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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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ACT II, SCENE 6

Sure enough, Ezekiel Cheever, clerk of the Court, appears at the
door, followed by Marshal Herrick. The trap has been sprung on
Elizabeth. The poppet Mary Warren made out of boredom, to
fill the long hours of sitting in court, and then gave to Elizabeth
to make up for being so long away from home, is now the "hard
proof" that Elizabeth is a witch. It's ludicrous that a doll would
cause a woman to hang. What signifies a poppet?, everyone
wants to know.

NOTE: Dolls, teddy bears, and the like play a large part in the
lives of most young children. You probably had one yourself,
and remember playing games and having elaborate
conversations with it. Puritan children were no different from
other children in having dolls to play with. Poppets were not in
themselves anything to worry about, or else how could Mary
Warren make one in full view of the judges and the court?

But in one respect a poppet was suspicious. A child could have
a poppet, but a grownup keeping one was unnatural. Witches
were widely believed to make images of their victims in order to
torment them from a distance. The witch would stick a needle or
thorn into the body of the image, and that part of the victim's
body would be wracked with searing pain. Stick the needle in
the image's heart, and the victim was supposed to die.

Why would Abigail dare to do something as outrageous as this?
Several answers are possible: 1) she's gone crazy and doesn't
know what she's doing anymore; 2) she's drunk with the power
she's acquired and is seeing how far she can go in leading
grownups by the nose; 3) Elizabeth is right, "she'd dare not call
out such a farmer's wife but there be monstrous profit in it. She
thinks to take my place."



Hale's position at this moment is critical. He's a figure of
authority, not only as a judge, but as a specialist in witchcraft. If
Abigail's trick gets past him, she's likely to get away with it, and
Elizabeth Proctor will hang for being a witch.

We know, as the Proctors know, what Abigail is up to.
Whatever her motivation, she stuck that needle in her belly
herself. But how do we know? First, by circumstantial evidence:
we saw Mary Warren give the poppet to Elizabeth just moments
before Hale arrived. Elizabeth hasn't left the room since then, so
if she had stuck the needle in the poppet, we'd have seen her.
More important, we know Abigail Williams-what kind of
person she is, what she wants-and we believe she is capable of
trying to frame Elizabeth.

Hale is in the dark on both these points. When he entered the
Proctors' house for the first time in his life, that poppet was
sitting on the mantelpiece and could have been there for years
for all he knows. As far as he's concerned, Abigail Williams is
what he sees every day in court: a young girl writhing in agony
on the floor, suffering so hideously that it breaks his heart and
fills him with rage against her tormentors.

For all his learning and keen intelligence, the Reverend John
Hale also has a tender heart, and it is this, if anything, that
makes him falter now. It's hard for him to believe that women of
such spotless reputation as Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey
could be witches. It means, as he says, that "nothing's left to
stop the whole green world from burning." But he can't discount
the possibility. He's seen too many "wonders" in court.

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