The Crucible: Act 4 Quotes

Instructor: Margaret Stone

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

This lesson focuses on significant quotations from Act 4 of Arthur Miller's ''The Crucible.'' Two men in Act 4 refuse to make false confessions and lose their lives as a result.

Act 4 Overview

Reverend Hale attempts to get Judge Danforth to pardon the remaining prisoners. Hale regrets the part he has played so far in the witchcraft furor, and he doesn't want to see the prisoners executed because they refuse to confess. Danforth wants John Proctor to confess, so he allows Elizabeth Proctor to see her husband.

She offers no promises, but John agrees to confess. When he learns that his confession will be posted publicly on the church doors, however, he tears up the confession. It soon becomes clear that John Proctor values his good name more than his life.


Reverend Hale begs Judge Danforth to pardon the remaining prisoners. They will not confess, Hale says, so they will be hanged. Danforth refuses, saying, 'You misunderstand, sir; I cannot pardon these when twelve are already hanged for the same crime. It is not just.'

This is a curious view of the situation, given that justice will not be served by hanging even more innocent people. Danforth grows increasingly unpopular among the citizenry, though, and he knows they will recognize the hypocrisy in issuing a pardon for the same crime that others have been executed for.

Wandering Cattle

'Excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlots' cry will end his life - and you wonder yet if rebellion's spoke? Better you should marvel how they do not burn your province!' Hale tells Danforth.

The people of Salem are not the only ones who suffer as a result of the witch trials. Many have been locked up or executed, and some of the original accusers have fled. The cows are now without masters, and the crops suffer as well.

More Weight

When Elizabeth is allowed to visit John Proctor in prison, she tells him about Giles Corey's execution. Corey refused to plead guilty or innocent; as a result, he is pressed to death. This form of execution is particularly torturous. 'They say he give them but two words. 'More weight,' he says. And died,' Elizabeth reports.

There are two possible explanations for Giles Corey's final words. One, he will die faster if the executioners add more weight to crush him. His last words can also be interpreted as a final act of defiance against the trumped-up charges against him and the many others who have been swept up in the witchcraft hysteria.

The Scapegoat

In a statement that speaks clearly to one of the themes, or main ideas, of The Crucible, Elizabeth says, 'You take my sins upon you, John.' This is a direct reference to the theme of scapegoating in a work in which a few seem to take on the sins of the entire community. John Proctor is a clear example of a scapegoat in The Crucible.

A Good Name

'Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!'

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