The Crucible Act 1 Summary And Analysis
The play’s events are set in the year 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts. The community is under a theocratic government. Diligent work and religion take up most of the people’s time and energy. However, there are rising land dispute cases that are sowing discord within the community.
Reverend Parries’ daughter has suddenly gone into a coma, and he is fervently praying in front of her bed. Parris is a stern, grim man who is been constantly paranoid. It has been rumored that his daughter, Betty has been bewitched and visitors have gathered at his parlor. Meanwhile, Parries has summoned an expert on witchcraft matters named Reverend John Hale to confirm the rumors. Parris scolds Abigail Williams, his niece for discovering her dancing in the forest at midnight in the company of Betty, Tituba (his slave) and the other girls. He suspects witchcraft.
Abigail, however, denies that they were engaging in a ritual. She claims that Betty passed out due to shock after being caught by her father dancing. Parris is now worried that the impending scandal might make him lose his office. He then asks Abigail whether she has a good reputation. However, she was once employed by Elizabeth Proctor, who has now fired her. Rumor has it that Elizabeth no longer attends church regularly since she does not desire to sit close to an impure woman. Abigail emphasizes her innocence, claiming that Elizabeth is lying. Parris then wonders why she has never been employed by any other family ever since and Abigail hints that Parris is questioning her employment status because he resents her upkeep.
All of Mrs. Putnam’s seven babies died on their birthdays. She is convinced that they were killed through witchcraft. As such, she decides to send Ruth to request Tituba to consult her dead children’s spirits to reveal the killer. She also urges reverend Parris to announce the discovery of witchcraft immediately. Shortly after, Ruth recovers from her coma and Parries holds a public prayer meeting but keeps silent about witchcraft awaiting Hale’s opinion.
Abigail secretly informs mercy about the situation. Proctor’s servant Mary Warren nervously appears in the room informing them about their impending witchcraft charges. Abigail informs them that she has explained everything to Parris. However, Betty points out that Abigail failed to inform Parris about the ritual to murder Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail hits betty on the face and cautions the others only to mention the dancing. Betty is now comatose again.
A Quick Analysis
The Crucible focuses on the integration of personal sins with hysteria, paranoia, and religious bigotry. The concept of private life would be considered heretical. Salem’s Government is a Christian theocracy. Both state and moral laws are the same. Everyone must abide by the moral code, or will be considered a threat to society.
To regulate people’s morality, they must be constantly monitored. Each inhabitant has a possible witness to his/her private sins. Government officers conduct regular patrols in Salem asking for everyone’s account of individual deeds. Most punishments, including executions, are done in public as a symbol of shame as well as to deter possible offenders.
The play reveals a community filled with hidden personal grudges. Religion touches all aspects of life, but it lacks a ritualized avenue to deal with emotions such as resentment, anger, or jealousy. Interpersonal conflicts and vendettas over property, sexuality and religious offices are simmering beneath the theocratic facade. The superstitious paranoia has penetrated the community’s religion and sets the pace for the hysterical witch trials.
Parris outwardly appears to be a concerned parent. However, upon closer analysis, he is primarily worried about his reputation. He is fearful that Abigail and her group of girls were partaking in acts of witchcraft. For this reason, he fears losing his office and not the defilement of the girl’s souls. Parris concerns only show the extent to which the conflicts have divided the Puritan society of Salem.
The concept of guilt by association is crucial the unfolding events in the play. It is another method of regulating the citizens’ private, moral conduct. For this reason, people must manage private relations based on public law and opinion. To enhance a good reputation, you have to condemn others’ sins publicly. Therefore, guilt by association promotes the publication of individual crimes. Abigail’s questionable reputation after the incident with Elizabeth Proctor puts Parris’ reputation at risk. The witchcraft allegations are an even bigger threat.
Meanwhile, Putnam has personal vendettas against his community members. He is a rich and influential man believing that his social status earns him the right to massive wealth. Putnam could not get his brother-in-law to become a minister, and he lost all his children. He intends to use the prosecutions to seek revenge. His wife also thinks that her children died due to witchcraft.