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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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ACT III, SCENE 4

Proctor brings in Mary Warren, the star witness for the defense.
A great deal of maneuvering takes place before Danforth agrees
to listen to Mary's story. First John Proctor must be tested. He
brought Mary here, and both Francis Nurse and Giles Corey
look to Proctor to speak for them. Why is Proctor doing this?
Danforth wants to know. Just to save his wife? Apparently not,
because Proctor won't drop the charge even after he finds out
Elizabeth is pregnant and is therefore safe for a year or more.
And his charge is shocking: the children are lying. If this charge
is true, it will mean that seventy-two people have been
condemned to hang on the basis of lies. This will undermine the
authority of the court, and Danforth will be lucky to escape
Salem with his life. So he must be absolutely certain Proctor is
to be taken seriously.

Once he is convinced of Proctor's sincerity, Danforth proceeds
to investigate the charge without hesitating. Considering what
he has at stake, this is courageous.

Proctor has built his case carefully. He has prepared three
depositions, or written statements, which he hopes will win the
court over. This shows good strategy: if the first deposition has
little effect, bring in the second; if that's still not enough, bring
in the third.



The first statement backfires; everyone who signed it will now
be arrested. The second fares worse: Giles Corey accuses
Thomas Putnam of "reaching out for land." Putnam is brought
in, and of course denies it. Giles, seeing what happened to the
people who signed the first petition, refuses to reveal the source
of his information. And then he makes matters worse by trying
to catch Danforth in a legal technicality. This angers the deputy
governor, who declares the court in full session. Now all that's
left between the victims and disaster is the third deposition,
Mary Warren's.

But before Mary's ordeal begins, let's check up on Reverend
Hale. Remember he's our proxy, he stands in for us in this play.
You'll recall how much he changed in the week between Act I
and Act II. Another week has passed; has Hale changed still
further? In one way he is still the same. When anyone gets
excited, Hale's the first one to try to calm things down. But now
there's an added note of desperation in his pleas for peace, as if
he's afraid he himself might be losing control. Notice what he's
saying. In Act II he defended the court against the outrage of the
farmers. Now he's defending the farmers against the sternness of
the judges. He supports Giles Corey's outburst; he protests that
every defense is not an attack upon the court; he tries to excuse
Giles' silence by saying "there is a prodigious fear of this court
in the country"; and he thinks Proctor's "weighty claim" should
be argued by a lawyer.

In all of these attempts he is brushed aside. Perhaps this
explains his desperation: he sees this situation drifting toward
disaster, and he is losing-or has already lost-his power to stop
it.

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