The Crucible - Plot Line

  • Please refer to this plot line when studying The Crucible.  Students may print out a hard-copy version of this information.  

    Crucible Plot Line

    Act 1:


    1.     (Exposition)  In 1692, the threat of Native Americans caused the Puritans to be cautious of following the established rules and order. 


    2.     (Exposition) The paradox that existed in Salem: The Puritans established a Theocracy to prevent disunity however disunity is created once a Theocracy, or any government is established – the ruled and the rulers. 


    3.     Reverend Parris’ daughter, Betty, is sick – Doctor cannot identify the cause


    4.     Susanne Walcott informs Reverend Parris that supernatural causes may be the cause


    5.     Parris, the town’s minister, is afraid of what the townspeople will think if they discover that his own daughter is associated with the devil, evil, and witchcraft.  Many concerned citizens are gathering in his parlor.


    6.     Parris had discovered the girls “dancing like heathens in the forest” naked.  Could this be the cause of the illness?


    7.     Parris expresses his fear that Abigail’s reputation is tainted.  Abigail used to work for the Proctors but was dismissed for unclear reasons.  No one in the village has hired Abby for 7 months. 


    8.     Upon Putnam’s arrival, we learn that their daughter, Ruth, is also sick. 


    9.     (Exposition)  Thomas Putnam was a man with many grievances.  For example, George Burroughs was accepted as the Minister of Salem while his brother-in-law, James Bayley was rejected. 


    10.  In order to allay the fear of witchcraft, Reverend Hale, an expert in witchcraft and the “demonic arts,” is summoned to examine the sick girls. 


    11.   However, Ann Putnam admits that she sent her own daughter, Ruth, to Tituba in order to find out who “killed” her 7 deceased babies. 


    12.  Parris and the Putnams exit to pray with the congregation.  With Betty Parris, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, Abigail’s true nature is exposed.  It is revealed that Abigail drank “a charm” of blood to kill John Proctor’s wife.  Also, Abigail threatens the girls that she will kill them if they reveal her secret.


    13.  (Exposition) In John Proctor’s presence and fool felt his foolishness instantly.  However, he has committed a moral sin. 


    14.  Upon Proctor’s arrival, we learn the adulterous encounter between Proctor and Abigail.  Proctor’s disdain for Rev. Parris is also revealed.  The feud between the Putnams and Nurses is exposed.  11 babies vs. 7 dead babies.  Land size vs. Land size.  Bayley vs. Topsfield. 


    15.  Notice that Rebecca Nurse appears to be the only one capable of calming Betty.  Also, she asks the gathered party to “blame ourselves” for the children’s illness. 


    16.  (Exposition) Rebecca and Francis Nurse had 300 acres and a large family.  This caused the Putnams to resent the Nurses.  


    17.  The squabble over Parris’ salary and John Proctor’s admission that he “likes not the smell of this authority” indicates the deep seeded contention present in Salem.  It also give the theocracy reason to dislike Proctor. 


    18.  (Exposition)  Reverend John Hale conceives of himself much as a young doctor on a house call.  He believes the detection of witchcraft is an absolute science that he’s prepared to identify. 


    19.  Reverend Hale establishes himself as the intellectual expert in witchcraft, threatening to leave if the villagers refuse to accept his findings. 


    20.  As the process to “free” Betty of the “devil’s grip” begins, Rebecca Nurse exits.  Parris and the Putnams feel resentful of her sense of spiritual superiority. 


    21.  Giles Corey expresses his concern that he is unable to pray because his wife, Martha, reads “strange books.”  But, he is 83, had just learned prayers and he forgets his prayers easily. 


    22.  Hale conducts the process of freeing Betty and it does not work.  Not wanting to be seen as a failure, Hale instantly blames Abigail for Betty’s unresponsiveness to his prayers. 


    23.  Afraid of what may happen to her, Abigail blames Tituba, accusing Tituba of forcing her to drink blood, laugh at prayer, and stand naked in doorways. 


    24.  Threatened by Hale, Parris, and Putman, Tituba confesses to seeing witches.  However, note where she gets the names of those identified as a witch.


    25.  The Act ends with Abigail, Betty, and Tituba crying out the names of those associated with witchcraft.  By naming others, they’ve preserved their own reputation. 


    Act 2: 


    1.     John Proctor arrives home from planting crops and he and his wife stumble through an awkward conversation that shows their disconnect since John’s affair with Abby. 


    2.     Elizabeth reveals that an official court has been established and the judges have “promised hanging.”  Also, the Proctor’s servant, Mary Warren is an “official of the court.” 


    3.     Elizabeth asks John to inform the court that Abby has told him that the dancing were “done in sport” but John fears the court will not take his word over Abby’s since the information was revealed while they were alone.  Elizabeth expresses her discontent that John was alone with Abby, again. 


    4.     Upon Mary Warren’s arrival, she gifts Elizabeth with a poppet she made while at the court all day long.  Also, Sarah Osburn is sentenced to hang.  At the end of Act 1, 11 people were identified as a witch.  According to Mary Warren, there are now 39 accused of witchcraft. 


    5.     Mary Warren informs Elizabeth that Elizabeth was accused of being a witch but Mary Warren “saved her life” by testifying that Elizabeth was not a witch.  Upon this information, Elizabeth orders John to alert Abigail that their romance is over. 


    6.     As Proctor is leaving, Rev. Hale enters in order to test the Christian character of the Proctor house.  Hale establishes several key concerns regarding Proctor’s devotion to religion: He doesn’t attend church regularly, his youngest son isn’t baptized and finally, he doesn’t know all his commandments.  Note that the commandment Proctor doesn’t remember is the one he has broken: Adultery.


    7.     As Hale is leaving, Giles Corey and Francis Nurse arrive to inform Proctor that their wives have been arrested.  Rebecca is arrested for killing Ann Putnam’s babies and Martha Corey is arrested for killing Walcott’s pigs. 


    8.     Shortly after Corey and Nurse’s arrival, Cheever arrives with a warrant to search Proctor’s house.  Abigail has been stuck with a needle and accuses Elizabeth Proctor of stabbing a poppet, which has afflicted her, in turn.  As Abigail has indicted, Elizabeth possesses a poppet which has a needle stuck in the belly. 


    9.     Elizabeth, Rebecca, and Martha are all arrested and taken to court.  Proctor vows to set them free but first, he damns the Deputy Governor and rips the official arrest warrant. 


    10.  Mary Warren warns Proctor that if he attempts to impugn Abigail Williams, Abby will publicly admit that she and John had an affair. 


    Act 3


    1.     Proctor, Giles Corey, and Francis Nurse go to the court in order to free their wives.  In an effort to show their wives’ good character, 91 people sign a petition attesting to the good nature of the women.  Those 91 people are all arrested. 


    2.     The evidence Cheever and Parris offer to initially discredit John Proctor consists of:


    a.     Cheever – “When we came to take his wife, he damned the court.”

    b.     Cheever – “When we came to take his wife … he ripped your warrant.”

    c.     Parris – “A Christian that will not come to church but once a month.”

    d.     Cheever – “He plow on Sunday.”


    3.     Giles Corey attempts to expose Thomas Putnam’s sinister plan to steal his neighbor’s land by accusing his neighbor’s of witchcraft.  However, he’s ignored when he’s unwilling to identify the individual corroborating the story and threatened to be jailed for contempt. 


    4.     The reason Giles Corey refuses to identify his witness is because Corey knows that the witness will be arrested.  Proctor tries to explain that the witness shared the information in confidence but Judge Danforth warns that the “devil lives on such confidences.” 


    5.     Initially, John Proctor arrives at the court attempting to free his wife.  Danforth presents Proctor a deal: Elizabeth will be set free for one year because she is pregnant.  John Proctor rejects the deal causing Danforth to question that John Proctor’s purpose is “somewhat larger.” 


    6.     Proctor attempts to prove the innocence of those accused by having Mary Warren testify that she “never saw no spirits” and that her accusations were a lie.  Danforth cleverly points out that Mary Warren was either lying in the beginning or is lying now.