The Crucible Act 1 Test Review
Act 1 The Overture
What does the phrase “endless capacity for dissembling” tell us about Abigail? • She is extremely deceptive • always question her reliability • Search for a hidden motive in her words
Why does Abigail admit to dancing in the forest? • She knows Parris saw them • It is a lesser offense than witchcraft • She hopes this will satisfy him and prevent further questioning and/or an accusation of witchcraft
Function of forest at night • Practical function--makes sense that the girls would sneak into the forest at night so they wouldn’t be observed dancing. • Atmospheric function—Salem in 1692 would be like a frontier outpost. Puritan inhabitants believed forest was a wild, dark place—the abode of heathens and evil spirits. • Figurative function—represents all that makes their community vulnerable to physical and spiritual attack.
Parris’ character revealed when questioning Abigail • His ministry is at stake • His reputation could be exposed to suspicion • Doesn’t want to be blind-sided with info about her that others may have
hypocritical • because he uses the church to justify his demands for money.
paranoid • because he wonders if those who oppose him serve the devil and because he thinks Proctor is the leader of a plot.
arrogant • because he believes that church members must obey the pastor or chaos will ensue.
Abigail’s spotless reputation • Claims there are no disparaging rumors about her character. • Was discharged from Goody Proctor’s service. • Goody Proctor rarely goes to church to avoid “sitting so close to something so soiled.” • No one else in the village will hire her.
Abigail’s response • Attacks Goody Proctor’s character but does not deny the existence of the remark. (so there is a rumor about her!) • All the other women in the village are the same as Goody Proctor (so people do have doubts about her!) • Tries to change subject and put Parris on defensive (Do you begrudge my bed, Uncle?) • Calls Goody Proctor “a gossiping liar.” • (Her answers, however, suggest she is the one lying)
Rev. Parris’ change of heart • Initially, doesn’t believe there to be any witchcraft in Salem. • Putnam reminds him that he has taken Parris’ side in all contentious matters so far, but threatens to withdraw that support if Parris holds back in this matter. • Everyone is always questioning his actions—which he doesn’t like—so he says that he is beginning to wonder if that is the work of the devil.
FYIIn a written commentary on the play, Miller indicated that he considered Thomas Putnam one of the play’s principal villains. He notes that Putnam was vindictive, with many grievances against his neighbors. He had numerous complaints involving disputes over ownership of land. Miller notes that Putnam seems to have played a key role in the accusations of witchcraft. Some historians have concluded that the real Thomas Putnam used accusations of witchcraft as an excuse to gain land.
Reasons the Putnams believe the girls and Tituba are involved in witchcraft. • Their babies were murdered • Ruth was close to conjuring up their spirits. • Some power of darkness struck her dumb. • A murdering witch is hiding among the people.
FYISneezing can occur when dust or pollen irritates the lining in the nasal passages. Congestion from colds or allergies can also force a person to sneeze. Ruth Putnam may have had a physical illness; however, superstition also held that sneezing might indicate that a possessed person was expelling demons through the nose. This may be the origin of the practice of saying “God bless you” when a person sneezes. It also probably is the reason Mercy suggests that sneezing may restore Ruth’s senses.
Will the real Abigail please stand up!! • With the adults gone, Abigail becomes the dominant personality, telling the other girls what to say, threatening them and insinuating her capacity for violence if they betray her.
To fake or not to fake or is something really wrong with Betty? • Responds when adults are out of room • Knows that Abigail did not reveal everything about that night in the forest (drinking a charm to kill Goody Proctor)
Enter John Proctor Enter Abigail #3?
How is Abigail able to adapt her demeanor to suit her purposes? • With her uncle—feigns concern and righteous indignation • With the girls—domineering and cruel • With Proctor—coy and seductive
How does Miller use names to imply relationships? • The other girls say Mr. Proctor; Abigail calls him John. Her uncle always calls her Abigail; Proctor calls her Abby. This suggests an intimacy borne out in the flirtatious exchange of this act.
He admits he had reached for her in the past (but for what?) • To comfort her? • To confide in her? • Possibly more?
“Wipe it out of mind” • Is this his way of telling her to pretend nothing ever happened or to forget about anything ever happening?
“We never touched, Abby.” • Physically? • spiritually? • Denial?
He does not deny having looked up at her window. • Does this mean lust? • Wondering if she’s okay?
Is John Proctor merely guilty of flirting with Abigail? • Or something more?
Does she exaggerate the seriousness of the relationship? • I am waitin’ for you every night, yet he hasn’t stepped off his farm in seven months.
FYIPuritans believed that you did not have to actually commit the act to be guilty of it. They thought that if you lusted in your heart, it was the same thing as committing adultery. Therefore, John Proctor could have considered himself guilty of cheating on his wife without ever having physically touched Abby.
How do the Putnams differ from Proctor and Rebecca on the issue of witchcraft? • Putnams seem determined to prove that witchcraft is afoot. • Proctor and Rebecca believe there is a natural explanation for the children’s behavior.
Why might Ann Putnam hate Rebecca Nurse? • Ann Putnam has lost seven babies in infancy. Now her only surviving child is behaving strangely and is ill. • Rebecca Nurse has 11 children and 26 grandchildren all of whom seem to be healthy.
FYIIn his commentary on the play, Miller describes Rebecca and Francis Nurse as people highly respected for their moral character, good judgment, and success. He notes that, before the arrival of Parris, the Nurses and their friends had blocked the appointment of a minister supported by the Putnams. Political differences also were leading to conflicts between the Nurses’ friends and the town authorities allied with the Putnams.
Sagacious Advice “I think she’ll wake in time. Pray calm yourselves. I have eleven children, and I am twenty-six times a grandma, and I have seen them all through their sill seasons, and when it come on them they will run the Devil bowlegged keeping up with their mischief. I think she’ll wake when she tires of it. A child’s spirit is like a child, you can never catch it by running after it; you must stand still, and, for love, it will soon itself come back.”
More Wise Advice • “Mr. Parris, I think you’d best send Reverend Hale back as soon as he come. This will set us all to arguin’ again in the society, and we thought to have peace this year. I think we ought rely on the doctor now, and good prayer.” • “No, you cannot break charity with your minister. You are another kind, John. Clasp his hand, make your peace.”
Abigail and Mrs. Proctor • Goody Proctor fired her. • Abigail is infatuated with John Proctor and believes he loves her. • Mrs. Proctor’s death would clear the way for marriage between them.
Abigail vs. John Proctor • He denies he ever gave her any reason to hope for there to be anything between them. • She thinks she loves him and wants to be his wife.
John Proctor vs. Rev. Parris • Demands the deed to his house • Wastes the church money on extravagant furnishings • Preaches hellfire and damnation w/o mentioning God’s name
The Putnams vs. The Nurses • The Nurses own land that the Putnams covet • Rebecca Nurse has never lost a child nor grandchild, while Mrs. Putnam has lost all but one of her children • The Nurses opposed the Putnams’ choice for a minister
John Proctor vs Elizabeth Proctor • The relationship between the Proctors is strained. • Elizabeth is suspicious of John. • Elizabeth has been sick for a long time. • John Proctor confessed his lust to her • They don’t talk much
“What victory would the Devil have to win a soul already bad? It is the best the Devil wants, and who is better than a minister?” • Hale makes the assumption that the minister must be the best person in the village, but the facts show that Parris is not a good man.
“You are God’s instrument put in our hands to discover the Devil’s agents among us…” • Instead of saving the village from the Devil, he is persuading her to make false accusations of witchcraft against innocent people.
The authority of the church is supreme and if church members don’t obey the minister, chaos will ensue, and the church will be destroyed. Reverend Parris Reverend Hale Authority
Individual conscience is the final authority, and every church member has the right to say what he believes. John Proctor Authority
“What victory would the devil have to win a soul already bad?” Foreshadows the eventual charges against respectable citizens.
Gossip…Gossip…Gossip!!! • Rev. Parris tells Abigail that he heard it said that Goody Proctor doesn’t go to church as often as she used to because she doesn’t want to sit next to something soiled. • Goody Putnam says she heard Betty flew over Ingersoll’s barn. • Abigail has been out of work for seven months, and no one will hire her which probably means people are speculating about why the Proctor’s fired her. • Goody Putnam tells everyone that Rev. Hale discovered a witch in Beverly last year. • Mr. Putnam says there are children dying in the village.
Irony • Rev Parris says “I don’t preach for the little children. It isn’t the children who are unmindful of their obligations toward this ministry.” He doesn’t think the children are important enough to be instructed and yet it’s the children who start the cries of witchcraft. • The audience knows the children are faking their illness, but some of the characters do not know. • Rev. Hale said the devil can’t overcome a minister, and yet Rev. Parris is evil.. • Rev. Hale said Tituba was an instrument for saving the village, she was really be used to accuse innocent people.
Dissembling • What she said to the adults as opposed to what she said when the adults were gone. • She encourages Parris to go pray with the people seemingly worried about his ministry, but she really just wants to get him out of the room. • All that mushy stuff she said to John Proctor because she knew Betty would hear it.
In his stage directions, what are some good and bad points that Miller observes about the Puritans? • Miller notes the Puritans' severe style of living and seems to recognize it as both beneficial and detrimental. His use of the phrase "clean spareness" implies that he is impressed with their lack of clutter and random knick-knacks lying about. Other phrases such as "leaded panes" and "raw and unmellowed" emphasize how harsh and oppressive their style of living. This atmosphere is partly responsible for the events that transpire.
Who is Betty and what is wrong with her? • Betty Parris is Reverend Parris' only child and Abigail Williams' cousin. She is unconscious and no one has been able to wake her. She entered this state the night before when her father caught her dancing with Abigail and a number of their friends. This is not the only thing wrong with Betty-- she is also under the influence of Abigail and is unable to consider the consequences of her actions. Like many girls of that age, Betty seems to want to fit in with the older girls and blindly follows their example in accusing myriad villagers.