ACT 3 – Scene 3
The action continues in the Vestry and Danforth summons Abigail and three of
Danforth questions Abigail concerning Mary Warren’s charge that they have
all been lying and that she has falsely accused Elizabeth Proctor.
Danforth learns the details of the dancing episode in the woods and Hathorne asks Mary Warren to pretend to faint, but she cannot. He concludes that she is now lying because she cannot faint. Abigail then accuses Mary Warren of sending out her spirit against the girls and Proctor loses his temper and tells the Court about his affair with Abigail and calls her a whore. He compares Abigail the whore to his wife who is incapable of lying.
The Court summons Elizabeth, but she denies that there was ever an affair
between Proctor and Abigail, wishing to protect her husband against the charge of Lechery.
Abigail and the girls continue their assault against Mary Warren, who
through fear withdraws her Deposition.
Proctor is arrested and Hale in exasperation denounces the Court and leaves.
The intensity of the play is increasing and the audience feels the desperate
plight that the Proctors find themselves in.
Abigail is at the peak of her power bolstered by the support of the Court,
which increases her authority over the people of Salem.
Danforth continues to blindly proceed with these farcical Court hearings for
he has taken a road from which there is no return. To change course would be to admit that he has been fooled by a group of children, which would have drastic implications concerning his judicial, political
and personal life. The fact that innocent members of the community are being executed seems to be secondary to his own reputation.
The Reverend Parris is also shown to be a very weak character and his
behaviour has become unbalanced. His narrow-minded attitude and his attempts to hold on to his authority mean that there is no-one to support Reverend Hale’s opposition to Danforth.
Hathorne continues to support Danforth, but he is probably hiding behind the
attitude that he is just obeying orders.
The problem that Proctor faces is that Parris believes him to be the leader
of the group that wish him replaced, so it is to his advantage to discredit Proctor in order to secure his position in Salem.
The accusations of witchcraft made by Abigail and the girls are used as a
front for Parris to dispose of his main opposition in Proctor, and for Putnam to gain property from his executed neighbours.
We now see the true feelings between Elizabeth and Proctor, for she loves
him so much that in order to protect him she lies to the Court. It is probably the only major lie she has ever committed.
To the audience, the Court appears to be a pathetic comedy, for its logic
seems to be to imprison anybody who opposes it.
Although Danforth is now aware of the episode in the woods, he brushes that
to one side.
He cannot make the connection between that behaviour in the woods whether innocent or not, with the fact that Abigail and the girls are now sending important members of the Salem community to their deaths.
Finally, it is ironic that Proctor is indirectly imprisoned by his wife’s lie.