Mary Warren: Monologue, Character Traits & Character Analysis

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  • 0:00 'The Crucible' and Mary Warren
  • 1:36 Mary Is Afraid
  • 2:43 Mary's Monologue
  • 4:40 Mary Almost Changes Her Mind
  • 5:46 Mary Succumbs to Fear…
  • 7:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Boivin

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

This lesson provides an overview of the character Mary Warren in Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible.' Mary is a weak and lonely girl who is swept up into the frenzy of the Salem Witch Trials.

The Crucible and Mary Warren

Whenever we see an atrocity in history, like the Holocaust, we wonder how so many ordinary people could go along with such horror. The answer is complicated, but it usually involves a mix of fear and weakness. The Salem Witch Trials came about due to similar complicity from ordinary people. Arthur Miller examines this in his play, The Crucible, which is based on actual historic events from the Salem Witch Trials. One character, Mary Warren, embodies that human fear and weakness and is ultimately swept up into the hysteria of the witch trials.

At the center of the trials in The Crucible is a group of girls led by Abigail Williams. While Mary Warren is one of the oldest girls in that group, she is unfortunately also one of the weakest and most afraid. We see this in the beginning of the play as she is introduced with this stage direction: 'Enter Mary Warren, breathless. She is seventeen, a subservient, naive, lonely girl.'

The night before the trials, Mary, along with Abigail Williams and several others, was caught dancing in the woods. Dancing was a scandalous crime in Puritanical Salem, and it is clear that this troubles Mary. One might be whipped for dancing or placed in the stocks. Mary enters the stage with an even greater fear in mind, however, and throughout the play, we see her going to great lengths to avoid punishment or persecution, regardless of the consequences for others.

Mary Is Afraid

As Mary bursts onto the stage, she cries out, 'The whole town's talkin' witchcraft! They'll be callin' us witches, Abby!' If this Puritan society considers dancing a crime, imagine what they must think of witchcraft. 'Witchery's a hangin' error,' Mary says to Abby in despair. Her solution: They should confess.

'We must tell the truth, Abby!' she urges. Then, carefully, she adds, 'You'll only be whipped for dancin' and the other things!' Abby picks up on this immediately and says with sarcasm, 'Oh, we'll be whipped!' At which Mary replies defensively, 'I never done none of it, Abby. I only looked!' A very convenient way to avoid punishment.

Seeing that Mary is acting only out of fear and a desire for self-preservation, Abby decides to give Mary something else to fear. If Mary tells, Abby informs her, 'I will come to you in the black of . . . night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.' That does the trick. Mary drops her protest and falls in line with Abigail, for now.

Mary's Monologue

In Act 2, Mary's character has a lengthy monologue which provides a chilling example of the way in which one's mind can be so influenced by external sources that one's own thinking is corrupted. Mary's weak personality and fear of trouble make her a prime candidate for such corrupting influence.

The reader will remember that, in Act 1, we see Mary adamantly denying that any witchcraft was involved in the dancing incident at all. Now, in Act 2, a shocking change has come over her. She calls the actions of the court 'a weighty work' and seems entirely invested in it. It seems she really believes it now, especially as she recounts her own accusations against Sarah Good.

'I never knew it before,' Mary says, revealing the completeness of her brainwashing. 'I never knew anything before.' She tells us that initially she had resolved not to accuse Sarah Good of witchcraft because she was just a poor homeless woman, but then she claims, 'I feel a misty coldness climbin' up my back . . . and I feel a clamp around my neck and I cannot breathe air.' The stage direction tells us here that she is 'entranced' as she says 'all at once I remembered everything she done to me!'

The substance of Mary's charge against Sarah is simply that she mumbled after Mary sent her away empty handed after asking for some bread. 'She may mumble if she's hungry,' John Proctor sensibly offered, but Mary goes on to insist vehemently that this mumbling was clearly the cause of her falling ill a few days after Sarah's visit.

Of course none of this makes any sense, and Mary is clearly bamboozled by the hysteria of the witch trials, but the sincerity with which she believes it is chilling. She passionately calls these scant fabrications 'hard proof, hard as rock' and she cannot understand why anyone would argue with that.

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