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

Summary

The third act takes place in the vestry room of the Salem meeting house, where legal proceedings are being held. When Judge Hathorne asks Martha Corey whether she practices witchcraft by reading fortunes, she denies it. As Hathorne cross-examines her, Giles Corey, her husband, interrupts to say that Putnam has accused his wife falsely, for he wants to take their property from them. There is an exchange of hot words between Hathorne and Corey, and Hale tries to intervene. Deputy Governor Danforth arrives and wants to know who Corey is. Reverend Parris tries to prejudice him by speaking against Corey. Danforth does not allow Corey to speak on his wife's behalf and wants him to put down whatever he has to say in writing. Corey is then dragged out of the room under Danforth's orders.

Francis Nurse speaks out and requests that the accused be allowed to show that the girls are fraudulent. Reverend Parris and Judge Hathorne do not want this to be allowed; instead they plead for action against Corey and Nurse for contempt. While Nurse is still pleading, Corey comes back with Proctor and Mary Warren. Danforth stops Parris from threatening Mary and wants to know what she has to say. Overcome by fear and emotion, she is unable to speak. Proctor and Corey say on her behalf that she has never seen any spirits, and Proctor produces a deposition she has signed to that effect. Parris does not want her to be heard by the court, but Danforth is unwilling to close his mind. He warns Proctor, however, that severe punishment will be given to him if he is trying to mislead the court. Cheever informs the court that when he had gone to arrest Proctor's wife, Proctor had torn the court order to pieces and damned the court. Parris complains to Danforth that Proctor does not come to church even once a month, and Cheever complains that Proctor plows his fields on Sundays. Hale intervenes to say that a man should not be judged on such evidence. Proctor tries to plead with Danforth about the good character and reputation of most of the arrested women. Parris tries to counter this by saying that even Cain was a good man before he killed Abel.


Danforth informs Proctor of his wife's claim that she is pregnant and his decision to allow her to live for a year if it is so. He indirectly suggests that Proctor need not proceed with Mary's deposition. Even then, Proctor does not agree to drop the charge that the girls are lying. Parris tells Danforth that Proctor's aim is to overthrow the court. Proctor says that he cannot let down his friends, whose wives also are charged. He produces a declaration by ninety-one townsmen that Rebecca Nurse, Elizabeth Proctor, and Martha Corey are all good women. Parris persuades Danforth that this is an attack on the court and that all the signatories should be brought in for questioning. Hathorne supports him. Hale tries to offer an objection, but is cut off by Parris. Francis Nurse is deeply shocked and worried that these people, who were only trying to help him and others, will be harmed, but Danforth tells him that if they are innocent they have nothing to fear.

Proctor submits Corey's deposition alleging that Thomas Putnam deliberately prompted his daughter to falsely accuse George Jacobs. He did this because if Jacobs is hanged as a witch, Putnam alone will be in a position to buy his property and purchase it cheaply. On being questioned, Corey refuses to divulge the name of the person who had heard the conversation between Putnam and his daughter. He points out that when once, in good faith, he merely mentioned the name of his wife, she was then jailed. Hathorne and Parris try to provoke Danforth to charge Corey with contempt of court. Hale pleads against this, saying that there is already a widespread fear of the court, and such an action may further aggravate the situation. Corey is put under arrest and tries to attack Putnam. Proctor holds him back and says that they will still bring out the truth. Corey says that Danforth has already made up his mind against them and advises Proctor to desist from doing anything more.

Proctor submits Mary Warren's deposition to Danforth. Hale requests Danforth to allow Proctor to engage a lawyer, as the matter is very serious. He also expresses his uneasiness for having signed seventy-two death warrants, including that for Rebecca. Danforth rules against his request and asks Hale whether he is questioning his judgment. Hale is nonplussed and has to agree that the proceedings may continue. Danforth then asks Mary whether she has been threatened by Proctor. When she says no and says that she was lying earlier, he points out that she has lied in court, either earlier or now. Either way, she is guilty of bearing false evidence and will be severely punished.

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