How does Arthur Miller create and sustain an atmosphere of tension and excitement in Act 3 of the play? He does this by a series of introducing new information, issues and causing uproar between sets of characters. The scene opens with an already built up tension from the end of Scene 2 where Elizabeth had been taken away by the court for witchcraft. The stage is empty and all that can be seen is a clear courtroom and all that can be heard is the voice of Hathorne, Martha Corey, Giles and Danforth.
As the audience are settling down from the interval from the end of Scene 2 their attention is immediately grabbed by the eerie settings and the lack of people on the stage, then suddenly the door is pushed open and the characters Giles and Herrick enter partly filling the stage easing any worries the audience may have had from before. Giles, an elderly but honest farmer is being held and forced into the vestry by Herrick, Hale then enters and sees the aggravation that this is causing Giles and tells both of them to be calm.
Giles then reveals that his wife is to be hanged; this signals that an argument is to come between some of the characters. Judge Hathorne, a hard and unforgiving man, then enters shouting at Giles for creating such a scene. Danforth and Giles then have a disputed convosation about Giles’ wife during witch Giles gets quite upset over the matter. Hale sticks up for Giles but Danforth will not accept Giles’ claims and tells Herrick to clear the room so Giles is pushed out. Francis Nurse then speaks up for his good ands well respected wife, Rebecca Nurse.
Hathorne is clearing being rattled by all the people wanting to free their accused friends and family and exclaims they should both be arrested in contempt of the court. Francis then makes the claim that the girls are frauds. Hathorne says again that it is contempt of the court and repeats it until told to be quiet by Danforth. Danforth clearly is concerned about this statement and questions Francis until Proctor and Mary Warren enter to serve as proof for the court that the girls are frauds.
Danforth little questions Proctor about the reasons why Mary Warren was in the court as Hale suggests that he should listen to Mary. Proctor at first is Mary’s spokesman as Danforth questions were hard to contradict but then Mary picks up some courage from the people around her and answers for herself. Danforth after this doesn’t know what to do so states that any lies that are told in the court will be condemned along with the liar. Proctor states he understands so Danforth in return asks a long line of questions that are again hard to answer without getting him into trouble with the court.
John Proctor manages to answer al the questions with clear conscience until Danforth brings in a new issue that Elizabeth Proctor is pregnant, John clearly doesn’t know anything about it and it shows as Danforth offers him a bribe. The tension all the way though the questions and arguments has mounted up till this point where John has two choices, to save his wife and leave the courts business alone or to carry on the way he was going and lose his wife and friends. The audience are drawn to John at this point and don’t turn away as they no that if they so much as move they could miss an extremely important part of the play.
Proctor is taken back by the bribe and knows that he cannot leave the court having just saved his wife; he needed to expose the girls’ lies to everyone. Danforth asks him sternly if his purpose is a larger one to which Proctor admits it is. Danforth asks Proctor to explain his reasons and produce evidence for his claims. Francis Nurse then produces a petition from 91 villagers, that are good landowners or church goers etc that are respected by fellow villagers, that say that the accused are all innocent.
Danforth is surprised by this and says he may look up these people and question them much to Francis’ horror as he had promised the people that signed it that no harm would come to them. Danforth then says that no harm would come to them, if they were all in good conscience when it was signed. Mary Warren starts crying and Danforth notices. Proctor helps Mary and quotes from the bible, ‘Do that which is good and no harm will come to thee’. Giles then tells John to hand over Giles deposition, he does so and Danforth is surprised at how well written it is.
Danforth asks another set of angry questions to try and catch Giles out but Giles cleverly answers each question and statement but then he brings up that he thinks Putnam is killing his neighbours for their land. Danforth asks for the proof and Giles says he got it from an honest man who overheard Putnam say it but Giles would not name the man, he is therefore arrested for contempt of the court. Giles is then taken away, as he is he tells John to give up because it is no use.