The Crucible Act 3 Summary

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  • 0:04 An Attempt at Justice
  • 1:19 There Be No Road Between
  • 1:51 Mary's Deposition
  • 2:31 Proctor Tells All
  • 3:39 Chaos Reigns
  • 4:38 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 third act of Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible.' In this act, John Proctor and a few others attempt to speak out in defense of those condemned.

An Attempt at Justice

As the curtain rises on Act 3 in The Crucible, Giles Corey (the husband of Martha Corey, who was arrested for witchcraft in Act 2) charges into the courtroom, crying out that it is all a fraud. He is hustled into a quiet side chamber, away from the eyes and ears of those in the court. Soon, he is joined by John Proctor, whose wife is also condemned.

In this act, Arthur Miller highlights some of the most dangerous and alarming rhetoric of the Salem Witch Trials - and, indeed, the Red Scare, for which this play serves as an allegory (a story that seems to be about one thing but is really making commentary on another thing).

Mary Warren is with Proctor, and proceeds to tell Judge Danforth, who presides over the proceedings, that she and all the other girls have only been pretending in their accusations of witchcraft. 'It were pretense, sir,' she tells him. Judge Danforth doesn't want to believe this and tries first to threaten the men and Mary into silence.

When that doesn't work, he tries cajolery, telling John Proctor that Elizabeth, his wife, claims to be pregnant. He promises she will be safe at least until after the baby is delivered, hoping this will get John to drop his protest. 'I think I cannot,' John replies. And so the battle rages on.

There Be No Road Between

Judge Danforth decrees, 'You must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between.' To deny the existence of a 'road between' is to forbid any freedom of thought or speech. This mentality breeds a climate of fear, where each person is afraid to be thought 'against' and all are on watch for this in others.

You will notice throughout the play that Abigail Williams will accuse anyone who crosses her of witchcraft. This is why Mary Warren is so afraid to speak out against her.

Mary's Deposition

When all other attempts fail, John Proctor gently encourages Mary Warren to tell the judge what she has to say. She tells him again that all of the girls were pretending, that there were never any spirits, and they made the whole thing up.

Judge Danforth still doesn't want to believe it (because that would make him look like a fool who had been tricked by children), so he calls in all the other girls - the thing Mary fears most. Abigail, of course, declares Mary a liar and then feigns to feel a cold, demonic wind issuing forth on Mary's behest. Mary stands helpless as the other girls join Abigail in her charade, all claiming Mary is trying to freeze them to death.

Proctor Tells All

Exasperated by Abigail, her performance, and the effect it has on the Judge, John Proctor decides to admit all. He leaps at Abigail, drags her up by her hair, and cries out 'It is a whore!' He goes on to admit, 'I have known her, sir.' (This is a euphemistic, puritanical way of saying he has had sex with her.)

The judge and all those around him are shocked. To admit to such a thing in 1692, among the fervently pious Puritans of colonial Massachusetts would have been about like publicly confessing to murder. Worse, perhaps. John hopes this fact will help to convince others of the truth of his statements - 'A man will not cast away his good name,' he pleads with them, 'You surely know that.'

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