The Crucible: Act 2 Quotes

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  • 0:00 John & Elizabeth Proctor
  • 1:06 Hysteria's Hold
  • 2:16 Fighting the Good Fight
  • 3:11 The Voice of Reason
  • 4:23 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 a collection of some of the important quotes from Act 2 of Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible.' These quotes give us some insight into some of the major themes and plot elements of the play.

John and Elizabeth Proctor

In Act 1 of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, we learned that John Proctor had previously had an affair with Abigail Williams. We know also that his wife, Elizabeth, knows about it. In Act 2, we see John and Elizabeth struggling to deal with the emotional aftermath of such a blow to their relationship.

After such a serious breach of trust, we see how hard it is for Elizabeth to have faith in her husband. When she finds out that John had been alone with Abigail for a moment the week before, after he had originally told her he had only seen her among other people, we see the magnitude of Elizabeth's emotions in the simple words, 'You were alone with her?. . . Why, then, it is not as you told me.'

Likewise, we see John's struggle as he has genuinely been trying to repair the damage he has done. His own self-loathing comes through together with the hurt inflicted by Elizabeth's doubt when he cries out, 'I'll not have your suspicion any more.' He goes on to plead, 'Let you look sometimes for the goodness in me, and judge me not.'

Hysteria's Hold

Act 2 also gives us some great quotes which express the extent and sway of the hold hysteria and fear have on the town of Salem. Hysteria is a state wherein one's more rational mind is hijacked by excessive emotions, such as fear. When Mary Warren arrives home to the Proctors' house, speaking earnestly of her belief in the validity of the witch trials, we are chilled. She speaks with great conviction about the guilt of Sarah Good when she says:

'I never knew it before. I never knew anything before. When she come into the court I say to myself, I must not accuse this woman, for she sleep in ditches, and so very old and poor. But then--then she sit there, denying and denying, and I feel a misty coldness climbin' up my back, and the skin on my skull begin to creep, and I feel a clamp around my neck and I cannot breathe air.'

It's alarming to see how thoroughly Mary has been taken in by the hysteria of the witch trials. She goes on to say that she believes all of these responses to fear are actually 'hard proof, hard as rock.' Through Mary, we see how an entire town is brainwashed into doing terrible things, believing all the while that they are on God's errand.

Fighting the Good Fight

Mary isn't the only one to believe the witch trials are the hand of God at work. The entire court and much of the town are convinced. John Proctor is one of the few who sees it all for what it is, and Mary says to him, 'I am amazed you do not see what weighty work we do.'

Reverend Hale also espouses the righteousness of the witch trials in Act 2 when he says, 'This is a strange time, Mister. No man may longer doubt the powers of the dark are gathered in monstrous attack upon this village. There is too much evidence now to deny it.' Later, he also says, 'I have seen too many frightful proofs in court--the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!'

Reverend Hale, like Mary Warren, has been influenced by the rampant hysteria in town, and he believes himself and the court to be on a righteous mission to flush the Devil out of Salem.

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