1. What does the reader learn about the Proctors’ marriage through the discrepancy between what John Proctor does before he sees his wife and when he talks to her? John comes into the house, tastes the stew and adds seasoning. At dinner he compliments her seasoning of the meal. This lie shows how he does find fault with Elizabeth, but also that he will not be open and honest with her. There is an obvious barrier between the two that is demonstrated in the first few pages of this act. Some students might argue that this early action of John establishes that he loves his wife and tries to please her, but Elizabeth remains separated from him. She appears somewhat aloof or withdrawn. This distance is obviously due to John’s infidelity.
2. In what ways is Miller’s use of dialogue effective in the first two pages of this scene to show the rift between the couple? There is no flow to the conversation at first. Each makes statements, and the other responds, but there is no conversation. The coldness they feel toward each other comes across in this forced dinner dialogue.
3. When Proctor kisses his wife, what does her reaction show about her feelings? Miller writes: “She receives it.” Elizabeth does not return the affection; she allows herself to be kissed. This action demonstrates their aloofness and lack of intimacy.
4. What does Proctor’s hesitation to travel to Salem indicate about his inner conflict? While he would like to clear up the hysteria about witchcraft, he does not want to attack Abigail. The reason may be that he still has feelings for Abigail and/or the reason may be that he does not want his adultery to come out in court.
5. Explain the ironic ultimatum the head of the court has given to those who have been arrested. The accused must confess or die. If they claim to be innocent, they die. If they claim to be guilty, they live. Thus, ironically, they are punished for telling the truth yet rewarded for lying.
6. Explain Proctor’s quote: “If the girl’s a saint now, I think it is not easy to prove she is a fraud, and the town gone so silly.” The town’s opinion of Abigail is so high that anyone who agrees with her is considered morally correct, but anyone who speaks against her is considered evil. Proctor is saying it will be difficult to prove to everyone that Abigail is wrong, and the entire town has been fooled, while he alone knows the truth.
7. What lie does Elizabeth notice Proctor told? How does this feed her current suspicions? Proctor mentions that he was alone with Abigail at Parris’s house. Previously he told Elizabeth that he and Abigail were in a group of people. In her mind, this confirms her suspicions that Proctor still has feelings for Abigail.
8. What present does Mary Warren give to Elizabeth? What does her making it and giving it to Elizabeth foreshadow? Mary Warren gives Elizabeth a poppet that she made while sitting on a bench in court. As poppets, or dolls, were tools used in Voodoo to bewitch others, the presence of a poppet in the Proctors’ house could be used as evidence that one of them is a witch.
9. How does Mary Warren save herself from a whipping? Who does Elizabeth believe accused her of witchcraft and why? Mary reveals that someone accused Elizabeth of witchcraft in court, and Mary was the one who came to Mrs. Proctor’s defense. “We must all love each other now, Goody Proctor,” is actually a threat. She is letting Elizabeth know that if the Proctors do not give Mary some freedom, she may not be able to defend her further. Elizabeth believes it was Abigail who accused her in order to marry the widowed John once Elizabeth is gone.
10. What does Hale’s motivation for visiting the Proctors tell the audience about his personality? He explains that he is not there on court business; he is looking to get a clearer picture of those who are accused. This shows he is a free-thinking individual. Though the court and he share a common goal, he is not the court’s servant or messenger. It also suggests to the audience that he will be more careful in what he accepts as “true” and more willing than the court to examine all the sides of the issue.
11. In what ways does Hale question John Proctor’s religious strength? Hale questions John’s infrequent church attendance, his disrespect for Parris, and his refusal to get his third son baptized.
12. Explain how Hale tests Proctor’s belief in God, as well as the irony in how Proctor fails Hale’s test. Hale asks Proctor to recite the Ten Commandments. John momentarily forgets the commandment that he has broken: “Thou Shalt not Commit Adultery.”
13. Explain Hale’s quote: “Man, remember until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.” Anyone is capable of evil, despite his or her past good behavior. Even Rebecca, who Hale believes is above suspicion, is conceivably in league with Satan.
14. Explain Francis’ metaphor: “My wife is the very brick and mortar of the church.” Rebecca is being compared to the foundation of the church; therefore, she is very important to the church community. The “good soul” Hale had heard of in Beverly is well-respected and vital to the congregation in Salem.
15. What evidence does Cheever have against Elizabeth? He finds a poppet that Abigail claims Elizabeth is using for voodoo.
16. If Mary contradicts Abigail, how is she “charging cold murder on Abigail”? If Abigail is lying, the only reason would be that she wants Elizabeth to be found guilty and be sentenced to death. Therefore, Abigail would be trying to murder others with these lies.
17. How is Hale a “broken minister”? Proctor interprets the lack of support from Hale to mean that he believes the court and is willing to let innocent people be sentenced.
18. Explain the demand Proctor makes of Mary Warren at the end of scene one and her significant response to his threat. Proctor tells Mary she will testify against Abigail, or he will bring her “guts up through her mouth.” Mary replies that Abigail will charge lechery on Proctor if he goes to court, showing that Mary has known about the affair for some time and knows Abigail is prepared to use it against Proctor.
19. Who are the two dynamic characters in this scene and show their changes. Mary Warren is “a mouse no more.” She is subservient in Act I and bold in this scene. Reverend Hale is confident in his resolution to ferret out the witches in Act I, but by the end of this scene, and most notably the arrest of Rebecca Nurse, he questions the motives of the accusers and suspects that vengeance, not Satan, is controlling the town’s madness.
20. How are the golden candlesticks symbolic of Parris’s personality? Parris is not satisfied with lead candlesticks, which would symbolize the Puritan proscription against vanity. He wants golden candlesticks just as he wants more money and a finer church. As a former businessman, Parris is more concerned with monetary issues than with religious ones.
21. How is the poppet a symbol of Abigail’s control of the society? Abigail has been able to bend and control the town as she could a doll. The idea that the doll is a sort of voodoo doll further adds to the comparison, since voodoo dolls curse the intended victim, as she has done in court.