The Crucible – Summary

Plot summary: In Salem, teenage girls, led by Abigail Williams, accuse women and men of witchcraftJohn Proctor, affair with Abigail, thinks Abigail is causing trouble because she is jealous of his wifeCourt tries to find out truth but swayed by hysteria that girls create. Judge believes girls’ stories, to save reputation of court, and many innocent townspeople are executed, including John Proctor
Act 1
Questioning of what happened in the forest (Act 1) Reverend Parris praying over his daughter, Betty, who lies unconscious on her bed. Reverend Parris questions his niece, Abigail Williams, and several girls about what has happened
Girls involved in activities in forest led by Tituba, Parris’s black slave from Barbados (Act 1) Parris had discovered them and startled them so much that Betty collapsed and has not recovered
Rumours of what happened spread in town (Act 1) Crowd gathers downstairs in Parris’s home. Among them are Thomas Putnam and his wife, who are not loyal followers of Reverend Parris. This is because Parris got job of reverend in place of their relative
Putnams are very concerned (Act 1) For their own sickly daughter and earlier deaths of seven of their babies
Putnams are first to openly suggest that town is afflicted by witchcraft (Act 1) Want Parris to root out witches within community
Parris sends for local expert, Reverend Hale (Act 1) Then questions Abigail about events that took place in, but she admits to doing nothing more than dancing
While Parris tries to calm crowd (Act 1) Seventeen year old Abigail threatens other, younger girls that she will kill anyone who utters a word about what happened
Learn something more sinister than dancing (Act 1) Was going on in woods and that Abigail drank chicken blood as part of spell to kill Elizabeth Proctor
John Proctor, a local farmer, then enters and talks to Abigail alone (Act 1) While working in Proctor’s home previous year she engaged in a secret affair with him and was dismissed by his wife, Elizabeth
Abigail attempts to seduce Proctor (Act 1) But he wants affair to be finished and tells her to end her foolishness with girls
Betty wakes up screaming (Act 1) Several of townspeople rush upstairs and, while they are gathered in her bedroom, they argue about witchcraft
Evident that town is full of personal grudges (Act 1) In midst of this crisis, Proctor, Parris, Giles Corey and a wealthy landowner, Thomas Putnam, begin to argue about money and land deeds
Reverend Hale arrives (Act 1) Questions both Betty and Abigail. He grows suspicious about girls’ activities in forest, especially role of Tituba. She is summoned and Parris and Hale both interrogate her
Afraid of being hanged, Tituba accuses two townswomen of consorting with Devil (Act 1) Suddenly, Abigail joins in, confessing to having seen Devil with other townspeople and Betty and other girls join them. Scene ends in hysteria and uproar
Hysteria (Act 2) Girl’s accusations spread throughout town.
Set in John and Elizabeth Proctor’s farmhouse just outside Salem (Act 2) Begins with scene between husband and wife who are discussing witchcraft situation in Salem and increasing number of accused townspeople
New servant girl working for Proctors`s (Mary Warren is one of Abigail’s circle) (Act 2) Arrives from courthouse where she has been giving testimony. She gives Elizabeth a doll that she made while waiting in court. She is tired and goes to bed, leaving married couple to continue their argument
Tension between them over affair that John had with Abigail Williams (Act 2) Elizabeth wants him to go to court and testify against Abigail (source of accusation in town). If town knows about her affair with John they will not be inclined to believe her accusations. But John refuses and there is much tension between them – Elizabeth feels that he still feels affection for Abigail and he feels that his wife has not forgiven him for his error
Reverend Hale appears at door to question John Proctor (Act 2) Suspicious of Proctors because they do not attend church regularly
Giles Corey and Francis Nurse also arrive, seeking advice after both their wives had been arrested (Act 2) If saintly Rebecca Nurse has been arrested on charge of witchcraft, there is a sense that Elizabeth, as an irregular church goer, is in significant danger
Shortly, officials from Salem arrive and arrest Elizabeth Proctor (Act 2) Abigail has accused her of witchcraft and attempted murder by using black magic and stabbing needle into voodoo doll. Officials find doll that Mary gave Elizabeth, and in it is a needle. This is taken as further evidence against Elizabeth and as she is taken away John Proctor understands that this is Abigail’s revenge
After others have gone he orders Mary Warren to go to court and testify against Abigail (Act 2) He vows that he will fight proceedings, even if it means confessing his own adultery
Abigail attacked (Act 3) Abigail claims that she is under attack from witchcraft.
Set next day in court (Act 3) With Deputy Governor Danforth and Judge Hathorne presiding
Francis Nurse, Giles Corey, and John Proctor all present their case against girls (Act 3) Proctor delivering petition signed by ninety one people testifying to good character of their wives
Corey charges Putnam (Act 3) With inciting his daughter to accuse Corey of witchcraft in order to get his land – witchcraft is again mixed up with personal grudges and land grabbing. Corey has witness but will not name him for fear of getting the man arrested
Danforth orders the arrest (Act 3) Danforth orders arrest of Corey for contempt of court
Proctor has brought Mary Warren to court and he tells Judge Danforth that she will testify that girls are lying (Act 3) Danforth suspects Proctor’s motives, believing that he actually wants to undermine entire court proceedings
Elizabeth is spared (Act 3) For a time because she is pregnant
Proctor, however, is by now becoming committed to revealing truth and exposing lies (Act 3) He persists in his charge, and persuades Danforth to allow Mary’s testimony that she never saw devil or any spirits
Abigail seizes control of situation (Act 3) By pretending to be bewitched by Mary Warren and she spreads a hysterical sympathetic reaction through other girls which sets court in uproar
A dramatic revelation and Danforth stops proceedings to investigate claim (Act 3) In frustration that court seems to believe all this pretence, Proctor grabs Abigail by the hair and denounces her as a *****, confesses his own role in affair and accuses her of being motivated by jealousy of his wife
Elizabeth is brought into court and questioned (Act 3) Doesn’t know that Proctor has openly confessed and she is reluctant to incriminate her husband. Despite her natural honesty, she lies to protect his honour and this destroys his testimony; Danforth denounces Proctor as a liar
Mary Warren, in fear of being caught up in collapse of Proctor’s standing, joins in with Abigail’s next move (Act 3) Abigail pretends to be bewitched by Proctor, and other girls, including Mary, join in
Proctor sees that whole process is being corrupted by revenge and fear (Act 3) He accuses Danforth of being afraid to reveal truth and it is true that Danforth acts more to preserve reputation of court than to pursue justice
Reverend Hale realises that court is compromised (Act 3) So he denounces proceedings and quits
Goes badly for Proctor (Act 3) He is arrested
Death (Act 4) Salem witch trials lead to execution of many of townspeople
Set three months later when Deputy Governor Danforth and Judge Hathorne visit Salem jail (Act 4) Their conversations with one another and with Parris reveal state of chaos in and around Salem and a dramatic loss of confidence and principle among the leaders
Parris has become unbalanced (Act 4) He frequently weeps. His wicked niece, Abigail, has recently discredited herself by running off with Mary Warren and taking his life savings; he is distraught
Parris is scared (Act 4) Fears civil unrest and danger to himself
Hale has little faith in justice of court (Act 4) Prays with accused constantly and is trying to persuade them to falsely confess in order to save their lives, but they refuse
Salem a ghost town (Act 4) Farms are deserted and cows wander roads, everyone lives in fear of being accused of witchcraft, there are rumours of revolt in nearby Andover
Hale enters, evidently exhausted by his efforts to help accused (Act 4) He, like Parris, asks Danforth, without success, for postponement, but he is motivated by desire to save souls before hangings
Danforth wants confessions too and he has idea of getting Elizabeth Proctor to persuade her husband John to confess (Act 4) If he confesses to witchcraft he will save his life, and if other prisoners follow his example many hangings will be avoided. Elizabeth is brought from her cell and she agrees to talk to her husband
Proctor is brought forth and left alone with his wife (Act 4) Elizabeth tells of Giles Corey’s principled death, refusing to compromise with court
Proctor is conflicted (Act 4) John wants to live and contemplates confessing but he is in conflict with his own principles. Nevertheless he thinks it dishonest of himself to make a ‘heroic’ stand against them – he doesn’t believe himself to be a hero or a saint
Hathorne re-enters and demands an answer (Act 4) He is delighted to hear that Proctor will confess and he rushes off to tell all other officials who are equally pleased – it is a way out of their trouble
But, returning to Proctor, Danforth asks him for names of other people who have taken part in witchcraft (Act 4) Proctor refuses to incriminate anyone else. When Danforth insists that others must be named, Proctor refuses, tears up his confession, and retracts his admission of guilt
Hale unsuccessfully pleads with Proctor (Act 4) Proctor goes to the gallows with the others, and the witch trials reach their terrible conclusion.

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