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Parris : Why not? Now there are no spirits attacking her, for none in this room is accused of witchcraft. So let her turn herself cold now, let her pretend she is attacked now, let her faint. (He turns to Mary Warren.) Faint! Act 3, Page 85 This is when the court first has the idea of getting Mary to prove the other girls are frauds by getting her to pretend to faint. She will not because she is afraid of what the girls will do to her. Or cannot, for fear of the court This is one of the highest points of tension in the whole play because everything and everyone is focused on Mary, relying on her in one way or another to either tell the truth or to lie. But there is so much pressure on Mary that she can’t say anything.
The pressure builds and builds until Mary cracks then Abigail launches a perfectly timed attack. Just when people are confused about whom to believe Abigail turns on Mary and makes them believe her. The girls turning on Mary is a dramatically effective part in act three. This is because when the girls turn on Mary you feel sorry for her due to the fact she is torn between telling the truth to the court or joining the girls again to prevent them from accusing her. “Mary Warren, do you witch her? I say to you, do you send your spirit out?”
Danforth, Act 3, Page 87 When Danforth asks her this question Mary snaps and pushes herself away from Proctor. Mary Warren, Act 3, page 88 This is when Mary’s delicate relationship with Proctor breaks down and she will no longer cover for him and put herself at risk from being accused by the rest of the girls. Abigail : (Looking about the air, clasping her arms about her as though cold): I – I know not. A wind, a cold wind, has come. (Her eyes fall on Mary Warren.) Mary : (Terrified, pleading): Abby! Mercy : (Shivering): Your Honour, I freeze!
Proctor : They’re pretending! Hathorne : (Touching Abigail’s hand): She is cold Your Honour, touch her! Mercy : (Through chattered teeth ): Mary, Do you send this shadow on me? Act 3, Page 87 This is when the girls first start to turn on Mary, she is a very fragile person and when they start to turn on her she doesn’t know what to do. She was used to pointing the finger of accusation not having it pointed at her and on her own she can’t cope. So she betrays the truth and goes back to the safety of the girls and being the accuser not the accused.
Mary finally breaks down and accuses Proctor of witchcraft. Fearful for her own life, Mary realizes that the only way to save herself is to accuse Proctor of coercing her into attempting to overthrow the court. In this case the accusation contains some truth: Proctor did force Mary Warren into testifying, yet in this case the purpose is to promote true justice rather than to dispute it. Elizabeth lying to protect Proctor is a dramatically effective part in act three because there is a lot of tension when Elizabeth is brought into the court.
Miller uses dramatic irony when Elizabeth doesn’t know that Proctor has confessed to lechery and that they are testing her to see if Proctor was telling the truth. Elizabeth doesn’t know that it is Abigail that is being tried and so she lies to protect her husband but in fact by lying she is in the eyes of the court proving that her husband is a liar. Miller uses the frustration of Proctor as his wife is lying but there is no way he can tell her that by trying to protect him she is actually getting him into more trouble
“Look at me, to your own knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery! (In a crisis of indecision she cannot speak.) Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher!” Danforth, Act 3, page 91 You can see by this, that Danforth doesn’t give Elizabeth much choice and practically puts the words into her mouth. By saying is your husband a lecher he leaves her no choice but to say “no”. What kind of woman would call her husband a lecher in front of a court?
“(There is a knock. He calls to the door.) Hold! (To Abigail.) Turn your back. Turn your back. (To Proctor.) Do likewise. (Both turn their backs- Abigail with indignant slowness) Now let neither of you turn to face goody proctor. No one in this room is to speak one word, or raise a gesture aye or nay. (He turns towards the door, calls.) Enter! Danforth, Act 3, Page 90 The Audience feel frustrated because all that Elizabeth has to do is tell the truth and Abigail’s ruthless revenge will be stopped and the truth will be brought to light but there is no way Elizabeth could know this so she does what she thinks is the right thing and tries to protect her husband. In this scene Miller uses dramatic irony very effectively.
Danforth makes the trial look fair but in fact gives Elizabeth no choice but to lie. Danforth : “Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher! Elizabeth : (Faintly): No, sir. Danforth : Remove her, Marshal. Proctor : Elizabeth, tell the truth! Danforth : She has spoken. Remove her! Proctor : (crying out): Elizabeth, I have confessed it! Act 3, Page 91 This point is the dramatic climax of the whole scene because it is the point where Elizabeth finally finds out what she has done, and she is distraught. Hale tries to reason with Danforth when he says, “Excellency it is a natural lie to tell” this shows that Hale is the voice of reason but for most of the time he is not listened to, like Proctor who spoken sense throughout – both are shut out in their ways.
To save her husband from accusations of witchcraft, Elizabeth must condemn him for lechery. Miller establishes that Elizabeth is an honest woman who never lies, yet at the moment in which her honesty is most critical she chooses the noble yet practical lie that she believes will defend her husband. As Hale notes, it is a natural lie for Elizabeth Proctor to tell, yet an incredibly ill timed one; Elizabeth Proctor chooses dishonesty at the precise moment that her integrity matters the most.
Act 3 of ‘The Crucible’ is so effective because Arthur Miller uses a wide variety of emotions for his characters and a good variety of action. One minute the scene can be rather quiet with just simple conversation and the next minute it can be very chaotic with characters hurling accusations and abuse at each other. The reason this play is so effective is because Miller uses moments of calm as well as moments of extreme action, if it was just action, action, action all the time the audience would become immune to it and the really important parts wouldn’t stick in your mind as much.
Act 3 is relevant to the play as a whole because it is the Act where a lot of important things happen and it is the most dramatic, with a lot of tension and anger between different characters. It is what the first two acts have been building up to and you could say it is the climax of the whole play. When Arthur Miller wrote the play, “The Crucible” in 1953 the contemporary audience could relate to the play due to the media coverage that was occurring at the time.
This era was concerned with the political movement of communism; the McCarthy trials. The contemporary audience saw Miller’s play as relevant because of the effects of mass hysteria- the destruction of the community in Salem. Miller felt that the play had relevance although he didn’t write it for that. The reason why the crucible is still so widely liked even though the witch trials are long gone is because it demonstrates the terrible effects of mass hysteria and what it can do to normally rational people. The story reminds its readers of an ugly blemish on human history. It reminds us that man is not perfect, and that we can make mistakes. However, even with these mistakes, we can cleanse ourselves and purify ourselves by making right what is wrong.