The Crucible Summary

The Crucible Summary

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Table of Contents
Summary Part 2
Summary Part 3
Literary Analysis
Further Resources

Act I Summary

Taking place in Salem in 1692, The Crucible by Arthur Miller opens in the home of Reverend Samuel Parris.  Parris is praying over the body of his comatose daughter, Betty.  Parris is joined first by his slave, Tituba, who he chases out, then by his niece, Abigail, who brings news that the town’s doctor cannot find any cause for Betty’s illness.  John and Ann Putnam join the scene, hoping for some news about Betty as their daughter, Ruth, suffers from a similar condition.  It comes to light that these girls came down with their afflictions after Reverend Parris caught them, along with Abigail, the Putnam’s servant Mercy Lewis, the Proctor’s servant Mary Warren, and others dancing in the woods with Tituba.

At this point in the plot of The Crucible, John Proctor, a local farmer, arrives at the Parris residence.  Abigail approaches him with some familiarity, telling him, “I am waitin’ for you every night.” (21)  Proctor admits to looking up into Abigail’s window but makes clear that their relationship is over.  At this point, the community members that have gathered in Parris’s parlor have been singing Psalms and have just sung a line mentioning Jesus.  At this point, Betty covers her ears and makes pained noises.

The Putnams take this as a sign that the illness is the work of the Devil, a viewpoint that Parris is soon coming around to.  Proctor and Rebecca Nurse, an older and much-venerated woman, urge a more cautious approach, causing rising tensions in the room.   This tension grows as Giles Corey, a cantankerous and litigious farmer, joins the group.  John Putnam condemns Proctor as being the leader of a faction in the community against the leadership of Reverend Parris.  Proctor’s response to Putnam’s accusation is to declare that he must find and join this party against Parris.

Just as the tensions have reached their peak, Reverend John Hale, a man who has recently dealt with a witchcraft scare in his own town, arrives at the Parris household.  After urging Hale to use some common sense in Salem, Proctor leaves to return home.  Hale begins to examine Betty, exhorting the Salem residents not to jump to conclusions of witchcraft.  However, he takes great interest in each supposed symptom and piece of information he receives.  After talking to Giles Corey about the strange books the man’s wife is reading, Hale turns his attention to Abigail.

Hale questions the girl intensely, often using leading questions to direct her to very specific answers.  Abigail resists at first, sticking to her story that the girls were just dancing in the woods, a forbidden act in itself.  However, Hale presses her for more and more detail, and Abigail confesses to each thing he asks of her.  Suddenly, Tituba is brought back into the room, and Abigail points at the slave shouting “She made me do it! She made Betty do it!” (40)  Tituba denies having done anything wrong until she is threatened with being hanged.  At that point, she confesses to practicing witchcraft.  At this point, Betty wakes, and the scene ends as she and Abigail begin naming Salem residents that they have seen in the company of the Devil.