ACT 3 – Scene 1
The action now moves to the Salem Meeting House where Martha Corey is
accused of witchcraft.
Her husband interrupts the Court proceedings declaring that Thomas Putnam is “reaching out for land!” The Court is adjourned and a meeting is held in the vestry room between Corey, Judge Hathorne, Deputy Governor Danforth, Ezekiel Cheever (who arrested Elizabeth), and the Reverend Parris.
He raises the old argument that Putnam is trying to steal his land and
timber, and he is using the arrest of his wife Martha to undermine the Corey family and possess their property. It is true that his wife reads books and Hale knows this, but he never accused her of
witchcraft. He and Francis Nurse have been waiting to given evidence for three days, but to no avail.
Danforth tells them they must file the appropriate paperwork. Nurse tells Danforth that the girls are fakes and it is all a pretence.
Danforth has an ominous power.
He is renowned for having condemned over four hundred people to death.
It would not have gone unnoticed by the early audiences to this play that
Miller is making a direct comparison between Danforth and McCarthy and his hearings in the early 1950’s.
Both exerted an ominous power over their ‘victims’, which seemed to have little to do with the due process of law. Danforth is manipulating the Court for his own purposes, and he is carrying out his duties with undue zeal.
Hathorne is described as “a bitter remorseless Salem judge” and this helps
to create an atmosphere of heaviness and foreboding.
The basic concept of law that you are innocent until proved guilty has been
turned on its head.
With Elizabeth in jail, Proctor, Giles Corey and Francis Nurse face a brick
wall preventing them from entering the Court and giving evidence against Abigail and the girls. This is viewed by the Court as an attempt to undermine their authority.
The town of Salem itself has degenerated into a place where old grudges,
dislikes and jealousies are the guiding force and are the lifeblood of the Court itself.
Accusations of witchcraft are being used by the girls, not only for
Abigail’s possession of Proctor, but also for other associated families to gain possessions, land etc.