ACT 4 – Scenes 1 and 2
The scene changes from the Vestry in the Courthouse to Salem jail.
Marshall Herrick enters and wakes up Goody Good and Tituba so that they can
be moved to a different cell.
Tituba tells Herrick that they await the Devil, who will fly them to Barbados.
The Reverend Hale arrives and tells the prisoners that they must confess to
being witches in order to thwart the ridiculous Court and avoid being hanged.
Reverend Parris discovers that Abigail and Mercy Lewis have disappeared
after robbing Parris and he suspects they may have boarded a ship.
Parris delays telling Danforth this news because he fears that there will be a rebellion in Salem similar to the recent uprising in Andover. There they threw out the Court, as the people were unhappy with the proceedings.
When Danforth learns about the disappearance of Abigail he still considers
that the evidence stands and will not postpone the executions for it would be a sign of weakness.
Hale pleads with him to reconsider or at least give him time to persuade the
prisoners to confess.
Parris is now fearful of the situation. He finds a dagger outside his
door, which is a clear sign that his life is in danger, and so he pleads for a delay to the executions. This is done as an act of self-preservation rather than belief in the innocence of the victims.
The first Trial took place in the Spring of 1692 and it is now the Fall, and
twelve people have been executed.
Once the disappearance of Abigail and the others becomes common knowledge,
then the viability of the Court must be in serious doubt.
Danforth must try and hold things together and this can only be done through
Parris is becoming more and more isolated in the community. His
congregation has dramatically dropped in size and he must feel exceedingly vulnerable.
Abigail has disappeared because her goal cannot now be achieved.
The prize of possessing Proctor has vanished with his imprisonment. There still remain seven people under sentence of death including the Proctors, but Danforth is determined to see this to the bitter end.
The Reverend Hale is trying to make the best of a bad situation.
He does not wish to see any more deaths, and so he encourages the prisoners to plead guilty to the charge of witchcraft. Part of his argument is, “Life is God’s most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it.”
It seems that Proctor will decide to admit to the charges.