Hale then inquires as to why only “twenty-six time in seventeen months” his family has gone to church on Sabbath Day, making them feel uncomfortable and guilty, which is what probably Hale intends. The fact that Hale could give such exact figures indicates to us that there must have been a register for church attendance which gives us an idea of the social oppressiveness of life at the time. In any event the Proctors can be in no doubt that their life is being but under the microscope. Hale asks about the Proctors’ three boys and why only two are baptized.
Proctor explains that he sees no light of G-d in Mr. Parris, minister of Salem. For the late 17th century, this would have been quite a serious accusation but Hale seems to let it go for the time being. Proctor mentions how he “nailed the roof upon the church” and “hung the door” showing that he has done some good for the Salem community. Hale acknowledges this, and then, “with the voice of one administering a secret test” says “Do you know your commandments, Elizabeth? ” This must make Elizabeth feel patronised by the tone in which Hale speaks in to her.
However, she replies to him “without hesitation,” showing her eagerness to reply, saying, “I surely do. ” However when he asks Proctor the same question Hale gets a somewhat different answer. The stage directions state how Proctor is “a trifle unsteady” in his response, and that he pauses slightly when saying “I-am sure I do, sir. ” Hale then looks straight at John and says “let you repeat them, if you will,” really putting Proctor on the spot. Proctor, “looks off, beginning to sweat,” creating a further sense of tension.
The audience at this point, must ask itself what will happen if he doesn’t know them all? Will he be taken away? Will he immediately be accused? Proctor recites all but one commandment, albeit with pauses and hesitation. The other actors and the audience clearly feel his discomfort. The one he forgets, Elizabeth “delicately” points out to him, is the sin of “adultery. ” This irony can be seen instantly as we have learned that prior to the time that the play takes place Proctor had had an affair with their previous maidservant, Abigail.
Throughout this little scene, Proctor has felt “lost”, “uneasy” and “flailing for it” as it is stated in the stage directions. “A secret arrow had pained his heart” when Elizabeth reminded him of his forgotten commandment and, from this, we get the notion that Hale is not impressed. Proctor tries to “grin” his mistake away saying “I think it to be a small fault. ” Hale attempts to put Proctor right by saying that, “Theology is a fortress; no crack in a fortress may be accounted small,” comparing Proctor’s forgotten commandment to a gap in his theological beliefs.
Hale rises and seems worried, creating another feeling of tension. Proctor says that there is no love for Satan in this house and Hale prays for it dearly giving them both a glimmer of hope and comfort. However “his misgivings are clear,” and we can assume from this, that Hale will presumably be more inclined to say that the devil is present in that house than ever before, based on what he has witnessed. Then Elizabeth, unable to restrain herself, says, “I do think you are suspecting me somewhat? Are you not? ” Hale replies that he is not there to judge people, “but only to do the court’s bidding.
” The scene continues with Proctor explaining that the children’s sickness had nothing to do with witchcraft and this intrigues Hale. Hale asks whether they do in fact believe in witches. John does but Elizabeth does not, declaring, “If you say I am one then, I say there are none. ” Rhyming is used by Miller to stress the importance of this line to the audience. Hale replies “You surely do not fly against the gospel, the gospel-” but Proctor comes to her rescue by saying “She believe in the gospel, every word!
” Proctor was in a type of Catch 22 situation whereby, if he did not interject and tell Hale that his wife did believe in the gospel then she would potentially be hanging herself. However if he does interject then he could possibly be incriminating his wife further simply by having to clarify her faith. Miller also uses Proctor’s interjection to vary the pace of the scene, building tension in the mind of the audience. Hale, now apparently feeling a little sorry for the two, blesses them and tells them to baptize their third child and to go without fail each Sunday to Sabbath prayer.
Almost immediately after this Giles Corey, husband to Martha Corey, enters closely followed by Francis Nurse, husband to Rebecca Nurse. They come with news of how both their wives have been charged. We feel upset for these two men, that their wives, women so close to G-d, could be charged with such horrific crimes as murder. It does not seem right or just, and this is exactly how Miller wants us to feel at this point in the play. Now, Ezekiel Cheever, a recently promoted member of the courts, enters to a shocked silence. Miller uses silence brilliantly here as, immediately after seeing Cheever.
the audience knows that something bad is about to happen. The silence creates a vacuum that needs to be filled by speech. building intense drama. Soon Marshal Herrick comes in too. All of them argue over the trials and Proctor finds out that Elizabeth has been charged. He is annoyed, as one would expect him to be, and asks “On what proof, what proof? ” The use of repetition clearly shows his fury but also possibly his disbelief. This evidence is the key point on which the outcome of the play will turn and, if guilty, on which Elizabeth Proctor will be hanged for witchcraft.
We as the audience might be expecting something really serious (like perhaps dancing around a bubbling cauldron shouting pagan spells), but instead Cheever explains that Abigail Williams charged her on the basis that there is a poppet in her house. In my opinion Miller uses the example of a poppet as the evidence found because of how trivial it seems by modern standards but yet how important it will be in the overall outcome of the play. Elizabeth clearly recognises the significance of the accusation as she immediately responds. “I never kept no poppets, not since I were a girl” she replies to him.
However, Cheever says, “I spy a poppet, Goody Proctor” and sure enough, he does. Miller’s stage directions here state that Cheever is “embarrassed. ” Cheever was not there to search for the house and the whole point of poppets only come out because of Proctor’s question of proof. By showing Cheever to be “embarrassed,” Miller is driving home how unfortunate this whole turn of events is and the high drama that it creates. Elizabeth and John now appear guiltier than ever and the mood becomes tenser due to the statement by Cheever, which implies that he now believes that Elizabeth in guilty.
At this, Proctor states that the poppet is not his or his wife’s and that it in fact belongs to Mary Warren. After much deliberation on the matter, the group comes to the conclusion that the poppet is indeed Mary Warren’s. Elizabeth becomes irate with the idea of Abigail blaming her for something she did not do and says “Why-! The girl is murder! She must be ripped out of the world! ” According to Miller’s stage directions Cheever takes a great deal of notice of this violent sounding comment and again accuses Elizabeth.
Proctor now snatches the warrant out of Cheever’s hand and we feel that the scene is about to reach its climax. Miller has been building up the level of tension and uses this, the first sign of physical contact, to signal that the scene is reaching its dramatic climax. Miller keeps up the intensity of the drama and Proctor shouts to all of everyone “Out of my house! ” John has clearly been shouting at everyone else to leave but Miller uses the ambiguity in his order when it is just Elizabeth who responds. Elizabeth responds “I’ll go John-.
” He does not want to let her go but knows he must. He cannot bear to look at her. “Fighting back her weeping” she instructs Mary and John what to do in her absence. At this moment in the play, we again feel very sorry for the Proctors, as we did of Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse when we hear of their convictions. Perhaps even more so, as we have come to know the Proctor characters much better. The fact that Proctor cannot bear to look at his wife is a device used by Miller to emphasise that he is extremely upset for her and is possibly crying and doesn’t want his wife to see him.
Also, the fact that she is fighting her weeping makes us understand that she is sad but also gives us the impression that she is a proud woman with a sense of dignity. As the audience, we can feel her pain, adding to the dramatic effect of the scene. The scene has nearly reached its end but Miller surprises us with yet another crescendo and as a final climax and a show of true love for his wife Proctor rushes outside because he hears chains. “Damn you, man, you will not chain her! ” are his words to Herrick as Mary Warren bursts into tears and “sits weeping. ” John has had enough.
He calls Hale a coward, as he has not done anything to prevent the night’s events, not that he could. Hale has the last word before his exit by saying that he “shall pray G-d open our eyes,” in order for them to comprehend what is going on and why. The fact that even Hale is confused leaves the audience unsettled. The significance of this scene to the play as a whole is crucial. It forms the turning point for not only the Proctor family but also the play as a whole. We have come to understand what life at the Proctor’s house is like, as well as the other characters’ personalities.
We now know John Proctor to be a hard-working man and that he is against all the witchcraft trials. This is a prominent factor, as we see later on in the play. We also see from this scene that Hale is becoming more and more inclined to be against the trials, for example when he asks, “What signifies a poppet, Mr. Cheever? ” and “Why? What meanin’ has it? ” He is beginning to have doubts as to how a mere doll can be used as evidence against Elizabeth. Even as we wonder exactly what Proctor’s reaction will be, we as the audience realise from this just how ridiculously petty the witch trials were in many ways.
For all the above reasons the scene in question makes great drama. However there is one further piece of context which gives this historical piece even greater resonance to a modern audience… As is explained in his essay “The Crucible in History” (from his essay collection “Echoes Down the Corridor) in “The Crucible” Arthur Miller, compared this chapter of history to that of his own era. Miller was persecuted by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s committee of un-American activities, an organisation set up by the Senator once the Cold War started.
Its purpose was to track down suspected Communists, particularly those in any sort of power or influence, and eliminate them from the political or global stage. The suspects that admitted to having had anything to do with Communism were forced to reveal the names of all those they knew to have done the same. If the accused would not confess, then jail sentences or fines could be enforced. Miller, although not a Communist, had attended a Communist meeting in order to contrast his political opinion with that of a Communist.
A friend betrayed him to the committee and he escaped with a five hundred dollar fine and a thirty day jail sentence. Although he was made to declare that the Communist Party coming to power would be a ‘disaster’, he did not inform the committee of the names of the other people at the meeting. He wrote ‘The Crucible’ in order to highlight the dangers of ideological zealotry of any kind, using the parallels between the extreme prejudices of the late 17th century and that of Cold War McCarthyism as his graphic illustrations.
In conclusion, if we consider this scene against the background of the 1950s McCarthy Communist ‘witch trials’, the audience would be well aware of the parallels between the two eras each with their won an all-pervading tension. They could identify with Proctor’s tension, his feeling of helplessness and his “angered” tone all of which make good drama. Indeed this scene has a timeless dramatic appeal for anyone who has ever suffered the unkind, unfounded prejudice of others.