The Crucible: Reverend Parris Quotes

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  • 0:03 No! Not Witchcraft!
  • 1:00 Shameless Self Interest
  • 1:45 Okay, Maybe Witchcraft
  • 2:45 Definitely Witchcraft!
  • 3:48 Wait ... No! Not…
  • 4:48 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 quotes from Reverend Parris in Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible.' These quotes help us to see what sort of person Parris is and what role he plays in the atrocities perpetrated in this play.

No! Not Witchcraft!

We don't have to look any further than the political arena to find people who seem to want to do good things, but on closer examination are found to have their own selfish and shallow motivations. Reverend Parris in Arthur Miller's The Crucible is just this sort of person.

At the beginning of the play, we see Reverend Parris trying to dissuade his neighbors from assuming witchcraft is to blame for the illness of his daughter, Betty: ''No - no. There be no unnatural cause here. . . Let him look to medicine and put out all thought of unnatural causes here. There be none.''

Parris goes on to plead, ''I pray you, leap not to witchcraft.'' This is very sensible advice, but Parris soon belies his real motivations when he says. ''We cannot leap to witchcraft. They will howl me out of Salem for such corruption in my house.'' He isn't worried at all about the truth - he just wants to protect his job and his reputation!

Shameless Self Interest

Whatever value there might have been in Parris's initial cautions against witchcraft is overshadowed by his worrying over his own reputation. As he implores his niece, Abigail, to tell him everything about her dancing in the woods with Betty, his main motivation is not helping Betty, but saving his own hide: ''If you trafficked with spirits in the forest I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it.''

Concern for himself again overrides concern for his daughter and for the town when Parris chides Abigail by saying, ''just now when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character.'' It seems he would rather have a daughter who is truly ill and in danger than to suffer any smear on his own reputation.

Okay, Maybe Witchcraft

In desperation, Reverend Parris begins to bend toward the idea of witchcraft - not because he believes it is likely to help his daughter, but because it seems the best way for him to save face with his congregation. Abigail (in order to save herself from punishment) takes to blaming Tituba, Reverend Parris's slave, for acts of witchcraft that led to Betty's illness.

Parris is horrified beyond belief that anyone in his family could be associated with such things, and when his own servant is implicated in witchcraft, he pretty much loses it. As a last ditch effort to make himself look good, he turns violently on Tituba, shouting at her, ''You will confess yourself or I will take you out and whip you to your death!''

When denial is no longer possible, Parris switches tactics here and shows himself willing to root out witchcraft at any expense. He sees fighting against witchcraft as the best way to salvage his own reputation. It's still all about him.

Definitely Witchcraft!

After Parris's initial denial of witchcraft and then his clearly self serving turn toward it, his subsequent fervent interest in the witch trials is immediately suspect. In Act III, we see Reverend Parris busily sucking up to Judge Danforth, again trying to make himself look as good as possible. When John Proctor enters with concerns about the way accusations and examinations are taking place in the court, Parris leaps in with a spirited defense of the court as if he had always thought this the best course of action.

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