The Crucible

Try a teacher's guide that provides a synopsis of The Crucible, the classic play by Arthur Miller about the Salem Witch Trials. Also included in this literature guide are discussion questions and extended learning activities.
9 |
10 |
11 |
Updated on: November 1, 2000
Page 4 of 6

Act Three
Arthur Miller's The Crucible


  • What is the setting of Act Three?
  • What is the significance of the behind the scenes discussion between Hathorne, Danforth, Martha Corey, and Giles Corey?
  • How do Proctor, Francis, and Giles plan to use Mary Warren's testimony to prove that "Heaven is NOT speaking through the children"?
  • What is the significance of Proctor plowing on Sunday?
  • How do Danforth and Hathorne attempt to get Proctor to drop the charge that Mary Warren has lied? Why do they want him to do so? Why does Proctor refuse?
  • Why are Proctor, Francis, and Giles repeatedly accused of attacking the court?
  • Why is Putnam brought into the court?
  • Why is Giles accused of contempt of court?
  • What is the significance of the point made by Danforth that "no uncorrupted man may fear this court"? Is this true? How does this point tie the court and the church together?
  • Why does Hale suggest that Proctor should have a lawyer? What does this tell us about Hale's feelings about the justice of the trial? Is this a change in his attitude? Why does Danforth refuse?
  • What is contained in Mary Warren's depositions? Why are the other children who have cried out brought in?
  • How does Danforth equate the court with the church?
  • What does Abigail say about Mary's testimony? Why does she lie?
  • What role does Parris play during the testimony? Why does he lie about the dancing in the woods?
  • What point does Hathorne make about Mary fainting? Why can't she faint on command?
  • How does Danforth confuse Mary Warren?
  • What does Abigail do to befuddle Mary?
  • What secret does Proctor reveal about himself and Abigail? Why does he reveal it?
  • Why does Elizabeth deny John's relationship with Abigail? What is the result of her denial?
  • What evidence is there that Hale no longer believes the testimony and crying out of the girls?
  • What do the girls do to convince the men otherwise? Why? How does their action further befuddle Mary? What does Mary do?


  • "And do you know that near to four hundred are in the jails from Marblehead to Lynn, and upon my signature?" (Danforth, p. 87)
  • "Do you know, Mr. Proctor, that the entire contention of the state in these trials is that the voice of Heaven is speaking through the children?" (Danforth, p. 88)
  • "I think not, or you should surely know that Cain were an upright man, and yet he did kill Abel." (Parris to Proctor about his reading the Gospel, p. 91)
  • "He's come to overthrow this court, Your Honor!" (Parris about Proctor, p. 92)
  • "A person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between." (Danforth, p. 94)
  • "We cannot blink it more. There is a prodigious fear of this court in the country." (Hale, p. 98)
  • "Then there is a prodigious guilt in the country...there is fear in the country because there is a moving plot to topple Christ in the country!" (Danforth, p. 98)
  • "Mr. Hale, you surely do not doubt my justice." (Danforth, p. 99)
  • "Now, children, this is a court of law. The law, based upon the Bible, and the Bible, writ by Almighty God, forbid the practice of witchcraft, and describe death as the penalty thereof. But likewise, children, the law and Bible damn all bearers of false witness." (Danforth, p. 102)
  • "We are here, Your Honor, precisely to discover what no one has ever seen." (Parris, p. 104)
  • "And yet, when people accused of witchery confronted you in court, you would faint, saying their spirits came out of their bodies and choked you" (Hathorne to Mary Warren, p. 106)
  • "I - I know not. A wind, a cold wind, has come." (Abigail, p. 108)
  • "I have made a bell of my honor! I have rung the doom of my good name." (Proctor, p. 111)
  • "Private vengeance is working through this testimony!" (Hale, p. 114)
  • "Praise God!" (Parris and the girls after the crying out and Mary's calling Proctor "the Devil's man!", p. 118) "I say - I say - God is dead!" (Proctor, p. 119)
  • "A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud - God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!" (Proctor, pp. 119-120)


  • Students can explore three themes in this act: Justice vs. Retribution and Revenge; Godliness vs. Worldliness; Ignorance vs. Wisdom.
  • Have students go through the Act to find quotes that support each theme. They can list this on chart paper and discuss with the class what point Miller is making about each theme.
  • Students can also explore one of these themes in writing in their response journals. Some students might be moved to write a poem related to one of the themes.*
  • Students might examine the Act in terms of which characters favor ignorance over wisdom and knowledge and why.
  • Students with artistic talents can explore the themes through painting or musical composition.
  • In small groups, students can take one of these themes (or another theme mentioned on page 23 of this guide) and write a contemporary short story or play that addresses it.* (English)

Another important concept to explore in this act is the relationship of the church and the court.

  • In small groups students can research the relationship of the court and the church in colonial New England and report on their research to the class. (History)
  • In small groups students can research various aspects of the concept of separation of church and state as it exists today: when was it first established, by whom, and why; what are some recent court cases related to it; what are some recent challenges to it. An interesting debate could be conducted on a topic such as school prayer or federal funding of private religious schools.* (History)
  • Students can do a dramatic reading or dramatize the crying out scene. (English and Drama)
  • Students can examine the scene to find all the plot twisting and turning points. These can be listed on chart paper and discussed with the class. (English and Drama)
  • Students can discuss Act three in terms of how it provides the climax for the play. (English)
  • Students can explore several of the characters in this act in terms of their actions and motivations.
  • Danforth, Mary Warren, and Abigail are particularly intriguing and can be discussed in small groups or as a class.
  • Students might work in small groups to dramatically interpret these characters. (Drama)
  • Students can discuss Proctor's role as the voice of reason in this act.

Act Four


  • What is the significance of the scene between Herrick and the accused witches?
  • Why does Reverend Hale tell the accused witches to confess?
  • What does the news of what is happening in Andover have to do with the trials in Salem?
  • Why does Parris say Abigail has vanished?
  • Why does Parris suggest the hanging be postponed?
  • Why does Danforth want Proctor to see Elizabeth? What does he hope it will cause him to do?
  • What are the conditions in Salem? Why?
  • Why doesn't Elizabeth beg John to confess?
  • Why does Proctor initially say he will confess? Why does he refuse to sign the confession?
  • Why does Parris beg Elizabeth to get John's confession? Why does she refuse?
  • Why does Miller end the play with Proctor's refusal to sign the confession and Elizabeth's refusal to beg him to do so?


  • "Oh, it be no Hell in Barbados. Devil, him be pleasureman in Barbados, him be singin' and dancin' in Barbados. It's you folks - you riles him up 'round here; it be too cold 'round here for that Old Boy. He freeze his soul in Massachusetts, but in Barbados he just and sweet." (Tituba, p. 122)
  • "I met him [Parris] yesterday coming out of his house, and I bid him good morning - and he wept and went his way." (Hathorne, p. 124)
  • "My niece, sir, my niece - I believe she has vanished....She told me she would stay a night with Mercy Lewis....Mercy told him [Mr. Lewis] she would sleep in my house for a night....I think they be aboard a ship... my strongbox is broke into....Thirty-one pound is gone. I am penniless." (Parris, p. 126)
  • "Mr. Parris, you are a brainless man!" (Danforth, p. 126)
  • "Andover have thrown out the court, they say, and will have no part of witchcraft. There be a faction here, feeding on that news, and I tell you true, sir, I fear there will be riot here...these people [the accused witches] have great weight yet in the town....Excellency, I would postpone these hangin's for a time." (Parris, p. 127)
  • "Now Mr. Hale's returned, there is hope, I think - for if he bring even one of these to God, that confession surely damns the others in the public eye, and none may doubt more that they are all linked to Hell." (Parris, p. 128)
  • "Tonight, when I open my door to leave my house - a dagger clattered to the ground....There is danger for me." (Parris, p. 128)
  • "Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now. While I speak God's law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering. If retaliation is your fear, know this - I should hang ten thousand that dared to rise against the law." (Danforth, p. 129)
  • "Excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlot's cry will end his life - and you wonder yet if rebellion's spoke?" (Hale, p. 130)
  • "For if he [Proctor] is taken I count myself his murderer." (Hale, p. 131)
  • "He were not hanged. He would not answer aye or nay to his indictment; for if he denied the charge they'd hang him surely, and auction out his property. So he stand mute, and died Christian under the law. And so his sons will have his farm." (Elizabeth to Proctor about Giles, p. 135)
  • "Spite only keeps me silent. It is hard to give a lie to dogs." (Proctor, p. 136)
  • "John, it come to naught that I should forgive you, if you'll not forgive yourself." (Elizabeth, p. 136)
  • "I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it." (Proctor, p. 141)
  • "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave my name! (Proctor explaining why he will not sign a confession, p. 143)
  • "He [Proctor] have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him! (Elizabeth, p. 145)


Among the themes, there are three that are explored in Act Four. In small groups, students can look for quotes that further the themes and discuss these questions:

Community: Unity and Exclusion - Who is a part of the community of Salem? Who is excluded? How and why does the trial change the typical order of the community? What happens to the community when the order is changed? Who is included in the community of your school or town? Who is excluded?

  • Students can study a theme by using the Expanded Book to search for the incidence of key words related to the theme. For example, the theme of unity vs exclusion can be followed by searching for words or phrases such as "village" or "the public eye."

The Puritan Myth - What is Puritanism? What do textbooks say about the Puritans? Why did they come to America? If this play is accurate, what myths do you find in definitions, textbook descriptions, and the Puritan's motivations for freedom? What groups can you identify in your school or community? What myths surround stereotypes of these groups?

Order vs. Individual Freedom - Why did the Puritans come to America? What level of individual freedom do you see in Salem? What level of order? What happens when one or the other gets out of balance? When does order become autocratic? What is the balance between individual freedom and order in your school or community?

  • A student can add depth to this discussion by reporting on how the authority of the state in 17th-century Salem, 1950's America, and World War II Germany was driven by "irrational terror [that took] the fiat of moral goodness".

Several of the characters are particularly well developed in Act four: John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, Parris, and Danforth.

  • Have students write a letter from the point of view and in the voice of one of these four characters explaining his/her actions and motivations. (English)
  • Have students develop a character sketch, including movement and expression, for each character. (Drama)
  • Students can find quotes throughout the Act that help develop a character; these can be placed on chart paper to present to the class. (English)
  • After students have reported on the characters or developed character sketches, have them view the young actors discussing their parts.

The final twist of the plot occurs in this Act.

  • Students can outline the plot on chart paper. (English)
  • There are many dramatic interpersonal interactions that occur. Students can select and present one of these interactions to the class. (Drama)
  • Students can discuss other possible endings for the play and examine if any others would have been realistic given the action of previous acts, particularly in the climax in Act Three.