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Free Study Guide-The Crucible by Arthur Miller-Free Booknotes Summary
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ACT IV

Summary

The fourth and final act takes place in the Salem jail in the fall of 1692. At midnight, Herrick is clearing the prison cells occupied by Sarah and Tituba to make them ready for the arrival of Danforth. Both of them have partially lost their minds during their imprisonment. Danforth arrives with Hathorne and Cheever. He learns from Herrick that Hale frequently visits the jail and prays with the inmates. Hathorne suggests to Danforth that Parris may be going mad, and Cheever suggests it may be due to his arguing with the farmers about who owns the cows roaming the streets.

Parris arrives and Danforth rebukes him for allowing Hale inside the jail. Parris replies that Hale is trying to persuade Rebecca, her sister, and Martha Corey to confess and so save their lives. Agitatedly, he also reports that Abigail and Mercy have stolen thirty-one pounds from his strong-box and vanished. He suggests that they were afraid for their own safety, having heard of the rebellion in the nearby town of Andover, where the citizens have reportedly thrown out the court there. Parris is afraid that when respectable people like Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor are hanged, there will be a rebellion in Salem also.

Parris proposes that the hangings be postponed and that Hale be given every opportunity to secure a confession from at least one of convicted; if one of the accused confesses, the others will automatically stand condemned in the public eye. Danforth demurs, but orders that every effort be made to secure at least one confession before daybreak, when they are to be hanged. Parris then reports that when he opened his door that evening, he found a dagger in it and now fears for his life. He pleads strongly for not hanging the prisoners.


Reverend Hale arrives and pleads that the seven prisoners scheduled to be hanged at sunrise should be pardoned. Danforth refuses, saying that it would be unjust to pardon them when twelve guilty people have already been hanged. He states that their lives can be saved if they only confess to participating in witchcraft. Hale reports that none of them is willing to confess to crimes that they have not committed. He says that he has spoken to all of them except Proctor, who has been held in the dungeon. They decide amongst themselves to put pressure on Elizabeth Proctor to persuade her husband to confess.

Elizabeth is brought before them. Hale tells her that he is no longer an officer of the court. In his personal capacity, he tries to persuade her to prevail upon her husband to confess and be saved. He tells her that he has lost his faith in God and the church and would not like to have caused her husband's execution. She agrees to speak to him, but refuses to promise that she will persuade him to confess. Proctor is brought, and Danforth advises him to consult his wife and turn his back on hell by confessing.

After the others have left, Proctor and Elizabeth speak. He asks whether anybody has confessed, and she tells him the names of those who have done so. She says that Rebecca has not confessed and that Giles died after being badly tortured. However, as he neither confessed nor denied the charges against him, he could not be condemned as a wizard. As a result, his sons will be able to inherit his farm. She also says that Martha Corey has also refused to confess.

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