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Francis Nurse in The Crucible

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

Francis Nurse is the husband of an accused woman in Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible'. This lesson provides an overview of his character and his role in the play.

A Respected Man

Sometimes even a minor character can have a big impact. Such is the case with Francis Nurse in Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

The influence of Francis Nurse greets us in the very beginning even though he doesn't set foot on the stage until later. He is described as 'one of those men for whom both sides of the argument had to have respect.'

We are told the citizens of Salem held him in such high esteem that 'he was called upon to arbitrate disputes as though he were an unofficial judge.' If even people who disagree with him have respect for him, and if he is called on to solve disputes between other people, he is clearly thought to be a sensible, fair man and is plainly trusted and respected by all.

No One's Perfect

While the overall opinion of Francis Nurse is overwhelmingly positive, it is suggested he is probably not a total saint. We are told that there exists something of a 'land war' between Francis and his neighbors. Disputing property boundaries seems to be quite a popular hobby in Arthur Miller's version of Salem, Massachusetts, so perhaps this is not surprising.

It is a little incongruous, however, to think that a man who is called upon to solve disagreements among others would allow a dispute of his own to reach 'the proportions of a battle' that rages in the woods for two days. The idea of Francis Nurse crouching behind trees, firing muskets at his neighbors over boundary quibbles does seem to complicate his image of impeccable respectability.

Conflict (The Plot Thickens...)

We also learn that Francis Nurse was at the center of a hotly contested election for the office of Minister in Salem. James Bayley was the candidate supported by Jonathan Putnam, another prominent man in town. Bayley was well qualified and won two thirds of the vote, but Francis and his followers still managed somehow to prevent him from taking office. Furthermore, we are told that Francis Nurse and those loyal to him actually broke away from the town of Salem to form their own settlement which they referred to as Topsfield. Despite the general high opinion of Francis Nurse among the townspeople, it is clear things were not all sunshine and roses.

Francis Takes the Stage

We finally see the character Francis Nurse on stage well into Act 2 of the play. At this point, Elizabeth Proctor, a well respected farmer's wife, is in the midst of being charged with witchcraft. Francis enters to say that even his wife, Rebecca, has been taken away and charged in the witch trials. He is incredulous that such a good, respected lady could be charged with such an absurd crime.

At first he thinks it must be a mistake, saying he is sure the Deputy Governor 'mistakes these people.' He has trouble taking the charges seriously. In the stage direction, we learn that he reads his wife's charges 'mockingly,' indicating they are too absurd to even consider. Sadly, Francis, in his disbelief, gives the townspeople more credit than they deserve. Not only are these ridiculous things taken seriously by the court, but his wife Rebecca is eventually hanged for defending her innocence.

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