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Literature Study GuidesThe CrucibleAct 2 Elizabeth Is Arrested Summary

The Crucible | Study Guide

Arthur Miller

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Act 2 (Elizabeth Is Arrested)

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Act 2 (Elizabeth Is Arrested) of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible.

The Crucible | Act 2 (Elizabeth Is Arrested) | Summary



Reverend Hale spends his evening visiting the houses of those who have been accused of practicing witchcraft to assess the strength of their Christian beliefs. He asks Proctor why he has attended church so rarely in the past year and a half and why his youngest son is not yet baptized. Proctor explains he feels Reverend Parris is not a godly man but materialistic. Because of this, he says, he does not respect the church's spokesperson. He tells Hale his wife was sick over the winter, so he chose to take care of her and the children when she needed him instead of attending church. On those Sundays he prayed at home and read his Bible. Hale asks the couple whether they know the Ten Commandments. Elizabeth claims she is a "covenanted Christian woman," so Hale asks her husband to repeat the ten tenets of their religion. Proctor does but forgets the commandment regarding adultery until his wife reminds him. Although Proctor avows they are devout Christians, his wife still feels Hale is not fully convinced, even though the minister says he leaves judgment to the "godly wisdom of the court."

Elizabeth begs John to tell Hale about Abigail. At first Hale doesn't believe Proctor's story because a number of women have confessed to witchcraft. Proctor reminds him, "there are them that will swear to anything before they'll hang." This impresses Hale, as does Proctor's belief in the Bible and his conviction that if it says witches exist, he must accept it. Elizabeth says, "if you think that I am one then I say there are none," and demands he question Abigail about her belief in the Gospel.

Giles Corey and Francis Nurse enter the room and say their wives have been arrested: Martha Corey for her reading habits and Rebecca Nurse for the "supernatural murder of Goody Putnam's babies." Hale is shocked but tells everyone they must rely on the "justice of the court." Ezekiel Cheever and Marshal Herrick come to arrest Elizabeth. Their evidence of her "witchcraft" is the poppet Mary gave her and the needle stuck in its stomach. During dinner with the Parrises, Abigail fell to the floor screaming with a needle protruding from her stomach. The men won't listen to Mary, who explains she made the doll out of boredom during court and stuck the needle in it so she wouldn't lose it. Hale admits Abigail charges Elizabeth with witchcraft, and Elizabeth curses the vengeful girl. John rips the arrest warrant and asks, "is the accuser always holy now?" After his wife is taken away, John insists Mary tell the court the truth about the girls' feigned fainting and Abigail's conniving control of the events. Mary says she cannot do this because Abigail terrifies her.


Reverend Hale, John and Elizabeth Proctor, and Mary Warren each reveal depth to their characters and personalities. Over the week the court has been in session, people have been convicted of witchcraft based on conjecture and not facts. Hale has come to understand religious and scholarly studies do not include the motivations behind people's actions. By the time he stops at the Proctor home, Hale's demeanor along with the sympathetic subtext interwoven with his words demonstrate his misgivings about the proceedings. The arrests of Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse, two pious pillars of Salem society for decades, deeply upset him and nurture his doubts about the causes of the outlandish yet condemning charges against them. When Proctor damns the court and rips his wife's arrest warrant, Hale admits the world has gone mad. Still, he sincerely believes evil has occurred and asks all of the husbands to consider what has brought the wrath of God upon the town's residents.

John Proctor's thoughtful answers and his fury over determinations made on innuendo rooted in revenge reveal why so many townspeople deem him to be a man of integrity. In his arguments with his wife, he does not plead for her forgiveness because he feels his actions prove his love for her as well as his desire to repair the cracks in their marriage. Throughout Proctor's various interactions with his wife, Hale, Cheever, and Mary, he is honest when answering questions and doesn't try to deflect his responses by blaming another person. His unbridled fury at the bizarre charge against Elizabeth, and his vow to do whatever it takes to free her, shows not only the love he has for his wife but that he is a man of integrity who stands up for what is right.

Although her husband calls her weak for not demanding Mary stay home instead of attending court, Elizabeth Proctor shows her strength throughout this act. She does not cower during Hale's interrogation or back away from jogging her husband's memory when he forgets the adultery commandment. Vowing she will not remain his wife if he has another in the wings waiting for him, Elizabeth demands John sever any attraction still tying him to Abigail. She strongly denounces Abigail in front of Hale, the court appointees, and the other townsmen. Elizabeth's solid Christian beliefs may be her greatest strength. Her willingness to stand on her principles in times of extreme duress is never more apparent than when she holds her head high as she walks to the prison wagon.

Mary Warren's behavior shows how dejected she is because women she has known her whole life have been sentenced to hang. In Act 1 (Betty Is Bewitched) she tries to convince Abigail they must tell the truth, because she hears the talk around town and fears these rumors will mushroom out of control. However, when Abigail and Mercy Lewis join forces against her, she backs down. Realizing Goody Osburn, an old, homeless woman, will hang because of the girl's playacting brings her shame. She vacillates between quitting the court and continuing the fraud because she is still terrified of Abigail's power over the proceedings. She does not want to become another target of Abigail's vengeance. Only when Elizabeth is accused of witchcraft because of a doll she made—one she gave to her employer as a gift—does Mary fully comprehend the effect of the fraud she and her friends have committed. She still exclaims she can't tell the authorities the truth when Proctor demands she do so, but her remorse is not difficult to believe. It gives hope that she will find the strength to confess to the pretense.

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