ACT 2 – Scene 1
The scene changes from the house of Reverend Parris to the Proctor’s home
and eight days have elapsed since Abigail and Betty started accusing people of witchcraft.
The relationship between John and Elizabeth is expanded and we learn that
Elizabeth has tried to forgive her husband over his affair with Abigail, but tension still exists between the couple.
John is now aware that Elizabeth does not fully trust him. When John returns late for dinner, Elizabeth questions him, suspecting that he may have gone to Salem. He has been working late in the fields.
Elizabeth advises John that their servant Mary Warren has been absent all
day in Salem.
A Court has been set up to deal with the outbreak of witchcraft in the town. Four Magistrates have been assembled and the Deputy Governor of the Province heads the Court. So far, fourteen people have been jailed for witchcraft.
Elizabeth implores Proctor to go into Salem and reveal Abigail’s lies.
Proctor had told his wife of the conversation he had with Abigail, but did not reveal that they were alone. This now comes to light because he cannot give evidence against her because there were no witnesses to their conversation. The two argue over John’s continued dishonesty, and Elizabeth suspects that he still has feelings for Abigail.
The initial impression of the Proctor household is that it is a place of
calm in stark contrast to the scenes in the Parris household. This fa'ade is what the Proctors project to the Salem community, but underneath, is still tension arising from Proctor’s affair with Abigail.
Elizabeth is now suspicious of Proctor and she is concerned that he is late for his meal, and wonders where he has been. Proctor is antagonised by Elizabeth’s suspicion and also because their servant, Mary
Warren, has been to Salem for the whole day despite his specific instructions. It is inevitable that the two will argue, and so the audience obtains a true picture in regard to the relationships in the
The audience is aware of the lunacy surrounding the witch-hunt, and soon the
wave of hysteria will engulf the Proctors’ home.
We also sense that there is general disobedience by the young girls, for
Mary has disobeyed her master’s orders and gone into Salem.
We observe Proctor’s inability to do the right thing regarding Abigail
because he has lost confidence and self-esteem as he has given in to temptation.
He responds to Elizabeth when she doubts his honesty by saying, “Let you
look sometimes for the goodness in me, and judge me not.”
This is an important passage as he cannot stand his wife judging him, but as the Trial develops in Salem, there will come a point when he has to judge himself and face up to his responsibilities.