The Crucible: Act Notes – Act 2



·         The act begins in the Proctor household, where we see the awkwardness and disconnection in John and Elizabeth Proctor’s relationship. We initially see them arguing about the fact that Proctor was alone in a room with Abigail (which was significant due to the history of romance which Abigail and John Proctor have).

·         Mary Warren returns from court and gives Elizabeth a ragdoll which she has made in court. She returns with news that 39 members of their society were to be hung and Elizabeth’s name was mentioned amongst the accused. Mary Warren returns from court as a more confident person, and demands Proctor to stop ordering her and treat her with more respect. This could indicate the power which the court holds, as a servant in a household now has confidence to speak out against her superiors.

·         Hale visits the Proctors as he wants to speak to each person accused. He questions John Proctor’s lack of commitment to the church and becomes increasingly suspicious of John Proctor. Proctor assures him that the household is not satanic, and proves it by reciting the commandments, which he does with much difficulty.

·         John Proctor challenges the word of the court and attempts to defend Elizabeth. He informs Hale that Abigail told him that the children's sickness had nothing to do with witchcraft however Hale continues to defend the decisions made by the court. Giles Corey and Francis Nurse enter with news that their wives have been taken by Cheever for committing false or absurd, petty crimes.

·         Cheever arrives at the Proctor household arrest Elizabeth surprising everyone in  the room, including Hale who was unaware of any arrest warrant for Elizabeth. The reason for Elizabeth’s arrest was because Abigail was severely injured by freak circumstance which they believe to be witchcraft. They accuse Elizabeth for using the ragdoll to kill Abigail as they found a needle in both the ragdoll and Abigail’s stomach. Proctor’s anger rises and forces Mary Warren to explain to Cheever the reason for the ragdoll.

·         In this anger, Proctor tears the arrest warrant which symbolizes his determination to fight against the court and bring order back to the court. He challenges Hale in anger making Hale less certain of the case and makes his involvement in this case official.



Motifs & Connotations:

Books and Paper

A significant event regarding books and paper was when Proctor ‘rips the warrant’ despite Cheever ordering Proctor that he ‘dare not touch the warrant’. This is significant because it highlights Proctor as a hero within the play, due to the fact that through this he is seen to challenge the absurd behaviour of his society. Cheever’s reaction of outrage (highlighted by the exclamation mark), as well as the phrase ‘the Deputy Governor’s warrant’ indicate the extent to which Proctor has acted unacceptably. Additionally, the warrants are seen to be the epitome of society’s expectations and Proctor’s actions foreshadow his coming conflict with the court.


In addition to the ripping of the warrant, Proctors reaction to the event when he says ‘…This warrant’s vengeance! I’ll not give my wife to vengeance!’ suggests how Miller effectively undermines both the Salem and the Communist witch hunt through the use of the word ‘vengeance’. Through this word, the entire witch hunt as well as the paper documents themselves, lose authority and are reduced to simply petty jealousies.


Clothing and Nudity

“…we are only what we always were, but naked now. Aye, naked! And the wind, God’s icy wind, will blow!” This quotation suggests that there have been lies and secrets in Salem that have allowed people to pretend to be something that they are not, however now that the lies and secrets have been uncovered, they are “naked” and exposed to “God’s icy wind”. This harsh, cruel image illustrates the extent to which their lies and secrets (‘clothes’) have protected them and their reputation and image and that now people will be vulnerable as this protection is no longer there.


Hot and Cold/Weather

The idea of the play taking place in the ‘winter’ is significant as it emphasizes the tension and lack of communication in the Proctors relationship. As the act takes place indoors and in a gloomy time is indicative of how dysfunctional their relationship is. This is further emphasized by the quotation that ‘[laughing bitterly] Oh, Elizabeth, your justice would freeze beer!’ because it demonstrates how when Elizabeth tries to defend herself, John continues to undermine and not take her seriously.


‘Believe me, Mr. Nurse, if Rebecca Nurse be tainted, then nothing’s left to stop the whole green world from burning.’ Rebecca Nurse has been taken to court, and here, Hale is reassuring Mr. Nurse that he believes Rebecca is a good woman. Here, burning (fire/heat) is associated with defeat and the fact that it is the ‘whole world’ that will burn suggests the magnitude of the error that the court has committed by arresting Rebecca Nurse.


‘And the wind, God’s icy wind, will blow!’ The ‘icy wind’ is associated with God and it suggests that God’s judgment will be merciless and cut through all pretence to the core truth, much like an icy wind would do. There is a sense, however, that Proctor welcomes this judgment as he himself is unable to accept the fact of his own infidelity and it seems he almost wishes for a chance to embrace his own destruction as he cannot bear to carry on living the lie of his honourable life.



“Think on cause, man [Proctor], and let you help me to discover it. For there’s your way, believe it, there is your only way, when such confusion strikes upon the world” – Hale. Hale recognises Proctor’s individuality and knows that this man can help him work his way through all the chaos in society in order to find the cause. Miller may be trying to point out how the 1950s American society needs an individual like this to help put an end to the madness of McCarthy’s Witch Hunt.




John Proctor

This act is most significant for John Proctor as it develops his role as the hero of the play. The act is used to concentrate Proctors character as an individual who will challenge the society. This idea becomes clear when Proctor’s rage increases and he starts ‘ripping the warrant’. Even after the warrant has been ripped he commands Cheever, a person who is of a higher status in society, to leave his house evidenced when he shouts ‘out with you!’ Essentially this act creates the beastly and determined character that Proctor represents and demonstrates the beginning of the conflict which is to occur in the court which Proctor attempts to reform.



Hale is used in this act interestingly. We immediately see a Hale as a ‘different’ person. He is decribed as ‘drawn a little and there is a quality of deference, even of guilt about his manner now.’ This is significant because it is the first time we see some levels of sanity and level-headedness amongst the superior members of society. His role in this scene is also significant because it possibly foreshadows Hales character change in act 4, where he seems to change completely.



The first time we see Elizabeth is in this act. Immediately she seems to be a very reserved character and tension is clear in her relationship with Proctor. This is accentuated by the face that she simply ‘receives his kiss’ which indicates the lack of passion in their relationship. We see Elizabeth as an ideal wife of this society, who is very religious and not outspoken. This is demonstrated with the way she responds to Hale’s question: ‘Do you know your commandments, Elizabeth?’ Her response is ‘[without hesitation, even eagerly] I surely do…’ which illustrates her religious nature. However, as the scene progresses and after she has been accused for witchcraft, she becomes a more outspoken and openly states that she ‘cannot think the Devil may own a woman’s soul’. She tells Hale clearly that ‘I do not believe it’ which shows how she is much more frank and relates her opinions clearly.


Mary Warren

Mary Warren is significant in this scene because it seems as though she is a tool used by Miller to explore the absurdity of the society during this time. She returns from court more confident and claims that she will ‘not stand whipping any more’ because she is ‘an official of the court’ which clearly demonstrates the power the court holds, that young girls are able to talk back to their own boss. In addition to her surge of authority from the court, she seems to believe the influence of the Devil in Salem is real. She relates the story of how Sarah Good ‘near to choked [the court] to death’ because ‘she sent her spirit out’ which is clearly an absurd reason to arrest an innocent woman. Furthermore, she is convinced by the court that ‘the Devil’s loose in Salem’ and that they ‘must discover where he is hiding’ which is a clear suggestion that the town has absurd ideologies which is embedded into the attitude of majority of the town.



Imagery and Setting

·         Animal imagery is present where the Devil is described as a real creature that roams around in the town rather frequently. Mary Warren’s description of the Devil in the quotation ‘The Devil’s loose in Salem, Mr. Proctor; we must discover where he’s hiding!’ emphasizes how real the fear of the Devil is in this town. The hysteria is so deeply embedded in their minds that the Devil is now actually among them almost like a wild dog.

·         The image of Proctor tearing the warrant is demonstrates how Proctor will officially challenge the court of law and take a stand against he absurdity that affects Salem. (See points made above for quotations and detail)

·         The setting is significant in this act. The entire act takes place in the Proctors household, which seems to be the only house which is seems comfortable with ‘the field outside’ and a ‘long living room of the time.’ This is demonstrates how the Proctor household seems nicer than the rest of Salem to some extent, as it seems as though there is more freedom in this household.



Relation of Part to Whole

This scene is significant because it prepares us for the climax of the play. The idea of Proctor ‘ripping the warrant’ and raging at the end of the act is significant because it foreshadows Proctors attempt to challenge the authority of the court and try to reform the town’s absurd ideologies. His anger makes it official that he will be the figurehead the small group of people in the town who see the absurdity of the conservative and religious nature of the town. It is interesting to note that the most significant characters of the play who somewhat assist Proctor in his mission to create a more sensible court of law are all present in the room in this act.


It is also a significant act as for the first time we see a clear power struggle between two groups in the society. Even Hale seems as though ‘He is different now-drawn a little, and there is a quality of deference, even of guilt, about his manner now.’ This is significant because in the household of the Proctors, the realism and shrewdness to the events unfolding is strong which not only emphasize the idea of the two groups in the society, but also emphasizes how Proctor can be successful, because Hale himself changes due to his presence in the Proctor household.