ACT 2 – Scene 4
Still at the Proctors’ house, two officers of the Court arrive to arrest
Elizabeth. They search the house and find the poppet, which contains a needle, and Elizabeth learns that Abigail has charged Elizabeth with attempted murder.
Abigail has been stabbed with a needle whilst in the Parris’ house.
Mary Warren tells Hale that it was her that made the doll in Court and
brought it home for Elizabeth.
She had stored the needle inside the doll. She states that Abigail had observed her sewing the doll while she sat next to her. Despite this, Elizabeth is still taken away. Proctor pleads with Mary to testify against Abigail in Court. Mary is reluctant to do this because it would make her at odds with the other girls. She is aware of Proctor’s affair with Abigail.
The possession of poppets (or dolls) was one of the signs of witchcraft.
It was believed that you could inflict pain on someone by sticking pins into their effigy, similar to the voodoo doll. Again this is an example of how flimsy evidence was against those accused of witchcraft.
Proctor again does not wish to face up to his responsibilities and thinks he
can make Mary appear in Court against Abigail, but she warns him that Abigail will accuse him of lechery.
The Reverend Hale is beginning to realise the seriousness of the situation
when Rebecca is arrested for he says, “If Rebecca Nurse be tainted, then nothing’s left to stop the whole green world from burning.”
As history shows, it is not the victims of the witch-hunt that are tainted, but the town of Salem itself.
The audience has a sense of helplessness as the drama unfolds.
The players seem bound by the inept laws of the Court and this is one of the main points in Miller’s play. Laws should not control people if the laws are corrupt. It is not sufficient to blindly follow laws or rules. “Laws are for the guidance of the wise, and for fools to follow.”
We see how desperate Abigail has become in her goal to possess
proctor. She in fact stabs herself with a needle in her stomach in order to implicate Goody Proctor.
All too slowly, Proctor has come to the realisation of Abigail’s obsession
with him, and this may cost the life of his wife, who is completely innocent.
He is angry at his wife’s arrest, and accuses Hale of being like Pontius Pilate, but what he fails to realise is that he too has been like Pontius Pilate, trying to escape involvement in the affair by persuading others to act for him. It is only now that he comes to the conclusion that he will have to go to Court and support Mary Warren. Mary will require this support because she faces Abigail’s full fury and violent reaction.