Character and Action:
Characters (and what they are doing in this segment):
- Parris: Tries to encourage Danforth that Proctor is uprising the court
- Hale: Helping Proctor with his charge, trying to bring reasoning
- Danforth: Very stubborn, will not make a final decision
- Proctor: Trying to prove that the girls are only acting, and the women accused are innocent
- Giles: Assisting Proctor with his charge by persuading Danforth
- Mary: Helping Proctor prove the girls are fake, but she’s helping against her will
- Cheever: providing some evidence about Goody Proctor’s charge
- Hathorne: Very small amount spoken; only assisting Danforth
- Herrick: Court Marshal who listens to Danforth’s orders
- Francis: Also helping Proctor with his charge, proving Goody Nurse is innocent
- In the courtroom
- Proctor is defending Goody Proctor and all the other women accused by proving them innocent
- Proctor is also trying to prove that the girls are only acting and that their whole drama is false. This is done by Mary Warren claiming that it all were “pretence”
- Proctor realises that his wife is pregnant, which prevents her from being hanged for another year.
- However, Proctor does not drop the charge because he wants all the other women to not be killed as well.
Themes and Context:
Witchcraft: Very important theme in this act, as the whole court is revolved around these trials, which is why they were called the “witch trials”. There were no other cases that were held in this court, which shows how large this issue became.
Power: In this segment, Danforth sustains his power throughout the whole part, as he is regarded as the highest member of the Supreme Court. The reader can also see subtle hints of Danforth abusing this power throughout this segment. This is because no one else has this large amount of power in order to make decisions. We can also see Danforth’s power conveyed as he cuts off everybody in the middle of their sentence, which no one else does which shows that he is the only one with power.
Hysteria: The whole town orbits around hysteria and we can see this as they turn every little issue into large problems. This is because 16th Century Puritans had no form of enjoyment, so whenever a little issue is brought up, it allows them to have some fun. Even Danforth believes in this hysteria because he believes in the girls’ spectacle.
Revenge: Even though this theme cannot be seen, it can be said that Proctor is seeking revenge on Abigail because she accused Elizabeth that she is a witch.
Context: We can see that this does relate back to the McCarthy era because many innocent people must have been accused as communists and taken away to be eliminated. Therefore, Miller reflects on this context to show to the contemporary reader about this era.
Language/Structure and Effects:
“We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment.”
This metaphor indicates that the court do not accept any liars and anything hidden. The use of the words Danforth has spoken has been chosen carefully by Miller as “burn”, “hot”, “fire” and “melt” all connote back to a fire, which is usually considered as negative. This shows that Danforth is an evil person with the power he retains.
“Plough on Sunday!”
Also spoken by Danforth, this shows how ridiculous 16th Century beliefs were because of this quote. Danforth was absolutely shocked when he heard that Proctor did not go church on Sunday and instead, he ploughed. Miller is trying to show here how hysteric Puritans’ views were at the time.
“The pure in heart need no lawyers.”
Yet again spoken by Danforth, he describes how honest people do not need any help. He said this to Proctor; therefore we can understand that Danforth is assuming that Proctor is a very truthful man, one who is not a liar. So, the reader can see that Danforth is not so cruel and heartless.
“I judge nothing… Do you understand my meaning?”
This is all one quote in a form of a mini soliloquy. It is spoken by Danforth, and we can see, yet again, he is the most dominant character in this part because he is able to deliver these monologues, whereas others can’t even get a word in edgeways. Therefore, Danforth is the most powerful and important character in this segment and this can be seen by many things throughout this post.