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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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ACT III, SCENE 1

Act III is a courtroom drama. We've been hearing a lot about
this court; now we will see it in action. Arthur Miller has
prepared us for the coming battle between the witch-hunters and
their victims. We now know all the principal characters, where
they stand and what they want. All the subplots have been laid
out: 1) Parris and the "faction" bent on ousting him; 2) Thomas
Putnam's greed for more land; 3) Ann Putnam's poisonous envy
of Rebecca Nurse; 4) Hale's struggle with his conscience; 5)
Abigail's deceitfulness and her designs on John Proctor, 6) The
trouble in the Proctors' marriage; and 7) Mary Warren's
dilemma of being caught in the crossfire. The outcome of all
these plots will be decided in this act. As Mr. Hale once said,
"You will witness some frightful wonders in this room, so
please keep your wits about you." But everything's so
complicated, how can we do that?

NOTE: A courtroom drama is a lot like a football game. First of
all, there are regulations: things nobody can do, things certain
players can do but others can't, penalties for breaking these
rules. There are yard lines, out-of-bounds lines, and goal lines.
When the ball is snapped, everybody takes off in a different
direction. If you've never seen a football game before, it must
look like utter chaos. But at the end of each play, the ball is
usually in a different place, and you can tell which way and how
far it's been moved.



It's hard to watch a game and not take sides. You don't watch a
game just to see who wins, but to see if your team will win. And
you want your team to win; you cheer when it does well, and
your heart sinks when the other team does better.

The longer you watch, the more you learn about the rules,
almost without knowing it. Of course you want to know how
well your team is playing, but you also become interested in
how they're playing (What plays are they running? Is the other
team playing fair?).

A courtroom drama works in much the same way. In the first
place, there are two sides-prosecution and defense-and only
one side can win. Usually we've already taken a side before the
trial itself starts. Because we care which side wins, we follow
each argument closely, look for loopholes, and try to anticipate
how the case will unfold.

In Act III we have on one side the victims of the witch-hunt,
represented by John Proctor. On the other we have the witch-
hunters themselves. The difference between this courtroom
drama and most others is that the court itself is one of the
contestants. The court, in effect, is the witch-hunt. Without it
there would be no arrests, no jailings, no trials, no convictions,
no hangings.

If John Proctor loses his case, he and all the people who support
him will be destroyed. Reverend Parris repeatedly accuses
Proctor and his followers of trying to overthrow the court. We
may not like Parris very much, but here he's telling the truth.
For Proctor to save himself and his friends, he has to convince
the court that everything it has done so far is wrong. And if the
court is wrong, then a lot of people have suffered-and some
have been put to death-for nothing. If Proctor wins, all belief in
the court will be destroyed, and the judges themselves could be
charged with murder.

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