Act 1, Scene 1
The play begins in 1692, in Salem,
The audience is given an overview of the background of the
play. The town of
Reverend Parris is kneeling on the floor praying next to
Betty's bed. Tituba, Parris' slave,
comes in and asks if Betty is going to be OK. Parris hurries her out of the
room. Parris' seventeen-year-old niece, Abigail
comes in. She says that Susanna Walcott is here with news from the
doctor. Susanna enters and says that the doctor can be of no help. Parris tells
her that he sent for Reverend Hale of Beverly. Susanna leaves and
Abigail has a long talk with her uncle. He tries to make Abigail admit that she
and the other girls were performing witchcraft in the woods. Parris says that
when he caught them dancing in the woods, he also saw a girl naked. Abigail
admits they were dancing with Tituba; she says they
were dancing to Tituba's songs from
Mrs. Ann Putnam and Thomas Putnam enter. They are very disturbed over the situation. They think that Betty's fainting is a sign that hell is near. They tell that their daughter, Ruth, has taken ill, and Ann Putnam believes her illness to be caused by something evil falling on the town. She explains that she sent Ruth to Tituba to conjure spirits. Ann hoped that Ruth would be able to communicate with her seven dead siblings. And now, Ann thinks she is ill because of this whole event. Thomas Putnam tells Parris to admit to the people waiting downstairs in his house that he's seen witchcraft. Parris says he'll be ruined.
The Putnams' eighteen-year-old servant, Mercy Lewis enters. She says that Ruth sneezed, and that this is a good sign for her health. Thomas pleads with Parris to go downstairs and give a comment. Parris refuses. Mrs. Putnam leaves to go home to see Ruth. Parris finally agrees to make a comment. He leaves with Mr. Putnam and makes his way downstairs.
Act 1, Scene 2
Abigail and Mercy talk. Abigail tries to get Betty to move and talk, but Betty remains still and mute. Mary Warren enters and talks with the girls over what they should do. They're worried that they are going to get into trouble with the town. Betty whimpers and Abigail goes over to her. Betty gets hysterical and she says that Abigail drank blood to kill Goody Proctor. Abby tells Betty to shut up and Abby threatens the girls. She says that if they open their mouths and tell about what they did last night, then she will make something awful happen to them: "'I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you . . .. I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!'" Act 1, Scene 2, pg. 19
Act 1, Scene 3
John Proctor enters. Mary and Mercy both leave. Abigail tries to make him confess his love for her, but he refuses to have any further involvement in their affair.
Abby cries desperately over her love for John Proctor, but he still refuses her. Betty whines out and Abby hurries over to her.
Act 1, Scene 4
Parris enters because he hears Betty scream. He hopes that she is alive and well. Mrs. Putnam, Thomas, and Mercy all enter. They all watch Parris as he tries to get Betty to talk. Soon, Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey enter. Parris asks Rebecca to help Betty. She is a woman of seventy-two, and very gentle. Her husband, Francis Nurse is a widely respected man in the community. He is a wealthy landowner and looked upon to settle disputes. Rebecca walks over to Betty and stands over her. Betty quiets down. Everyone in the room wants to know what Rebecca did. They all start to get hysterical and want to know whether or not the Devil is falling on the town. Mrs. Putnam says: "'There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!'" Act 1, Scene 4, pg. 26
They all start arguing. Proctor gets angry with Parris over the content of his sermons. Proctor thinks they are too riddled with talk of hell: "'I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention God any more.'" Act 1, Scene 4, pg. 27
Parris gets defensive and makes a comment about how some people are not following their obligations to the church. He continues to defend himself and the church. He says that if people do not obey the church, then they will burn just like Hell burns.
Putnam says that there is a party in the church against authority and Proctor says that he wants to find it and join it. He also says that he does not like the "smell of this authority." Proctor and Putnam get into a minor argument about the wood John is carrying. Giles sides with Proctor and the two of them leave.
Act 1, Scene 5
Reverend John Hale from
Reverend Hale is introduced to everyone in the room and then he goes over to Betty to examine her. He asks what symptoms she's been having that would imply she is under the Devil's hands. Parris says that Betty was dancing in the woods. Mrs. Putnam explains about her seven dead children and how she sent her daughter Ruth to conjure the spirits of the dead. Rebecca Nurse reprimands her for doing such a thing. Reverend Hale looks in his books and says that if the Devil is among them, Hale will surely find him. Rebecca Nurse exits, and they continue. Giles asks Hale about his wife, Martha and what it means that she reads books. He says that she reads books, and hides them. Also, whenever her book is open, he cannot pray, but whenever it is closed, he can pray again. Hale thinks this is interesting, and then continues with Betty. Hale tries to get Betty to talk and answer his questions. She doesn't answer. Hale finally asks Abigail what they did that night in the forest. She says that they were only dancing. When Hale asks if Parris saw anything in the kettle of the soup, Parris says he did see some movement. Abby admits that a frog jumped in the kettle. They are all aghast. Abby starts to get very nervous and jittery and says that Tituba is the one responsible for all of this. She says Tituba tried to make her drink the broth from the kettle.
Tituba is called in. Hale questions Tituba and she denies having had relations with the Devil. He says that he is going to whip her until she dies if she does not release Betty from the spell Tituba cast on her. Tituba pleads with Hale that she loves God and does not have a compact with the Devil. Hale asks her if she has seen the Devil with anyone, and Putnam asks if Tituba has seen Sarah Good with the Devil. Tituba says she saw four people with the Devil and was even bid by Sarah Good to kill Parris. Hale tells Tituba that she has admitted to witchcraft, and now she will be blessed. Hale asks for more names and soon, Abby and even Betty are calling out the names of all the people they saw with the Devil. The scene closes with the girls yelling out these names.
Act 2, Scene 1
Eight days later John
Proctor enters his house after a long day working on his farm. He
hears his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, singing to their children
upstairs. Things are very calm and peaceful.
"'You will not judge me more,
They argue for a while about how John once had an affair
Act 2, Scene 2
Mary Warren enters. John questions her as to why
she has been to
Elizabeth claims that Abby wants her dead, and that is why Abby gave her name in court. She thinks Abby wants to take her place as the wife of John Proctor. Elizabeth pleads with John to go and see Abby and deny any promise that he may have made to her, so Abby will know that she has no chance of becoming John's wife. John says reluctantly that he will go and speak with Abby, but he is angry that his wife will not drop this mistake that he made by having an affair with Abby. "'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!'" Act 2, Scene 2, pg. 59
Act 2, Scene 3
Hale arrives and questions John and Elizabeth about their dedication
to the church. He says that he heard
Hale asks Proctor if he knows the Commandments, and he could remember all of them except the one about adultery. Elizabeth reminds John of that one, and Hale is satisfied. Hale continues to question Elizabeth and she gets very defensive over her Christian ways. She says that there is no room for the Devil in her household. She is insulted that Hale would even think that she could be a witch. John tells Hale that he thinks Abigail is a fraud and Hale asks if he would testify to this in court. John agrees apprehensively. Giles Corey and Francis Nurse arrive. Giles' wife and Rebecca Nurse have just been arrested. Giles and Francis do not know what to do with themselves. They can not understand how the court can be going so crazy as to arrest good church-going women who have never done anything wrong in their entire lives.
Hale explains that the court knows what is best and that
they must put their faith in the court to make the right decision. "'I
have seen too many frightful proofs in court - the Devil is alive in
Act 2, Scene 4
Ezekiel Cheever and Marshal
Herrick enter. They say that they have come with a warrant to arrest
Mary Warren enters and claims the poppet as her own, but Cheever and Hale still want to take Elizabeth with them. Proctor grabs the warrant and tears it, as he is completely disgusted with the whole situation. He cannot believe that Cheever and Hale are going along with a law and an authority that are based on childish schemes:
"'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!'" Act 2, Scene 4, pg. 73
Elizabeth agrees to go with Cheever and Herrick. She makes John promise that he will bring her home soon. Cheever and Herrick leave with Elizabeth. Giles and Francis ask John what they should do. John tells them he will think about it and Giles and Francis leave. John tells Mary that she is coming to court with him so that she can say that Abby is a fraud. Mary refuses and says that she cannot do it. She also tells John that Abby will charge lechery on him. John is stunned that everyone knows now about his and Abby's affair. He figures that he has nothing left to lose. He grabs Mary and demands that she go with him to the court. He yells and Mary sobs as the scene ends.
Act 3, Scene 1
Judge Hathorne questions Martha Corey inside the Salem meeting house as to whether or not she is a witch. Giles yells out, trying to convince the court that his wife is not a witch. Hale and Herrick enter with Francis Nurse and try to maintain control of Giles. Danforth, Cheever, and Parris enter. Danforth questions Giles' defense of Martha, and Danforth is angered at Giles for questioning the authority of the court. "'Do you take it upon yourself to determine what this court shall believe and what it shall set aside? . . . .This is the highest court of the supreme government of this province, do you know it?'" Act 3, Scene 1, pg. 79
Francis then also tries to defend his wife, Rebecca Nurse. He says that the girls (Betty, Abby, Mercy, and Mary) are a bunch of frauds and that they cannot be believed. Danforth and Hathorne are both shocked that someone would again dare to question the court. Mary Warren and John Proctor enter. John tries to get Mary to confess that she and the other girls were lying about there being witches in Salem. Mary admits that she was pretending the whole time. Parris does not want to believe her because he thinks that Proctor is just trying to overthrow the court. Danforth questions John about this and John denies it. Cheever tells Danforth that when Cheever went to arrest Elizabeth Proctor earlier that morning, John ripped up the warrant. Parris also says that John never comes to Church and that he has plowed on Sundays before. John is forced to defend himself against these accusations.
Danforth tells John that Elizabeth is pregnant (so she says). Danforth says that the doctors examined her and said that she is showing no signs. However, Danforth is willing to let her stay in jail for another month, and if she begins to show signs of being pregnant, then she will be kept for a full year until the baby is delivered. He asks John if he agrees with this idea. If John agrees with it, then Danforth asks him to drop the charges that the girls are lying about all of the accusations. Parris yells that Proctor is trying to overthrow the court.
John does not accept the deal because he knows that Elizabeth is not guilty of being a witch. Also, he feels badly for his friends, Giles and Francis, whose wives are in a similar predicament as his own.
Proctor gives Danforth a piece of paper with a list of signatures on it. The names of the people who testified that Elizabeth, Martha, and Rebecca are not witches. Parris feels that because they signed this, they should all be brought in for questioning. Danforth agrees and tells Cheever to have warrants drawn for their arrest.
Francis feels guilty for having brought trouble upon these people, but Danforth maintains that "'a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between.'" Act 3, Scene 1, pg. 87
Act 3, Scene 2
Proctor gives Danforth Giles' deposition. Thomas Putnam enters. Giles says that Putnam had his daughter accuse George Jacobs of witchcraft so that Putnam could buy off Jacobs' land when he hangs. Putnam denies this. Danforth wants to know who told Giles this information. Giles refuses to give the name because he knows that that person will get into trouble with the court if he mentions their name. Danforth calls this contempt of court. Hale tries to explain that people are afraid of the court because of its actions to throw everyone in jail so easily. Danforth responds that there is a plot to overthrow Christ (and at the same time, the court) in the country. Giles lunges for Putnam as to attack him. Danforth arrests Giles for contempt.
Proctor gives Danforth Mary Warren's deposition. He claims that she was lying about the witchcraft before. Hale pleads with Danforth to allow Proctor to leave and come back with a lawyer, someone who could argue the case professionally. Danforth denies this request. He reads the deposition and calls in Susanna, Betty, Abigail, and Mercy. He tells them that just as witchcraft is a crime, so too is lying. He questions Abigail first, and Abby says that Mary is lying. Abby maintains that what she originally said is still true. Mary claims that when she fainted in the court before that she was only pretending. Parris, Hathorne, and Danforth ask her to pretend to faint now, but she says she cannot. They say that she cannot because there are no spirits around and that she must be lying about pretending before. Danforth questions Abby once again and the girls all claim that they are freezing, and that Mary is sending out her spirit onto them. Mary pleads with them to not do this to her, and to not accuse her of such things.
Act 3, Scene 3
John leaps for Abby and pulls her hair. He calls
her a whore. The court is astonished at such behavior. Danforth
asks John to prove that she is a whore. John hesitantly explains that he had an
affair with her. He says that Elizabeth threw Abigail (who used to work for the
Proctor's) out because of this. And now, Proctor says, Abby wants revenge on
calls Elizabeth into court. He wants to question her as to why she let Abigail
go. Elizabeth enters and denies that her husband is a lecher. Danforth claims that John is a liar.
"'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!'" Act 3, Scene 3, pg. 111
Danforth arrests Giles and Proctor. Hale is so angered with Danforth and the court that he says he quits the court and walks out. Danforth calls Hale's name and the scene ends.
Act 4, Scene 1
The scene opens inside a Salem
jail cell that fall. Tituba and Sarah
Good are in the cell discussing going to
Act 4, Scene 2
Danforth, Judge Hathorne, Hopkins, and Cheever enter the cell. Danforth wants to know where Parris and Hale are. Danforth sends for Parris and he enters. Danforth asks Parris why Hale has been going around with him to the prisoners. Parris says that Hale is trying to get some of the prisoners to confess and save their lives. Parris is worried that if Danforth goes through with the executions, there will be a riot in Salem, for some of the people convicted (like Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor) are highly regarded among the people of the town. Parris tells Danforth that his niece, Abigail, has vanished with Mercy Lewis and that he thinks Abby stole thirty-one pounds from him. He thinks that they are now somewhere off on a ship, in order to get away from Salem. Parris is worried that his own life may be in danger. He begs for the executions to be delayed until they can examine the people further, but Danforth says, "'There will be no postponement'." Act 4, Scene 2, pg. 118
Reverend Hale enters. Hale asks Danforth to pardon the convicted people, but Danforth refuses because twelve have already been hanged for the same crime. Danforth asks about Proctor. He wants to know if he has confessed. He tells Herrick to bring Elizabeth to him, and then to bring Proctor. Danforth thinks that Elizabeth, now with child, may soften Proctor a bit.
Hale tries to convince Danforth of
the idiocy that is going on. Hale says that
Elizabeth enters. She is worn out and dirty from sitting in
a cell. Hale tells her that John is sentenced to hang that morning, but Hale
wants to try and save his life. He asks Elizabeth to plead with John to
confess. He says that life is too precious. "'It is mistaken law that
leads you to sacrifice. Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift; no
principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it. . . .it may well be
God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride.'" Act
4, Scene 2, pg. 122
Act 4, Scene 3
Proctor enters, and everyone else but Elizabeth leaves. He is worn out, dirty, and has grown much facial hair. He asks about the child and their other children. She informs him that many have already confessed and that Giles is dead. John asks Elizabeth what she thinks he should do, confess or not. She says that she wants him to do what he wants to do, but that she also wants him alive. He says that spite keeps him silent. He does not want to lie and confess to being a witch when he knows that he is innocent. She tells him that she knows whatever choice he makes, he is still a good man. She also says that it takes a cold wife for a husband to have an affair. John cannot bear to hear her speak badly about herself.
Act 4, Scene 4
Herrick enters and asks John how he pleads. John says that he wants his life, and therefore will confess. He looks on to Elizabeth for a final decision, and she simply says that he must be his own judge. Herrick runs down the hall for the others to come, yelling that Proctor will confess.
Hathorne, Danforth, Cheever, Parris, and Hale all enter. Danforth tells Cheever to start writing everything down and Proctor wants to know why. Danforth says that they are going to hang it on the church door for everyone to see. John is uncomfortable with this. Danforth proceeds by asking him if he saw the Devil, and John says that he did. They bring Rebecca Nurse in to watch John. They hope that she will confess after seeing him confess. Danforth asks John another question about having had relations with the Devil and Rebecca is astonished. John is overcome with humiliation to lie in front of Rebecca, but he still confesses. She cannot believe her eyes. Danforth tries to get her to confess, but she still refuses, by saying that it is a lie. Danforth continues by asking John if he ever saw Rebecca or any of the other people on the list of names with the Devil. He says that he did not. Danforth does not like this, for he thinks John must have seen someone with the Devil. John says he cannot judge another person.
They finally agree to let him go, as long as he sign his
name to the paper that will go up on the church door. He signs the paper, but
refuses to give it back to Danforth for it to be hung
up. He says that he is ashamed of his name on a paper that lies and he does not
want his children to see his name on that paper. John rips the paper, and Danforth demands that he must hang.
"'I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!'" Act 4, Scene 4, pg. 133
Herrick escorts them out and Hale pleads with
Reverend Samuel Parris: Minister
of the town of
Betty Parris: Ten-year-old daughter of Reverend Parris. Caught by her father dancing in the woods with Tituba, Mercy Lewis, Ruth Putnam, Mary Warren, and Abigail Williams, Betty is accused of witchcraft.
Tituba: Reverend Parris' slave from Barbados. She was caught in the woods chanting with Betty, Mercy, Ruth, Mary, and Abigail. She knows about spirits and is accused of witchcraft.
Abigail Williams: The seventeen-year-old niece of Reverend Parris. She is extremely beautiful and the leader of the other girls who are accused of witchcraft. Her uncle caught her dancing in the woods with Betty, Mercy, Ruth, Mary, and Tituba. She has an affair with John Proctor, and hates his wife Elizabeth Proctor. She drinks a charm to kill Goody Proctor and eventually accuses Elizabeth and many other women in Salem of witchcraft.
Susanna Walcott: Abigail Williams' friend. She accuses people of being witches along with Abigail.
Reverend John Hale: A minister from Beverly who is called to Salem by Parris to investigate the situation. He is about forty years old, and has a strong belief in the authority of the church. In fact, he considers himself the authority on such matters as witchcraft. His view on the authority of the court changes as he later learns that the law is not always right, just because it is the law. In fact, he ends up siding with John Proctor.
Goody Elizabeth Proctor: John Proctor's wife. She hates Abigail Williams, because she finds out that Abby had an affair with John, her husband. She is eventually accused of witchcraft herself, and this causes her husband to become involved with the witch-hunt.
Mrs. Ann Putnam: Middle-aged woman around forty-five, she is the wife of Thomas Putnam and the mother of Ruth Putnam. She gave birth to eight children and seven of them died. Now, Ruth is ill, and she thinks it is because of witchcraft. She thinks that the whole town is falling under the hands of the Devil.
Thomas Putnam: Husband of Ann Putnam, he is around fifty and is a wealthy landowner. He is bitter with the town over old matters dealing with land. He accuses many people of witchcraft as a sort of revenge against them.
Mercy Lewis: The Putnams' eighteen-year-old servant. She was caught dancing in the woods with Tituba, Ruth, Mary, Betty, and Abigail. She pretends to see witches.
Mary Warren: A seventeen-year-old girl who works for John and Elizabeth Proctor. She was caught dancing in the woods with Tituba, Ruth, Mercy, Betty, and Abigail.
John Proctor: Husband of Elizabeth Proctor, he does not care for the voice of authority (of the church or court) and does not want to be involved with the witch-hunt. However, once his wife is accused of being a witch, he has no choice but to become involved. He had an affair with Abigail Williams, and this affair is what causes Abby to accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft. In the end, he wants to confess to having had relations with the Devil, but his dignity leads him to hang as a man with honor.
Rebecca Nurse: Wife of Francis Nurse. She is an older woman of seventy-two and very gentle. She is widely respected throughout Salem, as her husband has a strong voice in the town. She is eventually accused of witchcraft.
Giles Corey: One of the oldest men in the town of Salem and a good friend of John Proctor's, his wife is eventually accused of witchcraft. He tries to defend his wife, and when he does, he gets charged with contempt of court.
Francis Nurse: Husband of Rebecca Nurse, he is a wealthy landowner in Salem. He is widely respected and looked upon to settle many disputes. He had some bad relations in regards to land ownership, specifically with Thomas Putnam. He tries to settle the investigations of witchcraft in Salem.
Goody Sarah Good: An older beggar woman accused of witchcraft. She admits to having made compacts with the Devil.
Deputy Governor Danforth: Head of the court case dealing with the witch-hunt. He has a strong voice of authority in the court and will not be undermined. He questions anything anyone says to him as if it is a potential threat to both the power of the court and the integrity of the law.
Ezekiel Cheever : Man appointed by the court to arrest witches, he has a weak character. He says he is bound by the law to do what he has to do and never thinks otherwise. He is always seen with Danforth and listens to whatever Danforth tell him to do.
Judge Hathorne: Judge sent to examine some of the people accused of being witches. Like Cheever, he has a weak character and does whatever the law and Danforth tell him to.
Marshal Herrick: In charge of arresting all of the accused witches. Like Cheever, he also claims he is bound by the law to follow their orders to arrest accused witches. He never questions that the law may in fact be wrong.
Ruth Putnam: Daughter of Thomas and Mrs. Ann Putnam. She is ill and her mother thinks it is due to evil falling on the town of Salem. She is one of the girls caught dancing in the woods by Reverend Parris. Mrs. Putnam sent her to Tituba to conjure spirits in hopes that Ruth would be able to communicate with her seven dead siblings.
Martha Corey: Wife of Giles Corey. She reads books and hides them from Giles. This makes him start to wonder about her because whenever she has her book out, he cannot pray, but when she closes the book, he can pray again.
Goody Osburn: One of the women accused of witchcraft in Salem. She did not know the ten commandments when asked and is sentenced to be hanged.
George Jacobs: One of the people accused of witchcraft who now waits in jail. Giles Corey says that Putnam had his own daughter accuse Jacobs of witchcraft so that Putnam could buy off Jacobs' land when he hangs.
Hopkins: The jailer.
Salem, Massachusetts: The town where the story takes place. This was the actual town where the real Salem Witch Trials took place in 1692. The town became overwhelmed with the fear that the authority of the church was losing its grip on the community. People started to stray from the church's grasp, and some say that this is what ultimately fueled the witch trials, and the eventual deaths of nineteen men and women and two dogs.
books: Reverend Hale brings books to Parris' house when he goes there to try and help Betty Parris. These books are filled with prayers thought to help those suffering from bewitchment. Hale notes that the books are weighted with authority, something that he holds in high regard.
frog: Hale asks Parris if he saw anything in the kettle of the soup that the girls were dancing around. Parris says that he thinks he did see some movement, and Abby says that a frog jumped into the kettle. Everyone is aghast, as a frog signifies dealings with the Devil.
poppet: A doll sometimes used in witchcraft. Elizabeth Proctor has a poppet in her house, and for this she is arrested. It belongs to her servant Mary, but Elizabeth still takes the blame for having one.
Topic Tracking: Authority
Authority 1: Parris believes that the church is the authority of all people in the town. Since he is a Reverend, he considers himself an authoritative figure. He makes a comment that people are not following their obligations to the church. He thinks that if people do not live their lives as committed to the church, and according to what the church dictates, then they need to be questioned as to what their motives are.
Authority 2: Parris again comments about the authority of the church. He demands that the people of Salem be obedient to the church and to him. He says that if they are not obedient, then they will burn in hell. He does not leave much room for people to live their lives other than by what the church dictates.
Authority 3: Reverend Hale arrives and Parris says that his books are heavy. Hale responds by saying that the books are weighted with authority. This gives a little insight into the minds of not only Hale but others in the town as well. They think that the written word, whether it is in books, or written as the law, has such a heavy weight as an authoritative voice in the society. There should be little or no questioning as to the righteousness of the written word.
Authority 4: When Proctor is questioned as to why he has not been to church in so long, he admits that he has ill feelings towards Parris and the way that Parris gives sermons. Proctor does not like authority, and since Parris talks as though he is an authority figure, Proctor has an issue with this. Proctor is very critical over representatives of authority.
Authority 5: Hale speaks about the court as an authority over such matters as the witch-hunt. He says that the court knows what is best, and that he has seen the court preside over many such cases before. What Hale fails to understand is that just because a court has a command of the law does not mean that the court necessarily knows what is best. This is the same mistake that Danforth makes over and over again. He thinks that just because he presides over the law as a judge that he will make just decisions, as the law bids him to do. However, the end of the play shows that many innocent people are hung.
Authority 6: Danforth is strict in terms of his authority in the court. And not only is he adamant about his own personal authority, he acts the same way about the authority of the institution of the court system. He thinks that the court is the highest authority in the land, and because he presides over it, he will not stand for people questioning the way he runs it. When anyone tries to speak out against how the court and Danforth are handling the witch-hunt, they find themselves accused of witchcraft.
Authority 7: Proctor goes to the court with Mary Warren to attempt to tell Danforth that Abby is a fraud. Proctor finds himself being questioned as to what his motives are for being there and what his relations are with the church. Danforth makes Proctor say that he has not come to undermine the court. Danforth is so concerned that his authority is going to be attacked.
Authority 8: Parris, the other figure of authority along with Danforth, yells that Proctor has only come to the court to try and overthrow it. Like Danforth, Parris is overly concerned that his and the church's authority will be undermined. Hale even speaks up in his anger at Danforth and Parris. Hale begins to see that they are taking their power of authority to unjust heights. They begin to consider every person's comment as an attack against the court.
Authority 9: Giles is questioned as to the name of the person who told him about Putnam accusing people of witchcraft for the purpose of attaining their land. Giles refuses to give the name of the person because he knows that Danforth has gotten so out of hand with his power that he will surely throw that person in jail. And because Giles does not give the name, Danforth throws Giles in jail for contempt.
Authority 10: Parris begs Danforth to postpone the executions because Parris is trying to get them to confess. Danforth says that there will be no postponement. Danforth knows that what has happened is not totally right and just, but to hold up this view of himself as an authority he continues to act in complete control over the situation. To postpone the deaths would be to possibly admit that he has made a mistake with the other twelve people who have already been hanged. This is something that he would not dare admit, for it would question the authority of himself as a judge, the court, and the church.
Topic Tracking: Chaos
Chaos 1: In this scene, one can get an idea of what starts to happen to a town when fear begins to take over. Without any strong sense of rationale, the people get hysterical. Mrs. Putnam, especially, goes overboard in her reaction to the situation when she declares that the Devil is falling down on the town. The town is terrified that their good Christian ways will be compromised with the advent of the Devil.
Chaos 2: The people continue to argue and Proctor gets very angry with Reverend Parris. All Parris does is speak of damnation, hell, and the Devil in his sermons, and Proctor is annoyed with this. Parris, as well some others in the town, are fear-stricken that hell is upon them. Not only do they fear that hell is near, but they think that their own lives are at stake. This fear causes utter chaos to break out, as they begin to yell and scream at one another.
Chaos 3: Parris speaks out against those that do not obey the church's authority. He says that those who do not follow their authority will burn in hell. He tries to instill fear into the people of the town so that they will blindly follow all he says to do and say. However, instead of people listening, this fear causes the town to break out in chaos and madness. They continue to argue and yell because they do not know what else to do.
Chaos 4: Tituba and the girls are so afraid that they will be punished severely by the church that they start to give the names of people they "supposedly" saw with the Devil. In actuality, they may not have even seen any of these people with the Devil. But, it is their fear of the church's retribution that persuades them to give these names. And because they give these names, chaos in the town breaks out and all of the people are called in for questioning about whether or not they have made compacts with the Devil. This is essentially what causes the "witch-hunt."
Chaos 5: Once the names of people even get mentioned, the town gets into a stir. Fourteen people have already been jailed, and the town is going crazy. Danforth promises that he will hang them if they do not confess to having had relations with the Devil. These people have no choice, and are 'between a rock and a hard place' because of the court. If they confess, then their names will be tarnished forever, and if they do not confess, they will die. It is madness and no one knows the truth.
Chaos 6: Giles' wife, Martha Corey, and Francis' wife, Rebecca Nurse, have just been arrested. These two women are highly respected throughout the town. However, it only took the mentioning of their names for Danforth and other representatives of authority to think badly about them, and even go so far as to arrest them. Many people know that these two women are church-going and have never done a thing wrong in their entire lives. This depicts the fear and chaos that has broken out in Salem. People are being arrested that should not be.
Chaos 7: Proctor is outraged that his wife has been mentioned in the court as possibly having had relations with the Devil. He knows that Abigail is only trying to have revenge on her, for Abby wants to marry John Proctor. John says that the town has gone so crazy as to allow children like Abby to write the law. The court is basing their actions strictly on the children's arguments and John sees this as absurd.
Chaos 8: Proctor claims that the girls are all lying about people being witches. Parris, in his outrage, keeps yelling that Proctor has come to overthrow the court. Parris cannot possibly hear that he might be wrong about all of the people who have been accused, so he must stick to his beliefs however wrong he may be. People die because of Parris' and Danforth's steadfast adherence to the law, even when it may be wrong.
Chaos 9: Things in the court are still at the point where no one can even question the court's authority over the witch-hunt. When Proctor gives Danforth a list of names of people who are testifying that Rebecca, Martha, and Elizabeth are not witches, Danforth demands that they be brought in for questioning. It is sheer madness that no one can even speak one word without being thought a witch.
Chaos 10: Giles refuses to give the name of the person who told him that Putnam is accusing people so that he can get their land. Danforth considers this contempt and arrests Giles, even though he did not do anything wrong. Danforth's fear starts to get the better of him and he reacts with a comment that depicts the ludicrousness of his rationale. He says that there is a plot to destroy Christ in this country and that is why he must conduct himself in the way that he is. He and the other members of the court are creating a society of chaos by themselves.
Chaos 11: Mary Warren has just accused Proctor of being with the Devil. Danforth has Giles and Proctor taken away to jail. Hale is so outraged by the actions of the court that he gets up and quits the court. He now sees the insanity that has taken hold of Danforth, and Parris and can no longer be a part of convicting innocent people.
Chaos 12: Hale pleads with Danforth to stop the executions, for to continue with them just for the sake of the law is not doing the right thing. Danforth refuses and says that they must hang. Hale tries to explain that Salem is in complete turmoil and that Danforth must see this. He says that orphans are out wandering the streets, cattle are wandering on the roads, crops are all rotting, and men are being tempted left and right. He tries to use this as a way to prove to Hale that things cannot get any worse for Salem, and that action must be taken to improve the state of things.
Topic Tracking: Involvement
Involvement 1: John Proctor refuses to have any further involvement in his affair with Abigail Williams. If he continues to have relations with her, then her being questioned about witchcraft may in some way implicate himself as having had relations with the Devil. He therefore tries to push her away from him when she tries to make him confess his love for her.
Involvement 2: Proctor is angry over Parris' sermons and how he only preaches about hell and evil. Proctor dislikes it so much so that he has stopped going to church as often as he used to. This is looked upon as a lack of involvement in the church and the local community as well.
Involvement 3: Proctor makes a comment about how he would like to join the party that is against authority. He does not like authority and does anything to avoid it. He even speaks out openly against it. He has much less involvement with the church and local community than others do specifically because he does not agree with what they have to say. Therefore, he openly denounces such things, and does as he pleases, even if that means staying away.
Involvement 4: Elizabeth pleads with John to go into Salem and tell the court that Abby is a fraud. John is very reluctant to do so because he does not want to have any type of involvement with Abby or the witch-hunt. He does not agree with the authority of the court and what the court stands for, and would rather just stay away than even try to help the situation.
Involvement 5: John finally agrees to go into Salem and tell the court that Abby is a fraud. However, this involvement is not voluntary. He really does not want to go, but he would rather go than listen to Elizabeth constantly bring up the affair he once had with Abby.
Involvement 6: At this point, John can do little about his involvement with the witch-hunt. He is bound to become involved despite his constant efforts to hide from the issue. Elizabeth has just been "mentioned" in court, and this directly links John to the witch-hunt. No matter how much he wants to escape it now, he cannot. His involvement is inevitable.
Involvement 7: John has no choice but to become involved, now that his wife has been accused. He takes the warrant for Elizabeth's arrest and rips it. This is a clear statement that says he will speak openly about what he thinks about the whole situation. His wife being arrested forces John to make some level of commitment to the society in which he lives, even if this means speaking out against that which the society stands for.
Involvement 8: John acts as a man involved in his society here. Despite his desire to have Elizabeth's jail time delayed, he does not accept the offer Danforth makes because Proctor knows that his friends are in a similar situation to his own. And if he were to accept the offer, he would only be acting as a man who has concerns for himself, and not the well being of the society in which he lives. Proctor knows that what is happening is wrong, and he will not stand by and watch it happen.
Involvement 9: Danforth says that a person has to make a decision on whether they are for the court or against it, as there is no middle road. If this is true, then he is saying that one has no choice but to become involved in the issues surrounding one's society. Either choice has implications that demand one be involved.
Involvement 10: John openly confesses in court and in front of many people that he committed lechery with Abigail Williams. He does not care anymore that he will be looked upon negatively. He will not stand by with a closed mouth as injustice takes place. He would rather implicate himself and make sure that justice is served, than be quiet and watch as injustice occurs.
Involvement 11: At the end of the play John must commit the ultimate act of involvement in one's society. John commits himself to his friends, himself, and the virtue of honesty by not confessing that he is a witch. To do so would be to lie, and this would implicate his friends as being witches as well. He commits to society and decides to die an honest man, and also a man that got involved and stood for what was right.