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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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ACT III, SCENE 5

To answer this question, Danforth brings in Abigail, Mercy
Lewis, Susanna Walcott, and Betty Parris. This is horribly
unfair-four against one-but in a way there's no alternative.
Somebody's lying here, and the only way to find out who is to
face Mary with those she's accusing.

Even if Proctor's plan had worked and the first two depositions
hadn't backfired, the whole weight of his charge would still rest
on the slender shoulders of Mazy Warren. If Abigail will not
confess to lying-and from what we know of her this is unlikely-
we'll have a case of Mary Warren's word against the girls'. And
as Danforth says, "I have until this moment not the slightest
reason to suspect that the children may be deceiving me."

In all fairness to Danforth, here he is bending over backward to
give Proctor's charge the benefit of the doubt. Much about
Proctor is suspicious: his wife's in jail; he doesn't come to
church but plows on Sunday; Mary's obviously been threatened
by him, even though she denies it. And Mary is a confessed liar-
that is, if she's telling the truth now. Despite all these doubts,
Danforth turns to the girls and urges them to tell the truth.

Notice how he speaks to them. All Mary Warren got from him
was sharp questions, full of accusation. To the girls, Danforth's
tone is considerate, almost respectful. He tells them Mary's
charge, then lets them know just how suspicious of her he is:

...it may well be that Mary Warren has been conquered by
Satan, who sends her here to distract our sacred purpose. If so,
her neck will break for it.



He follows this up with the weak assurance that "a quick
confession will go easier with you."

Danforth's unconscious prejudice is not lost on Abigail. He has
just told her whom he wants to believe, so she tells him flatly
that Mary is lying.

But Proctor won't let it be settled so easily. "What may Mary
Warren gain but hard questioning and worse?" he asks, knowing
this question is in Danforth's mind as well. Then Proctor goes
on the attack: Abigail is no child, she laughs at prayer, she leads
other girls out to dance naked in the woods. This is all news to
Danforth, and he looks at Abigail with fresh eyes.

But then judge Hathorne, who so far has been kept in the
background by Danforth's superiority, comes up with an
ingenious idea. If Mary was only pretending before, let her
pretend now, let her give them all a demonstration of how she
deceived the court. Of course she can't do it. Who could, under
such circumstances?

NOTE: Remember the discussion of the girls' fits in Act I.
Modern research shows that one of the best ways to cure mass
hysteria is to isolate its victims from one another. This was
actually tried in Salem in 1692: one of the youngest of the
afflicted girls was sent to Beverly, where she stayed with
Reverend Hale's wife and two daughters. Within a few weeks
she had calmed down almost completely. Perhaps this is Mary
Warren's problem here: she's been "cured by her week away
from the other girls. She's lost the sense of it now," as she says.

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