Reading The Crucible (page 2)
The accused townspeople are brought before a judge and tried as witches. (Coincidentally, one of the people named as a witch is Elizabeth Proctor - that will make things convenient for Abigail, who is obsessed with winning back John Proctor.) But when John Proctor receives word that this wife will be brought before the judge, he tells his servant girl, Mary Warren (and good friend of Abigail), that she must expose the girls and their lies.
In the courtroom, the drama reaches its climax. Mary tells the court that the girls are lying, but the officials believe that she is only coming forward because her employer, John Proctor, has put her up to it. Meanwhile, Judge Danforth reveals to John that his wife’s trial will be delayed because she is pregnant. Proctor wants to save not only his wife, but all of the townspeople, so he pushes for Mary to testify.
As Mary starts to tell her story, the girls start to scream that Mary is using her witchcraft to cast a spell on them. Proctor exclaims that Abigail has only named his wife out of jealousy and confesses to the affair. (Can you imagine the murmur in that courtroom? Murmur, murmur…)
In order to verify Proctor’s story, the Judge brings in Elizabeth and questions her about the affair. In a completely misguided attempt to protect her husband, Elizabeth denies the affair. Abigail and friends continue to suffer from the “spell” that Mary has cast on them, and under the strain Mary screams out that Proctor is the one who is a witch! He is arrested, and the curtain falls!
Useful vocabulary in a conversation about the courtroom scene:
- Veracity - Truthfulness
- Vindicate - Prove right; remove blame
- Vilification - Blacken someone’s name
- Impugn - To oppose as false
- Denounce - To pronounce evil
The last act relates the falling action of the story. Interestingly, Mary has taken off with all of her uncle’s money and disappeared - probably with some boy in a fast car, or cart as the case may be. The accused witches are awaiting their fate at the gallows, and John Proctor is among them. Elizabeth comes to see her husband with a deal from the court - if he admits to being a witch his life will be spared, otherwise he will hang. (Seems a little backwards, doesn’t it?) Because he does not want to die without seeing his child, he agrees - but that is where his complicity ends. The court asks him to name his “fellow witches” but he refuses, eventually tearing up the agreement when they continue to interrogate him. Rather than incriminate an innocent person, he will go to his death at the gallows.