The court is in session at Salem. Suddenly Giles shouts out that Putnam only wants to gram extra land. He even offers to give evidence for this claim. Judge Hathorne, Reverends Parris, and Hale, as well as Deputy Governor Danforth, Join Francis and Giles in the vestry to investigate this particular issue. Mary Warren & proctor get into the room. Mary offers her testimony that the other girls and she were merely pretending to be victims of witchcraft. This astonishes the judge, who then queries Proctor whether he had informed the village of Mary’s allegations. Parris then affirms that they all desire to overthrow the court.
Proctor is then asked by Danforth whether he is plotting to challenge the court’s authority. However, he emphasizes that he only intends to liberate his wife. Cheever then informs Judge Hathorne that Proctor teared up Elizabeth’s arrest warrant. Danforth proceeds to ask Proctor about the religious beliefs he holds. He is specifically amazed by Parris’ claims, that Proctor goes to church only once in a month. Cheever further reveals that Proctor even plows on Sundays.
Hathorne and Danforth tell proctor not to be concerned about Elizabeth’s impending execution since she claims she is expecting a child. She can only be hanged after delivery. Danforth asks to drop his condemnation of the court only for his request to be denied by Proctor. He submits a signed deposition that attests Elizabeth, Rebecca and Martha’s good conduct. Parris argues that they should all be summoned for more questioning since the deposition challenges the court. Hale then questions why all defenses are deemed as attacks on the court.
The marshal leads Putnam into the room to defend himself against Giles allegation that he influenced his daughter to charge George Jacobs with witchcraft. If Jacobs is executed, he stands to lose his property. Moreover, Putnam is the only one with the ability to buy such a piece of land. Giles declines to identify the person who informed him about it since he does not desire to make him vulnerable to Putnam’s revenge. Giles is then arrested for disrespecting the court.
Danforth then orders for the arrest of Abigail and her company of girls. Upon hearing Mary’s account, Abigail denies it. Mary still holds the belief that the girls are merely pretending. Hathorne then asks Mary to mimic fainting. Mary refuses, saying she does not get the sense of it. After continuous pressure, she fumbles and narrates that she thought she saw some spirits. Danforth still pressures Abigail for the truth. She starts shivering, and the other girls also join her. They believe Mary bewitched them through a cold wind.
Proctor then attacks Abigail calling her a prostitute. He then confesses that he had an affair with her and further states that his wife fired Abigail after discovering it. Proctor insists that Abigail is vouching for Elizabeth’s execution in order to replace her in his home. Governor Danforth orders Proctor and Abigail to turn their backs. After that, he orders for Elizabeth’s arrest. Danforth then asks Elizabeth to explain why she dismissed Abigail. Elizabeth tries to get a clue from Proctor, but Danforth orders her to face him while speaking. She says she mistakenly believed that Proctor desired Abigail. She, therefore, became angry and fired her without a solid reason. Just as Herrick leads Elizabeth out of the court, Proctor pleads that he has admitted to his sin. Nevertheless, Elizabeth has no chance to defend herself anymore. Hale cajoles Danforth to rethink, claiming that Abigail always comes across to him as a fake.
Suddenly, Abigail and all the girls begin screaming, claiming that Mary is using her spirit to torment them. In the resulting frenzy, Mary begins to scream as well. She calls Proctor the devil’s agent who influenced her. Danforth immediately orders for Proctor to be seized. Hale opposes the move and resigns from the court.
A Profound Analysis of the Act
In this act, the court is not interested in any evidence. It is cork sure that witchcraft is actively practiced in Salem. The court failed to recognize its heavy-handedness by forcing the accused to make false confessions. It threatens to hand innocent people if they do not confess. The judges also deem themselves on God’s side and are always correct. They cannot accept or even condone the idea of anybody challenging them.
Paris decides to take the court’s side by giving in to the hysteria in order to maintain a good reputation. He has recanted his reservations on witchcraft just like Abigail. Danforth seems to be an open-minded judge compared to Harthorne. He shows more willingness to accept the fact that he could be wrong.
Danforth tries to discover Proctor’s intent and proctor withholds his integrity by declining to be content with the pardon of just his spouse. It is also clear that the charges put people’s reputations in jeopardy. Proctor attempts to counter these attacks by offering proof of good reputation.
Hale starts to realize the ideological blindness of the court. Since Danforth views the court as always correct, he cannot imagine it being unjust. He believes that fearing the court might indicate guilt. The main villains in this book are Putnam and Abigail. The hysteria has caused the townspeople to believe in witchcraft and even fear it. However, the two can exploit this hysteria and the court’s naivety to their advantage.
The reader is also able to notice that hysteria can distort how people perceive reality. Mary was speaking the truth when she claimed she saw spirits. However, she only believed she did so because of the hysterical reactions of those around her. Proctor puts his reputation on the line to disprove Abigail’s account. In the process, he regains trust by telling the truth to save the innocent.
However, Elizabeth is not aware that Proctor is the one who admitted to his adultery. As such, she makes matters worse for Proctor & the other accused by attempting to defend proctor’s reputation instead of going by her instinct to uphold integrity. Hale bases his arguments on logic and evidence, but Danforth no longer wants to listen.
This cycle of forced confessions leads to Mary’s betrayal of Proctor and Danforth fools himself. Claiming the death of God is the ultimate sin in Puritan society. Blinded by sheer faith, Danforth believes that Proctor is asserting his allegiance to the devil. However, Hale knows better.