against them. Though Danforth and Parris try to suggest that the Devil is disingenuous and can fool even the most righteous man, Proctor diffuses their arguments by pointing to the ones who made the accusations and to their possibly negative reputations.

    DANFORTH: Your husband—did he indeed turn from you?
    ELIZABETH, in agony: My husband—is a goodly man, sir.
    DANFORTH: Then he did not turn from you.
    ELIZABETH, starting to glance at Proctor: He—
    DANFORTH, reaches out and holds her face, then: Look at me! To your own knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery? (In a crisis of indecision she cannot speak.) Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher!
    ELIZABETH, faintly: No, sir.
    DANFORTH: Remove her!
    PROCTOR: Elizabeth, tell the truth!
    DANFORTH: She has spoken. Remove her!
    PROCTOR, crying out: Elizabeth, I have confessed it!
    ELIZABETH: Oh, God! (The door closes behind her.)
    PROCTOR: She only thought to save my name! (III.410-426)

    The one moment in Elizabeth’s life when telling the truth would save her, she lies to save her husband’s reputation. Is this an act of love and courage, or has she gotten her priorities mixed up? Proctor bears some of the blame for her telling a lie. He has failed to appreciate or praise her honesty in the past, so it’s easy to understand why she would cave at this moment, dealing with a personal subject in front of so many people.

    John Proctor

    PROCTOR, breathless and in agony: It [Abigail] is a whore!
    DANFORTH, dumfounded: You charge—?
    ABIGAIL: Mr. Danforth, he is lying!
    PROCTOR: Mark her! Now she'll suck a scream to stab me with but—
    DANFORTH: You will prove this! This will not pass!
    PROCTOR, trembling, his life collapsing about him: I have known her, sir. I have known her.
    DANFORTH: You—you are a lecher?
    FRANCIS, horrified: John, you cannot say such a—
    PROCTOR: Oh, Francis, I wish you had some evil in you that you might know me. (To Danforth:) A man will not cast away his good name. You surely know that.
    DANFORTH, dumfounded: In—in what time? In what place?
    PROCTOR, his voice about to break, and his shame great: In the proper place—where my beasts are bedded. On the last night of my joy, some eight months past. She used to serve me in my house, sir. (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. My wife, my dear good wife, took this girl soon after, sir, and put her out on the highroad. And being what she is, a lump of vanity, sir— (He is being overcome.) Excellency, forgive me, forgive me. (Angrily against himself, he turns away from the Governor for a moment. Then, as though to cry out is his only means of speech left:) She thinks to dance with me on my wife's grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore's vengeance, and you must see it now. (III.374-384)

    Proctor sacrifices his reputation in order to save his wife and stop the court proceedings. Then again, there are really two ways of having a reputation. The first is to follow the rules, which is what Proctor gives up by admitting he committed adultery. The second is to have integrity. Proctor preserves his integrity by being honest.

    Act IV
    John Proctor

    PROCTOR: I have three children—how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends?
    DANFORTH: You have not sold your friends—
    PROCTOR: Beguile me not! I blacken all of them when this is nailed to the church the very day they hang for silence!
    DANFORTH: Mr. Proctor, I must have good and legal proof that you—
    PROCTOR: You are the high court, your word is good enough! Tell them I confessed myself; say Proctor broke his knees and wept like a woman; say what you will, but my name cannot—
    DANFORTH, with suspicion: It is the same, is it not? If I report it or you sign to it?
    PROCTOR, he knows it is insane: No, it is not the same! What others say and what I sign to is not the same!
    DANFORTH: Why? Do you mean to deny this confession when you are free?
    PROCTOR: I mean to deny nothing!
    DANFORTH: Then explain to me, Mr. Proctor, why you will not let—
    PROCTOR, with a cry of his whole soul: Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!
    DANFORTH, pointing at the confession in Proctor's hand: Is that document a lie? If it is a lie I will not accept it! What say you? I will not deal in lies, Mister! (Proctor is motionless.) You will give me your honest confession in my hand, or I cannot keep you from the rope. Proctor does not reply. Which way do you go, Mister?
    His breast heaving, his eyes staring, Proctor tears the paper and crumples it. (IV.284-294)

    Proctor is unwilling to blacken his friends’ reputations—and he clings to his own reputation of loyalty and integrity. So he throws his confession away.

  • The Supernatural

    Act I
    Mrs. Ann Putnam

    MRS. PUTNAM, glancing at Betty: How high did she fly, how high?
    PARRIS: No, no, she never flew—
    MRS. PUTNAM, very pleased with it: Why, it’s sure she did. Mr. Collins saw her goin’ over Ingersoll’s barn, and come down light as a bird, he says! (I.75-77)

    The rumors are already “flying” (boo, bad puns!) about the supernatural powers the girls might have.

    MRS. PUTNAM: Reverend Parris, I have laid seven babies unbaptized in the earth. Believe me, sir, you never saw more hearty babies born. And yet, each would wither in my arms the very night of their birth. I have spoke nothin', but my heart has clamored intimations. And now, this year, my Ruth, my only—I see her turning strange. A secret child she has become this year, and shrivels like a sucking mouth were pullin’ on her life too. And so I thought to send her to your Tituba—
    PARRIS: To Tituba! What may Tituba—?
    MRS. PUTNAM: Tituba knows how to speak to the dead, Mr. Parris.
    PARRIS: Goody Ann, it is a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!
    MRS. PUTNAM: I take it on my soul, but who else may surely tell us what person murdered my babies?
    PARRIS, horrified: Woman!
    MRS. PUTNAM: They were murdered, Mr. Parris! And mark this proof! Last night my Ruth were ever so close to their little spirits; I know it, sir. For how else is she struck dumb now except some power of darkness would stop her mouth? It is a marvelous sign, Mr. Parris!
    PUTNAM: Don’t you understand it, sir? There is a murdering witch among us, bound to keep himself in the dark. (I.103-110)

    Mr. and Mrs. Putnam are convinced there is a supernatural explanation for all their dead babies. Though there could be a hundred other explanations for their only surviving daughter Ruth Putnam’s behavior (including her relationship with Abigail), they find it more comforting to explain it as proof of witchcraft.

    Reverend John Hale

    HALE: Aye, we’ll discuss it. (To all.) Now mark me, if the Devil is in her you will witness some frightful wonders in this room, so please to keep your wits about you. (Mr. Putnam, stand close in case she flies.) Now, Betty, dear, will you sit up? (Putnam comes in closer, ready-handed. Hale sits Betty up, but she hangs limp in his hands.) Hmmm. (He observes her carefully. The others watch breathlessly.) Can you hear me? I am John Hale, minister of Beverly. I have come to help you, dear. Do you remember my two little girls in Beverly? (She does not stir in his hands.)
    PARRIS, in fright: How can it be the Devil? Why would he choose my house to strike? We have all manner of licentious people in the village!
    HALE: What victory would the Devil have to win a soul already bad? It is the best the Devil wants, and who is better than the minister? (I.374-376)

    Hale prepares to confront evil, but nothing happens. He seems to think that the appearance of witchcraft will be obvious to everyone. Then they discuss how the Devil aims to corrupt the innocent and frame the good.

    HALE, resolved now: Tituba, I want you to wake this child.
    TITUBA: I have no power on this child, sir.
    HALE: You most certainly do, and you will free her from it now! When did you compact with the Devil?
    TITUBA: I don't compact with no Devil!
    PARRIS: You will confess yourself or I will take you out and whip you to your death, Tituba!
    MRS. PUTNAM: This woman must be hanged!, She must be taken and hanged!
    TITUBA, terrified, falls to her knees: No, no, don't hang Tituba! I tell him I don't desire to work for him, sir.
    PARRIS: The Devil?
    HALE: Then you saw him! (Tituba weeps.) Now Tituba, I know that when we bind ourselves to Hell it is very hard to break with it. We are going to help you tear yourself free—
    TITUBA, frightened by the coming process: Mister Reverend, I do believe somebody else be witchin' these children.
    HALE: Does he! (This is a clue.) Tituba, look into my eyes. Come, look into me. (She raises her eyes to his fearfully.) You would be a good Christian woman, would you not, Tituba?
    TITUBA: Aye, sir, a good Christian woman.
    HALE: And you love these little children?
    TITUBA: Oh, yes, sir, I don't desire to hurt little children.
    HALE: And you love God, Tituba?
    TITUBA: I love God with all my bein'.
    HALE: Now, in God's holy name—
    TITUBA: Bless Him. Bless Him. (She is rocking on her knees; sobbing in terror.)
    HALE: And to His glory—
    TITUBA: Eternal glory. Bless Him—bless God...
    HALE: Open yourself, Tituba—open yourself and let God's holy light shine on you.
    TITUBA: Oh, bless the Lord. (I.428-451)

    The Reverend Hale, the Reverend Parris, and the Putnams have already decided Tituba is guilty of witchcraft before she even arrives. They are able to twist her words around until she confesses to supernatural dealings.

    HALE, with a tasty love of intellectual pursuit: Here is all the invisible world, caught, defined, and calculated. In these books the Devil stands stripped of all his brute disguises. Here are all your familiar spirits—your incubi and succubi; your witches that go by land, by air, and by sea; your wizards of the night and of the day. Have no fear now—we shall find him out and I mean to crush him utterly if he has shown his face! (I.355)

    The Reverend Hale intellectualizes evil and the supernatural—suggesting he won’t be properly prepared to face it in real life, as opposed to books.

    HALE, (kindly): Who came to you with the Devil? Two? Three? Four? How many?
    Tituba pants, and begins rocking back and forth again, staring ahead.

    TITUBA: There was four. There was four.
    PARRIS, pressing in on her: Who? Who? Their names, their names!
    TITUBA, suddenly bursting out: Oh, how many times he bid me kill you, Mr. Parris!
    PARRIS: Kill me!
    TITUBA, in a fury: He say Mr. Parris must be kill! Mr. Parris no goodly man, Mr. Parris mean man and no gentle man, and he bid me rise out of my bed and cut your throat! (They gasp.) But I tell him "No! I don't hate that man. I don't want kill that man." But he say, "You work for me, Tituba, and I make you free! I give you pretty dress to wear, and put you way high up in the air, and you gone fly back to Barbados!" And I say, "You lie, Devil, you lie!" And then he come one stormy night to me, and he say, "Look! I have white people belong to me." And I look—and there was Goody Good.
    PARRIS: Sarah Good!
    TITUBA, rocking and weeping: Aye, sir, and Goody Osburn.
    MRS. PUTNAM: I knew it! Goody Osburn were midwife to me three times. I begged my husband, I begged him not to call Osburn because I feared her. My babies always shriveled in her hands!
    HALE: Take courage, you must give us all their names. Tituba; the Devil is out and preying on children like a beast upon the flesh of the pure lamb. God will bless you for your help.
    Abigail rises, staring as though inspired, and cries out.
    ABIGAIL: I want to open myself! (They turn to her, startled. She is enraptured, as though in a pearly light.) 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!
    As she is speaking, Betty is rising from the bed, a fever in her eyes, and picks up the chant—the chant is echoed in the distant music of the dance in the forest—there is wind in the trees.
    BETTY, staring too: I saw George Jacobs with the Devil! I saw Goody Howe with the Devil!
    PARRIS: She speaks! (He rushes to embrace Betty.) She speaks!
    HALE: Glory to God! It is broken, they are free! (I.470-486)

    The battle between good and evil has left the spiritual realm and entered the realm of society. When Tituba tells Parris that the Devil bade her kill him, she is playing on his classic hubris, as he thinks he’s so important as minister that the forces of darkness would want to hurt him. By quoting the words of the Devil in saying that Parris is bad and mean, she also reveals the truth about what he’s like as a master. She’s no sap, that Tituba.

    Susanna Walcott

    SUSANNA, craning around Parris to get a look at Betty: He [the doctor] bid me come and tell you, reverend sir, that he cannot discover no medicine for it in his books.
    PARRIS: Then he must search on.
    SUSANNA: Aye, sir, he have been searchin’ his books since he left you, sir. But he bid me tell you, that you might look to unnatural things for the cause of it.
    PARRIS, his eyes going wide: No—no. There be no unnatural case here. Tell him I have sent for Reverend Hale of Beverly, and Mr. Hale will surely confirm that. let him look to medicine and put out all thought of unnatural causes here. There be none. (I.31-34)

    The doctor is the first to indicate that Betty’s illness might be supernatural (that is, demonic) in origin. Too bad he didn’t think to stick Betty with a pin. She probably would have woken up instantly! Reverend Parris reacts with understandable panic to the idea of supernatural powers unleashing themselves, but later he is one of the greatest proponents of this view. What causes this turnabout?

    Rebecca Nurse

    REBECCA: Pray, John, be calm. (Pause. He defers to her.) Mr. Parris, I think you'd best send Reverend Hale back as soon as he come. This will set us all to arguin' again in the society, and we thought to have peace this year. I think we ought rely on the doctor now, and good prayer.
    MRS. PUTNAM: Rebecca, the doctor's baffled!
    REBECCA: If so he is, then let us go to God for the cause of it. There is prodigious danger in the seeking of loose spirits. I fear it, I fear it. Let us rather blame ourselves and—
    PUTNAM: How may we blame ourselves? I am one of nine sons; the Putnam seed have peopled this province. And yet I have but one child left of eight—and now she shrivels!
    REBECCA: I cannot fathom that.
    MRS. PUTNAM, with a growing edge of sarcasm: But I must! You think it God's work you should never lose a child, nor grandchild either, and I bury all but one? There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!
    PUTNAM, to Parris: When Reverend Hale comes, you should proceed to look for signs of witchcraft here. (I.246-252)

    Rebecca Nurse suggests that they look inside themselves for answers to their problems, rather than blaming supernatural forces, but the Putnams are bent on finding justice and they see the supernatural as perhaps the only source of those answers. Nonetheless, it is likely that Mrs. Putnam’s motives are more pure than those of her husband, who seems mostly interested in acquiring land.

    Act III
    Deputy Governor Danforth

    DANFORTH, with a gleam of victory: And yet, when people accused of witchery confronted you in court, you would faint, saying their spirits came out of their bodies and choked you—
    MARY WARREN: That were pretense, sir.
    DANFORTH: I cannot hear you.
    MARY WARREN: Pretense, sir.
    PARRIS: But you did turn cold, did you not? I myself picked you up many times, and your skin were icy. Mr. Danforth, you—
    DANFORTH: I saw that many times.
    PROCTOR: She only pretended to faint, Your Excellency. They're all marvelous pretenders.
    HATHORNE: Then can she pretend to faint now?
    PROCTOR: Now?
    PARRIS: Why not? Now there are no spirits attacking her, for none in this room is accused of witchcraft. So let her turn herself cold now, let her pretend she is attacked now, let her faint. He turns to Mary Warren. Faint!
    MARY WARREN: Faint?
    PARRIS: Aye, faint. Prove to us how you pretended in the court so many times.
    MARY WARREN, looking to Proctor: I—cannot faint now, sir,
    PROCTOR, alarmed, quietly: Can you not pretend it?
    MARY WARREN: I—She looks about as though searching for the passion to faint. I—have no sense of it now, I—
    DANFORTH: Why? What is lacking now?
    MARY WARREN: I—cannot tell, sir, I—
    DANFORTH: Might it be that here we have no afflicting spirit loose, but in the court there were some?
    MARY WARREN: I never saw no spirits.
    PARRIS: Then see no spirits now, and prove to us that you can faint by your own will, as you claim.
    MARY WARREN, stares, searching for the emotion of it, and then shakes her head: I—cannot do it. (III.317-337)

    Mary Warren tries to explain that the supernatural things she and the other girls claimed to see were just part of a game, a pretense, but she is unable to reproduce the experience without the entire group doing it together. Mary may seem like a sweet and innocent girl who just got mixed up with the wrong crowd, but she is actually incredibly weak. It’s almost as if she has no personality independent of the people around her.

    DANFORTH: These will be sufficient. Sit you down, children. (Silently they sit.) Your friend, Mary Warren, has given us a deposition. In which she swears that she never saw familiar spirits, apparitions, nor any manifest of the Devil. She claims as well that none of you have not seen these things either. (Slight pause.) Now, children, this is a court of law. The law, based upon the Bible, and the Bible, writ by Almighty God, forbid the practice of witchcraft, and describe death as the penalty thereof. But likewise, children, the law and Bible damn all bearers of false witness. (Slight pause.) Now then. It does not escape me that this deposition may be devised to blind us; it may well be that Mary Warren has been conquered by Satan, who sends her here to distract our sacred purpose. If so, her neck will break for it. But if she speak true, I bid you now drop your guile and confess your pretense, for a quick confession will go easier with you. (Pause.) Abigail Williams, rise. (Abigail slowly rises.) Is there any truth in this?
    ABIGAIL: No, sir.
    DANFORTH, thinks, glances at Mary, then back to Abigail: Children, a very augur bit will now be turned into your souls until your honesty is proved. Will either of you change your positions now, or do you force me to hard questioning?
    ABIGAIL: I have naught to change, sir. She lies. (III.266-269)

    In the matters of whether or not the supernatural world exists, and whether or not witchcraft is occurring, the court depends on the words of these children. The play suggests that children are weaker and have a more difficult time sorting good from bad. Moral sense may be innate, but it must also be cultivated by years of experience.

  • Religion

    Act I

    The Salem tragedy… developed from a paradox… Simply, it was this: for good purposes, even high purposes, the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies. It was forged for a necessary purpose and accomplished that purpose. But all organization is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition, just as two objects cannot occupy the same space… The witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom. (I.15)

    As part of the initial setting, the narrator explains how a theocracy—which is based on the principle that some people should be included and some excluded from society because of their religious beliefs and actions—would lead to a tragedy like the Salem witch-hunts. This is basically the idea that religious fervor, taken to extremes, results in tragedy.

    The parochial snobbery of these people was partly responsible for their failure to convert the Indians. Probably they also preferred to take land from heathens rather than from fellow Christians. At any rate, very few Indians were converted, and the Salem folk believed that the virgin forest was the Devil’s last preserve, his home base and the citadel of his final stand. To the best of their knowledge the American forest was the last place on earth that was not paying homage to God. (I.10)

    The narrator explains why the forest was symbolically important to the people of Salem. This helps us understand why the townsfolk responded in such horror when they learned that the girls, with Tituba, had been dancing in the forest.

    Rebecca Nurse

    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!
    PROCTOR: I may speak my heart, I think!
    […]
    PARRIS, now he's out with it: There is a party in this church. I am not blind; there is a faction and a party.
    PROCTOR: Against you?
    PUTNAM: Against him and all authority!
    PROCTOR: Why, then I must find it and join it.
    There is shock among the others.

    REBECCA: He does not mean that.
    PUTNAM: He confessed it now!
    PROCTOR: I mean it solemnly, Rebecca; I like not the smell of this "authority. "
    REBECCA: No, you cannot break charity with your minister. You are another kind, John. Clasp his hand, make your peace.
    PROCTOR: I have a crop to sow and lumber to drag home. (I.275-277; 278-289)

    Parris tries to assert his religious authority over Proctor, but Proctor is uninterested in the minister’s message. Parris suggests that there is a battle going on, a battle of good vs. evil, and Proctor is on the wrong side.

    Act II
    Reverend John Hale

    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: What golden candlesticks?
    PROCTOR: Since we built the church there were pewter candlesticks upon the altar; Francis Nurse made them, y’know, and a sweeter hand never touched the metal. But Parris came, and for twenty week he preach nothin' but golden candlesticks until he had them. I labor the earth from dawn of day to blink of night, and I tell you true, when I look to heaven and see my money glaring at his elbows—it hurt my prayer, sir, it hurt my prayer. I think, sometimes, the man dreams cathedrals, not clapboard meetin' houses.
    HALE, thinks, then: And yet, Mister, a Christian on Sabbath Day must be in church. Pause. Tell me—you have three children?
    PROCTOR: Aye. Boys.
    HALE: How comes it that only two are baptized?
    PROCTOR, starts to speak, then stops, then, as though unable to restrain this: I like it not that Mr. Parris should lay his hand upon my baby. I see no light of God in that man. I'll not conceal it.
    HALE: I must say it, Mr. Proctor; that is not for you to decide. The man's ordained, therefore the light of God is in him.
    PROCTOR, flushed with resentment but trying to smile: What's your suspicion, Mr. Hale?
    HALE: No, no, I have no—
    Proctor: I nailed the roof upon the church, I hung the door—
    HALE: Oh, did you! That's a good sign, then.
    PROCTOR: It may be I have been too quick to bring the man to book, but you cannot think we ever desired the destruction of religion. I think that's in your mind, is it not? (II.219-232)

    Instead of conforming to the outward signs of religion, Proctor can’t stand greed and hypocrisy of the Reverend Parris—and so he stays home. Does the play suggest that characters can get along better without religion?

    HALE, quietlyit has impressed him: Proctor, let you open with me now, for I have a rumor that troubles me. It's said you hold no belief that there may even be witches in the world. Is that true, sir?
    PROCTOR, he knows this is critical, and is striving against his disgust with Hale and with himself for even answering: I know not what I have said, I may have said it. I have wondered if there be witches in the world—although I cannot believe they come among us now.
    HALE: Then you do not believe—
    PROCTOR: I have no knowledge of it; the Bible speaks of witches, and I will not deny them.
    HALE: And you, woman?
    ELIZABETH: I—I cannot believe it.
    HALE, shocked: You cannot!
    PROCTOR: Elizabeth, you bewilder him!
    ELIZABETH, to Hale: I cannot think the Devil may own a woman's soul, Mr. Hale, when she keeps an upright way, as I have. I am a good woman, I know it; and if you believe I may do only good work in the world, and yet be secretly bound to Satan, then I must tell you, sir, I do not believe it.
    HALE: But, woman, you do believe there are witches in—
    ELIZABETH: If you think that I am one, then I say there are none.
    HALE: You surely do not fly against the Gospel, the Gospel—
    PROCTOR: She believe in the Gospel, every word!
    ELIZABETH: Question Abigail Williams about the Gospel, not myself!
    Hale stares at her.
    PROCTOR: She do not mean to doubt the Gospel, sir, you cannot think it. This be a Christian house, sir, a Christian house.
    HALE: God keep you both; let the third child be quickly baptized, and go you without fail each Sunday in to Sabbath prayer; and keep a solemn, quiet way among you. (II.277-292)

    Reverend Hale urges Elizabeth and John Proctor to adhere to the external rituals of religion for their own safety. He hopes to prevent an outcome that by now is pretty much inevitable: an accusation of witchcraft.

  • Jealousy

    Act I
    Abigail Williams

    ABIGAIL, 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—
    PROCTOR, shaking her: Do you look for whippin'? (I.202-205)

    Though Abigail pretends she’s angry at Elizabeth Proctor for damaging her reputation, the more powerful emotion is envy of Elizabeth for her marriage to John Proctor. Here she resorts to petty name-calling in order to cast doubt in John’s mind.

    Act II
    Elizabeth Proctor

    ELIZABETH: John, with so many in jail, more than Cheever’s help is needed now, I think. Would you favor me with this? Go to Abigail.
    PROCTOR, his soul hardening as he senses: What have I to say to Abigail?
    ELIZABETH, delicately: 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.
    ELIZABETH: It is her dearest hope, I know it. There be a thousand names; why does she call mine? There be a certain danger in calling such a name—I am no Goody Good that sleeps in ditches, nor Osburn, drunk and half-witted. She’d dare not call out such a farmer’s wife but there be monstrous profit in it. She thinks to take my place, John. (II.162-168)

    Elizabeth points out that Abigail’s behavior, and her sudden accusation of Elizabeth, is motivated by jealousy and the possible benefit she might gain if Elizabeth dies. Proctor has a hard time coming around to see the truth of this point.

    Act III
    Deputy Governor Danforth

    PROCTOR, breathless and in agony: It [Abigail] is a whore!
    DANFORTH, dumfounded: You charge—?
    ABIGAIL: Mr. Danforth, he is lying!
    PROCTOR: Mark her! Now she'll suck a scream to stab me with but—
    DANFORTH: You will prove this! This will not pass!
    PROCTOR, trembling, his life collapsing about him: I have known her, sir. I have known her.
    DANFORTH: You—you are a lecher?
    FRANCIS, horrified: John, you cannot say such a—
    PROCTOR: Oh, Francis, I wish you had some evil in you that you might know me. (To Danforth:) A man will not cast away his good name. You surely know that.
    DANFORTH, dumfounded: In—in what time? In what place?
    PROCTOR, his voice about to break, and his shame great: In the proper place—where my beasts are bedded. On the last night of my joy, some eight months past. She used to serve me in my house, sir. (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. My wife, my dear good wife, took this girl soon after, sir, and put her out on the highroad. And being what she is, a lump of vanity, sir— (He is being overcome.) Excellency, forgive me, forgive me. (Angrily against himself, he turns away from the Governor for a moment. Then, as though to cry out is his only means of speech left:) She thinks to dance with me on my wife's grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore's vengeance, and you must see it now. (III.374-384)

    Proctor reveals Abigail’s true motivations, jealousy and desire, at great personal cost to himself. If had made the revelation earlier, perhaps it could have prevented the tragedy of the witch-hunt.

    Deputy Governor Danforth

    DANFORTH, sharply to Parris: Bring her out! And tell her not one word of what's been spoken here. And let you knock before you enter. (Parris goes out.) Now we shall touch the bottom of this swamp. (To Proctor:) Your wife, you say, is an honest woman.
    PROCTOR: In her life, sir, she have never lied. There are them that cannot sing, and them that cannot weep—my wife cannot lie. I have paid much to learn it, sir.
    DANFORTH: And when she put this girl out of your house, she put her out for a harlot?
    PROCTOR: Aye, sir.
    DANFORTH: And knew her for a harlot?
    PROCTOR: Aye, sir, she knew her for a harlot.
    DANFORTH: Good then. (To Abigail:) And if she tell me, child, it were for harlotry, may God spread His mercy on you! (III.390-396)

    Danforth is horrified by the realization that Abigail’s accusations may be based on personal revenge and jealousy. In order to preserve his self-respect, he has to ignore this possibility and focus on vilifying Proctor.

  • Compassion and Forgiveness

    Act II
    Elizabeth Proctor

    ELIZABETH, reasonably: John, have you ever shown her somewhat of contempt? She cannot pass you in the church but you will blush—
    PROCTOR: I may blush for my sin.
    ELIZABETH: I think she sees another meaning in that blush.
    PROCTOR: And what see you? What see you, Elizabeth?
    ELIZABETH, conceding: I think you be somewhat ashamed, for I am there, and she so close.
    PROCTOR: When will you know me, woman? Were I stone I would have cracked for shame this seven month!
    ELIZABETH: Then go and tell her she's a whore. Whatever promise she may sense—break it, John, break it.
    PROCTOR, between his teeth: Good, then. I'll go. (He starts for his rifle.)
    ELIZABETH, trembling, fearfully: Oh, how unwillingly!
    PROCTOR, turning on her, rifle in hand: I will curse her hotter than the oldest cinder in hell. But pray, begrudge me not my anger!
    ELIZABETH: Your anger! I only ask you—
    PROCTOR: Woman, am I so base? Do you truly think me base?
    ELIZABETH: I never called you base.
    PROCTOR: Then how do you charge me with such a promise? The promise that a stallion gives a mare I gave that girl!
    ELIZABETH: Then why do you anger with me when I bid you break it?
    PROCTOR: Because it speaks deceit, and I am honest! But I'll plead no more! I see now your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!
    ELIZABETH, crying out: 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! (II.170-186)

    In this exchange, John Proctor is begging his wife to forgive him—but though she wants to forgive him, she is right about Abigail’s interpretation of their affair, which has bound Abigail and Proctor together in ways Proctor fails to understand.

    John Proctor

    PROCTOR: I am only wondering how I may prove what she [Abigail] told me, Elizabeth. If the girl’s a saint now, I think it is not easy to prove she’s fraud, and the town gone so silly. She told it to me in a room alone—I have no proof for it.
    ELIZABETH: You were alone with her?
    PROCTOR, stubbornly: For a moment alone, aye.
    ELIZABETH: Why, then, it is not as you told me.
    PROCTOR, his anger rising: For a moment, I say. The others come in soon after.
    ELIZABETH, quietlyshe has suddenly lost all faith in him: Do as you wish, then. (She starts to turn.)
    PROCTOR: Woman. (She turns to him.) I'll not have your suspicion any more.
    ELIZABETH, a little loftily: I have no—
    PROCTOR: I'll not have it!
    ELIZABETH: Then let you not earn it.
    PROCTOR, with a violent undertone: You doubt me yet?
    ELIZABETH, with a smile, to keep her dignity: John, if it were not Abigail that you must go to hurt, would you falter now? I think not.
    PROCTOR: Now look you—
    ELIZABETH: I see what I see, John.
    PROCTOR, with solemn warning: You will not judge me more, Elizabeth. I have good reason to think before I charge fraud on Abigail, and I will think on it. Let you look to your own improvement before you go to judge your husband any more. I have forgot Abigail, and—
    ELIZABETH: And I.
    PROCTOR: Spare me! You forget nothin' and forgive nothin'. 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!
    ELIZABETH: John, you are not open with me. You saw her with a crowd, you said. Now you—
    PROCTOR: I'll plead my honesty no more, Elizabeth.
    ELIZABETH, now she would justify herself: John, I am only—
    PROCTOR: No more! I should have roared you down when first you told me your suspicion. But I wilted, and, like a Christian, I confessed. Confessed! Some dream I had must have mistaken you for God that day. But you're not, you're not, and let you remember it! Let you look sometimes for the goodness in me, and judge me not.
    ELIZABETH: I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you. I never thought you but a good man, John (with a smile), only somewhat bewildered.
    PROCTOR, laughing bitterly: Oh, Elizabeth, your justice would freeze beer! (II.65-87)

    Proctor desperately desires forgiveness from his wife, but whether he’s earned it or not, she struggles to let go of her hurt. She cannot be honest about her lingering feelings of betrayal, and her husband is callous to think that she should just get over it. Also, neither has completely come to grips with the fact that the woman Proctor slept with now has the power to cause either or both of them to die.

    Act III
    Deputy Governor Danforth

    DANFORTH: Woman, look at me! (Elizabeth does.) Were she slovenly? Lazy? What disturbance did she cause?
    ELIZABETH: Your Honor, 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 wastin’ his time at the shovelboard, but always at his work. But in my sickness—you see, sir, I were a long time sick after my last baby, and I thought I saw my husband somewhat turning from me. And this girl— (She turns to Abigail.)
    DANFORTH: Look at me.
    ELIZABETH: Aye, sir. Abigail Williams— (She breaks off.)
    DANFORTH: What of Abigail Williams?
    ELIZABETH: I came to think he fancied her. And so one night I lost my wits, I think, and put her out on the highroad.
    DANFORTH: Your husband—did he indeed turn from you?
    ELIZABETH, in agony: My husband—is a goodly man, sir.
    DANFORTH: Then he did not turn from you.
    ELIZABETH, starting to glance at Proctor: He—
    DANFORTH, reaches out and holds her face, then: Look at me! To your own knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery? (In a crisis of indecision she cannot speak.) Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher!
    ELIZABETH, faintly: No, sir.
    DANFORTH: Remove her!
    PROCTOR: Elizabeth, tell the truth!
    DANFORTH: She has spoken. Remove her!
    PROCTOR, crying out: Elizabeth, I have confessed it!
    ELIZABETH: Oh, God! (The door closes behind her.)
    PROCTOR: She only thought to save my name! (III.410-426)

    Telling the truth would save Elizabeth's life, but she lies to save her husband’s reputation. Is this an act of forgiveness, or is she just covering up for him because she feels it is her duty? Throughout the play, Elizabeth has been slightly more interested in preserving appearances than Proctor.

    Act IV
    Elizabeth Proctor

    PROCTOR: I'd have you see some honesty in it. Let them that never lied die now to keep their souls. It is pretense for me, a vanity that will not blind God nor keep my children out of the wind. (Pause.) What say you?
    ELIZABETH, upon a heaving sob that always threatens: John, it come to naught that I should forgive you, if you'll not forgive yourself. (Now he turns away a little, in great agony.) It is not my soul, John, it is yours. (He stands, as though in physical pain, slowly rising to his feet with a great immortal longing to find his answer. It is difficult to say, and she is on the verge of tears.) Only be sure of this, for I know it now: Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it. (He turns his doubting, searching gaze upon her.) I have read my heart this three month, John. (Pause.) I have sins of my own to count. It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery.
    PROCTOR, in great pain: Enough, enough—
    ELIZABETH, now pouring out her heart: Better you should know me!
    PROCTOR: I will not hear it! I know you!
    ELIZABETH: You take my sins upon you, John—
    PROCTOR, in agony: No, I take my own, my own!
    ELIZABETH: John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept! (In fright, she swerves, as Hathorne enters.)
    HATHORNE: What say you, Proctor? The sun is soon up.
    Proctor, his chest heaving, stares, turns to Elizabeth. She comes to him as though to plead, her voice quaking.
    ELIZABETH: 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! (She covers her face, weeping.)
    Proctor turns from her to Hathorne; he is off the earth, his voice hollow.

    PROCTOR: I want my life. (IV.204-214)

    Elizabeth’s forgiveness makes John Proctor want to keep on living, even if he must live dishonestly. He decides to confess.

  • Other

    Act II
    Reverend John Hale

    HALE: I am a stranger here, as you know. And in my ignorance I find it hard to draw a clear opinion of them that come accused before the court. And so this afternoon, and now tonight, I go from house to house—I come now from Rebecca Nurse's house and—
    ELIZABETH, shocked: Rebecca's charged!
    HALE: God forbid such a one be charged. She is, however—mentioned somewhat.
    ELIZABETH, 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?
    PROCTOR, evading: I—have no knowledge in that line. But it's hard to think so pious a woman be secretly a Devil's bitch after seventy year of such good prayer.
    HALE: Aye. But the Devil is a wily one, you cannot deny it. (II.203-211)

    Elizabeth and Proctor want to believe that Rebecca’s good reputation will save her, but in this time of craziness, nothing is certain.