The Crucible Act 2 Summary and Analysis
As Proctor and his wife are having dinner, Mary Warren leaves to witness the trials in defiance to Elizabeth’s order. Fourteen people have been imprisoned so far. If the suspected witches fail to confess, they shall be hanged. Anybody named by the girls as they fall into hysteria gets arrested for bewitching them.
Proctor cannot believe these events and informs Elizabeth that Abigail swore that the dance was not an act of witchcraft. Elizabeth wants him to testify against the accusations. However, Proctor claims that Abigail’s confession to him was made in private. Elizabeth then begins to mistrust Proctor for being alone with Abigail, and they begin arguing.
Mary returns home and gifts Elizabeth with a doll she sewed while in the courtroom. Meanwhile, Mary and John cannot agree on whether Mary can be attending the court trials. After John threatens to strike her with a whip, Mary attests that she rescued Elizabeth from death by defending her. Proctor orders Mary to retire to bed, but Mary is defiant. Elizabeth now strongly believes that Abigail accused her so as to replace her in her marriage.
Hale pays a visit to the Proctors since he must question everyone mentioned in the witchcraft case. He asks them questions about their faith in Christianity. Hale discovers that the Proctor family never attends church frequently, and their last-born son is yet to be baptized. Proctor also claims to dislike Parris’s ideology. Hale asks the proctors to recite the ten commandments, and during recitation, Proctor skips the commandment about adultery.
Elizabeth tells Proctor to inform Hale about Abigail’s claim that the sickness was not related to witchcraft. Proctor agrees and even emphasizes on their possible execution without a hearing. Francis and Giles hurry into proctor’s house, lamenting on their wives’ arrest. Rebecca is being accused of the supernatural killings of Mrs. Anne Putnam’s seven babies. Martha Corey is also accused of bewitching a man, thus leading to the death of any pig he purchased.
Herrick and Cheever have been sent to arrest Elizabeth, and they arrive at Proctor’s home. This surprises Hale since he is not aware of Elizabeth’s charges. Cheever asks Elizabeth if she owns any dolly. Elizabeth claims not to have ever owned one since her childhood. Cheever inspects the doll and finds a needle stuck within it. He then relates Abigail’s tantrum at Parris’ house during dinner whereby Parris discovered a needle in her abdomen. Abigail then blamed Elizabeth for bewitching her. Mary and Elizabeth appear and inform the investigators that she sewed the doll while in court and left the needle in it.
As Cheever leads Elizabeth away, her husband tears the warrant out of anger. He complains why the plaintiff is always deemed innocent. Hale begins to doubt the accusations. Proctor then insists that Mary must give testimony that she sewed the doll. Mary declines due to fear of Abigail’s vengeance since Abigail informed her of the affair. However, Proctor still demands her testimony, and Mary hysterically declines.
A Brief Analysis of the Act
Abigail & the girls have attained a rare level of authority and influence for young and unmarried girls within a Puritan setting. Just by a mere accusation, they can destroy anybody’s life no matter how rich and influential they are. Mary Warren is now overconfident in her new power such that she thinks she can defy Proctor’s presumed authority over her. Mary reminds him that she is now a court official.
Proctor’s guilt begins to torment him. He is aware of his ability to destroy Abigail, thus ending her regime of terror but is fearful of adultery being discovered, thus tarnishing his reputation. Proctor feels he is under judgment due to his guilt. Elizabeth also points out that he is the one judging himself harshly.
Proctor’s indecision on whether or not to expose his adultery in order to defeat Abigail is further compounded when Hale decides to question all the accused parties. Hale intends to determine the personality of everyone accused by comparing it with Christian values. His intrusion into people’s homes in God’s name shows the accusations intend to discover hidden transgressions. The slightest breach of doctrine is enough reason for suspicion. Though Proctor tries to prove his morality through reciting the ten commandments, he forgets to mention the commandment against adultery the same way he forgot to observe it during his adultery with Abigail. This indicates that he does not follow Christian values and is also a sign that his household has fallen under the influence of witchcraft.
When Proctor disgruntledly inquires why all the accusers are always considered innocent, he points towards the essential benefits of being on the same side with the accusers. Most accusations have followed the standard confession of guilt whereby an individual confesses guilt then demonstrates his or her innocence by making accusations on others. The accusing party enjoys a prestigious position of moral uprightness from this perspective. Proctor complains about the absence of solid evidence, but when it comes to supernatural sins, finding evidence is not very difficult. The only proof is the testimonies of the presumed victims of bewitchment. Therefore, denying their charges is similar to denying the fact that witchcraft exists. This is considered heretical. Therefore, whoever takes the accuser’s side is bound to enjoy the self-righteous task of fulfilling God’s will in eradicating the devil’s influence. On the other hand, anyone who opposes them is threatening the ideals of the Salem society.
In the meantime, Hale is experiencing an internal battle. He liked being invited to Salem since it boosted his ego as an expert. He finds these prosecutions pleasurable due to his authoritative position when it comes to determining who is guilty and who is innocent. Nevertheless, his astonishment following the arrest of Rebecca and the issuance of Elizabeth’s arrest warrant shows that he no longer influences the prosecutions. His power has been transferred to others, and the more the frenzy grows, Hale starts to doubt his sense of justice.