Literature Study GuidesThe CrucibleAct 1 Reverend John Hale Arrives Summary

The Crucible | Study Guide

Arthur Miller

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Act 1 (Reverend John Hale Arrives)

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 1 (Reverend John Hale Arrives) of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible.

The Crucible | Act 1 (Reverend John Hale Arrives) | Summary

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Summary

Reverend John Hale, a young minister from Beverly, Massachusetts, and a renowned witchcraft expert, enters the room. He greets the people, appreciates their warmth toward him, and inquires about the children's conditions and the happenings in Salem. Giles Corey innocently mentions he can't understand why his wife loves reading so much, and this concerns him. Ann Putnam relates her suspicions, and upset with the insinuations about witchcraft, Rebecca Nurse leaves. Abigail breaks down when interrogated about the previous night and claims Tituba called up the Devil and sends her spirit into her during church services. Tituba denies these allegations, but Thomas Putnam demands she be hanged. Fearing for her life and caught up in the hysteria of the moment, Tituba offers the names of villagers she thinks are witches. Hearing her, Abigail and Betty also list a group of men and women they have seen with the Devil.

Analysis

The play shows that many characters believe reality is composed of opposites. Some will not appreciate happiness if they never experienced sorrow; in order to truly understand the goodness of God, they must comprehend the evil the Devil presents, and just as a piece of paper has a back, the visual world must have a flip side—an invisible and supernatural one. Reverend John Hale believes in all three of these concepts. The books weighing him down when he enters Betty's bedroom prove he has studied the invisible world—specifically, the one of witchcraft—exhaustively for a number of years. As a minister in a theocracy, the books he has read are only those he is permitted to study. They all confirm the Bible's mention of spirits who side with the Devil, Lucifer. Hale even responds to Parris's comment on their importance by saying, "They must be; they are weighted with authority." Hale asks about the condition of the Parris and Putnam daughters, before turning to Corey and Proctor. When Corey innocently says, "he [Proctor] don't believe in witches," Proctor responds, "I never spoke on witches one way or the other," and mentions to Hale, "I've heard you to be a sensible man," before leaving.

In this section schemers play upon the fears of witchcraft by using the concepts of guilt by association and the power of suggestion to set the foundation for their deceptions. Parris and the Putnams relate the signs of sorcery the children have shown with examples taken out of context. They describe the girls as trying to fly when they lean on window sills and mention their crying when they hear the Lord's name. These acts "prove" that the Devil recoils at the mention of God. No one ever questions what else might have caused their screams because an aura of fear has infected the atmosphere. Shaken by the men's words, Hale says he will try to tear the Devil from Betty. Fearing they will just bring the Devil into their midst, Rebecca leaves. Naïve Giles Corey doesn't realize his innocent remark about the reading habits of his wife, Martha, gives his nemesis, Thomas Putnam, a reason to accuse her of practicing witchcraft and add to the turmoil. When Betty doesn't move after Hale prays in Latin, he starts to interrogate Abigail about the girls' dancing and their other activities in the woods.

Eager to save herself from severe punishment at the bidding of this highly respected religious scholar, Abigail reacts to Hale's suggestions by accusing Tituba of calling up the Devil in her native language, making a soup using a frog, and forcing her to drink blood. As a slave from Barbados, Tituba understands she has always been blamed for anything wrong and knows this situation won't be any different. At the beginning of Hale's interrogation, she solidly protests any collusion with the Devil and asks Abigail why she is lying. The situation escalates when Hale demands Tituba remove the spell that made Betty comatose, and Parris tells Tituba if she doesn't, "I will take you out and whip you to your death." When Tituba vows she is a good Christian woman, Parris interrupts and starts naming women in the village who might be co-conspirators. Realizing she can confess and save her life, Tituba joins the hysteric mood and agrees with her master that the women he mentions are witches. Her words give Abigail an out, and she starts naming other townspeople. Seeing a way to prove her innocence, Betty suddenly awakens and offers the names of any men or women who come to her mind.

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