Crucible ACT I

What purpose does the Overture serve? Miller uses the first act to introduce not only the characters but also his comparison between the Puritans and 1950s America. He accomplishes both of these in his lengthy sidebars as characters come into Ruth’s bedroom.
What does the “sparseness” of the Puritan setting reveal about the lives of the townspeople of Salem? The setting mirrors the Puritans’ beliefs. The lack of ornamentation demonstrates the Puritan aversion to vanity and frivolous pursuits.
3. What Puritan primary fear is apparent in the philosophy, “In unity still lay the best promise of safety”? The environment with Native Americans, various wild animals, and the climate forced the Puritans to stick together in order to survive. Individuality or independence could cost lives. Therefore, fear kept the settlers in a state of conformist cooperation.
4. Explain the significance of the forest to the Puritans. It was the epitome of evil. As far as the Puritans were concerned, the Native Americans were murderous heathens. The animals periodically attacked. There was no wilderness in England, so the unknown quality of the forest made it even more frightening.
5. Explain the irony in the Puritans’ pilgrimage to Salem to escape persecution. Though the Puritans left England to gain religious freedom, among other things, they granted no one in this new world any such freedom. They persecuted, often violently, those who were different.
6. To what twentieth century situation is Miller referring when he declares: “They believed, in short, that they held in their steady hands the candle that would light the world. We have inherited this belief, and it has helped and hurt us.” Miller is asserting that Americans often believe they possess the true “light” or value system that the rest of the world should follow. This ideology has helped us escape many pitfalls of other countries, but it has also caused other troubles.
7. When Abigail enters, she is described as “a strikingly beautiful girl…with an endless capacity for dissembling.” What does the phrase an “endless capacity for dissembling” suggest? She lies frequently and rather convincingly.
8. When Susanna exits, Abigail makes a confession to Parris, which she recants near the end of the Act. What is the confession, and why does she change her mind? She confesses that there is no witchcraft. Abigail tells Parris she danced and she is willing to be whipped for punishment for this deed. Later she blames Tituba and others for bewitching the girls. She is motivated both by self preservation and a sense of power.
9. Based on his words, what seems to be Parris’s motivation for inadvertently causing the hysteria? Phrases like, “There is a faction sworn to drive me from my pulpit,” and “They will howl me out of Salem for such corruption in my house,” show that his only concern is for keeping his position in the church.
10. Explain the relationship between Abigail and Goody (Elizabeth) Proctor. Goody Proctor fired her live-in servant, Abigail. The two obviously dislike each other since it is rumored that Goody Proctor called Abigail “soiled.” Abigail commented about Goody Proctor, “It’s a bitter woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman, and I will not work for such a woman!”
11. What are Putnam’s motivations for his actions in Salem? Thomas Putnam acts primarily out of family honor and greed. He is angry that his relative was not hired as minister of Salem, and he is determined to rectify that injustice. He also argues with Proctor over land ownership, claiming that a section of Proctor’s land rightfully belongs to him.
12. Explain the dramatic irony when Parris says, “I know that you—you least of all, Thomas, would ever wish so disastrous a charge laid upon me.” Miller explains to the audience that Putnam secretly wants to ruin Parris, but Parris believesThomas is his only true supporter.
13. What role did Ann Putnam play in the dancing in the forest? Ann asked her daughter, Ruth, to conjure the spirits of Mrs. Putnam’s seven dead children.
14. Explain briefly how Putnam coerces Parris to declare witchcraft. He explains that the congregation will love him if he seeks out and destroys the Devil in Salem. This feeds Parris’s paranoia about keeping his position as minister.
15. What does Betty’s information about dancing in the forest reveal about Abigail’s true motivation? Abigail drank blood to put a death curse on Goody Proctor. The implication is that Abigail wants to marry John Proctor and wants Elizabeth, his wife, out of the way.
16. What does the threat of a “pointy reckoning” reveal about Abigail’s true nature? When Abigail physically threatens the other girls in a visually descriptive way, the reader learns that she is a driving force in the plot and in the hysteria. Furthermore, the audience learns that the other girls are afraid of Abigail, and they will not dare to cross her.
17. What does Miller mean by: “A Proctor is always marked for calumny” Proctor is an individual who is openly critical of the status quo. Miller is stating that society will always try to protect itself from a character like Proctor, often by fabricating stories against him.
18. Describe Mary Warren’s personality. She is submissive. She wants to tell the truth and take her punishment, but when Abigail threatens her, she withdraws. When Proctor threatens her, she withdraws. Miller later refers to her as a mouse.
19. Contrast Proctor’s verbal excuse about why he has come to Parris’s house with what his actions indicate may be his true motivation for coming. Proctor claims he has come to see what Parris is doing; however, he does not talk to anyone but Abigail, privately. This would suggest that he has really come to see her.
20. Explain Proctor and Abigail’s relationship. They had an affair while Abigail worked in Proctor’s house.
21. What does Abigail say that leads Parris, Putnam, and Mrs. Putnam to believe Betty is bewitched? She claims Betty screamed because she heard the congregation singing.
22. Describe Rebecca Nurse physically and by reputation. Rebecca is seventy-two, white-haired, and requires a walking stick. She is highly regarded in the community.
23. What three grudges could the Putnams have against the Nurses? The Nurses owned three hundred acres. Putnam contested some of these acres as Putnam land. He also disapproved of the Nurses improving their status by gradually acquiring the land. The Nurses were some of those who worked to keep Putnam’s relative out of the Salem minister position.
24. In Proctor’s argument with Rev. Parris, the theme of authority arises. What are the two points of view? Parris says that, as the minister, he is the final authority on what is good for the soul and what isn’t. Proctor argues that the individual heart and conscience are his authority.
25. Describe Giles Corey both physically and personally. He is eighty-three and muscular. Personally, he is litigious and comments about rights often.Miller calls him “a crank, a nuisance, but innocent and brave.”
26. What is Rebecca’s solution to Betty’s and Ruth’s ailments, and why does this solution anger Ann Putnam? Rebecca’s experience (eleven children and twenty-six grandchildren) has told her the girls will stop ailing when they are tired of playing. Ann Putnam has lost seven children and, therefore, she takes Rebecca’s experience as a personal insult.
27. What is Reverend Hale’s motivation? He has dedicated his life to studying and searching for a true witch. He knows they exist, and he is determined to find one.
28. In terms of indirect characterization, why is it significant that Hale recognizes one of the characters by reputation? Hale recognizes Rebecca. He says she looks, “… as such a good soul should.” Not only does it establish the universality of Rebecca’s reputation for goodness, it will also serve to point out the utter madness of the court, the accusations, and the hangings later on.
29. What question does Giles ask Hale that shows his comical, innocent personality. He asks Hale why his wife reads “strange books” (i.e., books other than the Bible). These books disturb his prayers. Giles is merely asking questions. He does not realize that he is opening his own wife to prosecution.
30. What effect does Miller create by lowering the curtain for this act during the girls’ cries of witchcraft? Ending the act as the girls are blurting out names gives the audience the idea that the names continue for some time, that the whole community is in danger. Dropping the curtain after the girls finish would give the audience a finite sense of accusation. A point in this play is that everyone is suspect. The well-timed curtain, subtly introduces this point.
31. What motivates Abby and Betty to begin denouncing everyone? We have been told that Abby is a great dissembler, so presumably, she is “naming names” for sport and the power it gives her over other people. She is also “redeeming” herself through confession, so she will not be punished for other things she has done. Betty may be following Abigail’s lead, but it seems more likely that Betty is simply caught up in the hysteria of the situation.

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