Quotes from Rebecca Nurse in The Crucible

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

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

This lesson provides a collection of things said by Rebecca Nurse in Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible.' Rebecca's words are a voice of reason in a town of madness and rumor.

A Voice of Reason

In the beginning of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, when all the other characters are getting panicky and talking about witchcraft and spirits and such, Rebecca Nurse brings a voice of reason to the melee. Rebecca's words are not many in this play, but they are powerful and profound. Let's take a look at them.

We can see Rebecca's wisdom early on in Act 1, when she speaks of Betty, a girl who is supposedly ill from witchcraft: ''I have eleven children, and I am twenty-six times a grandma, and I have seen them all through their silly seasons, and when it come on them they will run the Devil bowlegged keeping up with their mischief. I think she'll wake when she tires of it.''

Rebecca seems to be the only one who can see this for what it is--a young girl pretending to be ill in order to stay out of trouble!

A Voice of Warning

Sadly, no one heeds Rebecca's initial advice to just wait for the girl to decide she's done with her pretending. Instead, they go on about spirits and witches and they call in Reverend Hale to have a look at her because he is known for his skill in seeking out witchcraft.

Rebecca's voice of reason turns to a voice of warning as she tells her neighbors, ''There is prodigious danger in the seeking of loose spirits. I fear it, I fear it.'' Her fear is completely justified. If only those assembled had listened to her!

A Voice of Reproach

When even Rebecca's warnings are dismissed, she progresses from warning to reproach. When the Reverend Hale shows up and enthusiastically talks of finding the Devil in Betty in order to ''crush him utterly.'' At this, Rebecca seems a bit resigned to the idiocy of those around her as she asks, ''Will it hurt the child?'' Hale isn't sure, because, he says, he ''may have to rip and tear to get her free.''

Rebecca replies simply, ''I think I'll go, then. I am too old for this.'' In these simple words, one senses a final condemnation of these proceedings. She sees she cannot change the minds or the course of her neighbors, but she also cannot bring herself to condone their actions even by association. She leaves her stamp of disapproval as she leaves the room.

A Voice of Conscience

After she leaves Betty's bedside, we do not hear from Rebecca again until the final act of the play. By this time, she has been arrested for witchcraft and has sat in jail many months because she will not confess to it. She is condemned to death by hanging and it is on her way to the scaffold that we meet her in Act 4 when she encounters John Proctor.

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