ACT 1 – Scene 5
The Reverend Hale arrives at Parris’ house in order to visit Betty.
The Putnams advise Hale that their daughter Ruth suffers likewise and hope
he will examine her as well.
Hale stresses that he will not examine Betty unless all accept that
witchcraft is not the cause.
Mrs. Putnam declares that Tituba can conjure up spirits and confesses that
she had sent Ruth to Tituba in order for this to take place so she could find out who murdered her infants.
Hale examines Betty.
Giles Corey confesses to Hale that his wife Martha has been reading strange
books and he is unable to pray.
Hale is then confronted by the story of the girls dancing in the woods, so
he decides to question Abigail who lays the blame on Tituba. Tituba is accused of drinking blood. Hale then questions Tituba who only wishes to redeem herself and so she admits that she has been working
with the devil, and that she saw the devil with Goody Good and Goody Osburn.
Abigail admits that she has given herself to the devil, but she wishes to
renounce the devil and she only wants “the sweet love of Jesus”. Abigail confirms Tituba’s story and that in addition to Good and Osburn, Bridget Bishop was also with the devil.
Betty takes the opportunity of contributing by waking up and accusing George
Jacobs and Goody Howe.
More accusations follow.
This is the first major turning point of the play.
There is now growing hysteria concerning the spectre of witchcraft in Salem.
Hale has clearly arrived with the view of quashing any views of witchcraft,
but he is bombarded with so much apparent evidence that he relents and examines the various participants.
It is only Rebecca Nurse that identifies the danger in this course of
action. It is noted that she leaves the house early on, suspecting the growing hysteria.
Hale relents to the theory that witchcraft is present because of the following:
the death of Putnam’s infants
Betty and Ruth’s condition
the dancing in the woods and Tituba’s ability to conjure spirits
Martha Corey’s strange books,
and so forth.
All of these events can be individually explained but brought together to
the God-fearing society, all smell of witchcraft.
What these Puritans fail to see is that Betty and Ruth are feigning illness
to avoid punishment for their evil liaison with Abigail.
Abigail is the one that will profit from this mass hysteria, and her
manipulation is already having drastic consequences.
Rebecca makes the mistake of leaving the scene when Hale examines Betty for
signs of witchcraft. She tries to criticise Mrs. Putnam for delving in the devil’s work by sending her daughter to Tituba.
The audience has little sympathy for any of these characters except
Tituba. She has no power in this situation being a black female slave, and she quickly confesses to witchcraft when threatened with violence.
It is only through self-preservation that she implicates others, the town misfits and eccentrics, but she is really only confessing what her interrogators wish to hear.
Abigail takes on the role of repentant sinner, confessing that she has
consorted with the devil, but now seeks salvation.
She is taking full advantage of the blind ignorance of those around her and she is now relishing in the role of being the expert witness to the witchcraft. All of a sudden, Abigail’s previously poor reputation has been forgotten about.