The Crucible: Act 1 Quotes

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  • 0:01 Act I Overview
  • 1:17 The Devil's Touch
  • 1:50 Lying Lessons
  • 2:43 A Sensible Man
  • 3:22 Tituba
  • 4:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

Accusations of witchcraft begin in Act 1 of Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible.' This lesson focuses on significant quotes in the first act of Miller's play about witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts.

Act I Overview

As the curtain rises on Act 1 of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Reverend Samuel Parris kneels in prayer at the bedside of his daughter, Betty. Parris had come upon his daughter and several other girls dancing in the forest. When she realized she had been spotted by her father, Betty fainted and was carried home. She remained in a trance, but periodically arises from her bed and attempts to fly. The Putnams' daughter Ruth is afflicted in a similar manner. Rumors about the girls' possible involvement in witchcraft swirl in Salem, Massachusetts, where the play is set.

Reverend Parris sends for Reverend Hale, who has had some experience with demonic forces in the nearby town of Beverly, MA. Hale coaxes a confession from Abigail Williams, Betty's friend, who says that Tituba has led the girls in the strange woodland activities. Tituba, Parris' slave from Barbados, is summoned to the bedroom. After she is questioned, Tituba begins to name others in the village who are friendly with the devil. Abigail identifies some who dabble in witchcraft, as well.

Let's take a look at some quotes from Act I of this famous play to help us delve a little deeper into the superstitious world of late 17th-century New England.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Devil's Touch

''I'd not call it sick; the Devil's touch is heavier than sick. It's death, y'know, it's death drivin' into them, forked and hoofed.''

As she reveals that her daughter Ruth is also ill, Mrs. Putnam's words indicate the people's willingness to leap to a diagnosis of witchcraft. There could, of course, be any number of explanations for the girls' illness, but the Salem citizens' propensity for mixing theology and gossip make a supernatural cause preferable to some natural or psychological cause for the girls' behavior.

Lying Lessons

''I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men! And now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes? I will not, I cannot! You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!''

After hearing the rumors, John Proctor has come to the Parris home where his former lover, Abigail Williams, confronts him. Abigail is embittered by life in the small-minded community, where she has lost her job as a servant to the Proctors when John Proctor's wife learns of the affair.

Proctor has recommitted himself to his relationship with his wife and ended his affair with Abigail, but she still longs for him and begs him to come back to her. Proctor views the affair with Abigail as a moral failing, but this quotation shows that she is willing to set aside ''whatever sin it is'' to resume her relationship with Proctor.

A Sensible Man

''I've heard you to be a sensible man, Mr. Hale. I hope you'll leave some of it in Salem.''

John Proctor says this to Reverend Hale and is basically commenting on the Salem community's favorite activities: gossip and argument. At this point, however, Proctor has no idea of the lengths the community is willing to go to in its efforts to root out what it views as sin, witchcraft, and devilment.

This quotation also contains a bit of foreshadowing, or a hint of events that occur later in the story, for John Proctor will soon experience firsthand Salem's lack of ''sensible'' residents when he is made a scapegoat by the community.

Tituba

''Mr. Parris' slave has knowledge of conjurin', sir.''

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