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Higher English The Crucible Essay Plan

Nguyen Justin Nguyen Ms. Khalil Hon. Intro to Lit. and Rhetoric 2/24/11 The Crucible Conflict Essay John Proctor, Abigail Williams, and Elizabeth Proctor were all central characters to the plot of The Crucible . Each was faced with great, internal strife due to witchcraft, lechery, each other, the court, society in general, and the belief in God and the Devil. Each faced many conflicts with other characters, both minute and main, due to contrasting beliefs and values. Each, when presented with ideas of witchcraft, God, and Satan, found that society was either under their control or completely against them. John, Abigail, and Elizabeth were all faced with internal battles due to conflicts with each other and the court and either ruled society through belief in witchcraft or suffered its wrath by siding with God. When John Proctor was first shown in The Crucible , he was shown as a calm, cool-headed man with much authority and respect in the town of Salem. However, what lies beneath this masked illusion is a troubled soul and conflict that will ruin his name to the town, to God, and to himself. Proctor has committed a sin against his own vision of decent conduct; he had an affair with Abigail Williams. His guilt is what stayed his hand and made him powerless to save his wife from Abigail. He feels as if he is being judged by a “court,” his guilt, every time he comes into his own house because deep down, he knows that he still has feelings for Abigail. The struggle that caused the most grief for Proctor was to decide who to defend, his sickly wife who he has sworn to love, or this new, exciting, young girl who begs for his acceptance. However, he ultimately overcomes his own struggle when he sees the evils of Abigail after she accuses his

Plot Summary

Act I

The play is set in Salem, a Puritan town in Massachusetts in the 1690s. A group of young girls go into the woods to dance, along with a Barbadian (from Barbados) slave called Tituba. The girls are discovered dancing by the Reverend Parris. The girls know that this will be frowned upon by the strict Puritans and are extremely frightened. Reverend Parris's daughter, Betty, falls into a coma upon being discovered. Back at the Parris's house, a number of the village have all come to see Betty, and the Putnams, a local couple suggest that witchcraft may have been involved. This causes a great deal of fear, and Parris decides to send for Reverend Hale, a 'witchfinder' from a nearby area.

While they are waiting for Hale to arrive, Parris asks Abigail Williams, who is his niece and the leader of the girls, what happened in the woods, although Abigail says only that they were dancing. Abigail perhaps realises what they are being accused of, and tells the other girls not to admit to anything other than dancing. John Proctor, a farmer in Salem comes to talk to Abigail alone. Abigail used to be a domestic servant for John and his wife, although left after her and John had an affair. Abigail clearly still has feelings for John, although John does not reciprocate (feel the same way back) and tells her to be careful what she starts in the village, and to stop her childish behaviour.

Betty Parris wakes out of her coma and starts screaming. As the townspeople begin to crowd around her, arguments break out between the figures in the town. The arguments are about various deep-rooted social tensions between leading villagers (particularly between the Putnams and Parris), thus suggesting that Salem is a town that is very much divided. Reverend Hale arrives and questions Betty and then Abigail before demanding to speak to Tituba. Under the pressure of his interrogation, Tituba confessing to having 'cavorted' with the devil, and begins to name other people in the village who have done the same. Abigail and Betty both join in these accusations, and the sense of hysteria grows and grows in front of the townspeople as more names are given. The Act ends on this dramatic climax, as the situation in the village turns from one hearsay (rumour) to one in which the devil appears to be communicating with a number of people, and in which accusations have begun to fly.

Act II

Act II begins in the relative calm of John Proctor's house, where he is eating dinner with his wife, Elizabeth. It emerges that there are now fourteen people that have been arrested by the court. Proctor is upset by the hypocrisy of forcing people to confess in order to avoid hanging. He tells Elizabeth that Abigail told him that the dancing had nothing to do with witchcraft. Elizabeth, initially encouraged by this information, soon realises it meant that John and Abigail were alone together, and suspects that the affair between the two may not have ended. John accuses Elizabeth of placing him constantly on trial, whereas Elizabeth says that John is judging himself. This foreshadows the later trial of John Proctor.

Mary Warren (the Proctor's servant - the replacement for Abigail) returns home, she gives Elizabeth a 'poppet' (a small doll) that she sewed while she was in court. John forbids Mary from attending court any more, although Mary seems to be more aware of her own power within Salem, and tells John and Elizabeth that Abigail accused Elizabeth in the court, but Mary defended her. Elizabeth is convinced that Abigail wants Elizabeth dead in order to have John.

Reverend Hale visits the Proctors as part of his investigation into those the court has accused. He questions the Proctors about why they have not attended church recently, and John Proctor states it is because he disagrees with Reverend Parris's teachings. Hale asks Proctor to recite the Ten Commandments. Proctor goes through them all, but can only remember nine. Elizabeth has to remind him of the tenth - 'Thou Shalt not Commit Adultery'.

Proctor tells Hale that Abigail is a fraud, and that the only reason those in jail confessed was to save their lives. At this point, Francis Nurse and Giles Corey burst in, saying that their wives have been arrested. Shortly after, Cheever and Herrick (the town marshalls) come to arrest Elizabeth. This is a shock, even to Hale. Cheever tells the Proctors that Abigail Williams had a fit at dinner, and found a sewing needle stuck in her belly. The poppet that Mary gave to Elizabeth has a needle in the same place, and it appears that Elizabeth has used witchcraft to attack Abigail. She is taken away, despite Mary saying that she made the poppet herself. Proctor resolves to confess his affair with Abigail in order to secure Elizabeth's release.


Act III begins with the court in session. Giles Corey interrupts proceedings to accuse Putnam of using accusations of witchcraft for his own personal profit. Proctor also arrives with Mary Warren to accuse Abigail of lying. Judge Danforth orders that discussions take place in the vestry room (a room next to the court, but outside of its authority). In the vestry, Proctor finds out that Elizabeth is pregnant, and therefore will not be executed until after the child is born (since Puritan society regaded it as a sin to kill a pregnant woman). He decides to carry on with his arguments anyway, showing that he didn't just care about Elizabeth, but the trials as a whole. Proctor and Corey give Danforth a petition signed by ninety-one farmers, testifying to the good character of Elizabeth Proctor, Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse. Parris demands that they all be arrested for challenging the work of the court. Hale, in a first indication that he is losing faith in the proceedings, angrily asks Parris why every defence is an attack on the court.

Danforth summons Putnam into the room, where Corey repeats his allegation that Putnam told his daughter to accuse George Jacobs so that Putnam could buy the land when Jacobs was hanged. Corey says that he has a witness, although refuses to give the name of the witness because he fears the consequences for the man (either from Putnam, Danforth, or both). Danforth arrests Corey for contempt of court.

The girls are now brought into the room, where Mary Warren accuses Abigail of telling lies. However, the girls soon say that Mary Warren is bewitching them, and when Mary Warren is told to pretend to faint, to prove how easy it is, she can't. Proctor angrily steps in and accuses Abigail of being a 'whore'. He confesses his affair to the court. Abigail denies this. In order to settle the debate, Danforth sends for Elizabeth. When she enters, Danforth orders John and Abigail to turn their backs, and asks Elizabeth about why she sacked Abigail from their service. Elizabeth denies that John and Abigail had an affair, determined to protect her husband's reputation. As Elizabeth is led away, John calls out and tells her that he has already confessed.

The girls begin crying that Mary Warren is a witch. The hysteria in the room grows to a crescendo (climax) before Mary Warren turns on John and accuses him of being a witch. John is arrested, and taken away. He violenty denounces the court, as does Reverend Hale, who storms out, losing all respect for what is going on.

Act IV

Act IV begins months later than the end of Act III. Reverend Hale has returned to Salem to plead with those waiting to be executed that they should confess. Abigail has fled the village, after stealing money from Reverend Parris. Hale pleads with Danforth to stop the executions, although Danforth claims that this would be an injustice to those that have already been hanged. The court decides to ask Elizabeth to plead with John Proctor to confess.

Elizabeth is left alone with John, where she tells him about the fate of people within the town. Corey refused to say whether he was guilty or not guilty to avoid a trial. He feared that if he did, he would be hanged, and Putnam would get his land. The court tortured Corey by placing large rocks on him. Despite the torture, he still refused to put in a plea, and was crushed to death (although his land passed to his sons). Proctor says that he has not confessed so far because he wants the accusers to feel guilty when they see him die. Eventually, he decides to confess.

Danforth hands Proctor a pen and some ink, and tells him that his confession will be hung publicly. Danforth asks him to denounce others in his confession, and Proctor refuses to do this. Proctor eventually signs the confession, but snatches it out of Danforth's hands. After arguing with Danforth, he rips his confession in two. At this point, he is taken away to be hanged with the other prisoners. Hale pleads with Elizabeth to get John to change his mind, but she only says that John is doing what he believes to be right.

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