ACT 1 – Scene 4
Betty awakes and hears some parishioner’s downstairs singing a hymn.
She screams and covers her ears, and Mrs. Putnam interprets this as a sure sign of witchcraft because poor Betty cannot ‘bear to hear the Lord’s name’.
Rebecca Nurse attempts to calm Betty down.
Putnam asks if Rebecca will come and visit his daughter Ruth, and try and
wake her. Rebecca is a calming influence and advises that both the girls’ condition will pass. She tells the Reverend that it is a dangerous course to take to declare that these instances are related to witchcraft.
Mrs. Putnam, who is jealous of Rebecca because all her children are well,
declares that it is witchcraft that is to blame for the loss of her children.
Some of the men present, including Giles Corey who is an elderly inhabitant
of Salem, criticise Reverend Parris because he seems more concerned about money than God’s will. They advise him what they expect of their minister.
Putnam then accuses Proctor of stealing wood from his land. The land
in question is disputed. Putnam says it is his, but Proctor bought the land from Goody Nurse’s husband.
We have another indication that this society is not happy and that the
members have petty disagreements with one another.
The men squabble about land and the effectiveness of their minister, and the
women argue about witchcraft and the behaviour of the young girls.
Ann Putnam cannot accept that it is probably her fault that her children die in infancy and not the devil’s doing, although seven deaths seem extreme. Many children died in infancy at that time due to harsh weather and living conditions.
Parris is all too aware that there is a move to remove him from Salem.
He tries to suppress the stories concerning witchcraft because it is a sign that God is not smiling on the community if witchcraft can enter into it.
Mrs. Putnam is obsessed now with blaming the death of her children on
This leads to her obtaining Tituba’s services in calling on her children’s spirits. She also blatantly shows her dislike of Rebecca Nurse. Both actions would normally invite serious censure from the Puritan society, but we are already seeing signs of Salem’s breakdown.