Sundstrand, David. "The Crucible." Masterplots, Fourth Edition (2010): 1-3. Literary Reference Center. Web. 24 Jan. 2013. The Story:
The Reverend Samuel Parris prays over his daughter, who lies stricken with a nameless malady. As he prays, he is angered by the interruption of his Negro slave, Tituba, whom he brought with him from the island of Barbados. Parris is frightened and furious, for he discovered his daughter Betty, Tituba, and some of the village girls dancing in the woods. Now two of the girls, Betty and Ruth Putnam, are ill, and witchcraft is rumored about the village. His daughter Betty and his ward and niece, Abigail Williams, were been participants in a secret and sinful act. Parris feels his position as minister to the community of Salem is threatened. Moreover, he suspects that more than dancing took place. The frightened Parris sends for the Reverend John Hale, a reputed scholar familiar with the manifestations of witchcraft. While waiting for Hale to arrive, the parishioners reveal the petty grievances and jealousies hidden beneath the veneer of piety of the Puritan community. Parris feels that the community failed to meet its financial obligations to him. He suspects John Proctor, a respected farmer, of undermining his authority. Proctor resents Parris for preaching of nothing but hellfire and the money owed to the parish. Thomas Putnam, a grasping landholder, disputes the boundaries of his neighbors’ farms. Ann Putnam lost seven babies at childbirth, and she suspects witchcraft of mothers with large families, most especially Rebecca Nurse, who has eleven healthy children. Amid this discontent, the learned Hale arrives with his books of weighty wisdom. Under Hale’s close questioning concerning the girls’ illicit activities in the woods, Abigail turns the blame away from herself by accusing Tituba of witchcraft. Terrified by the threat of hanging, Tituba confesses to conjuring up the devil. Putnam asks Tituba if she saw the old beggar Sarah Good or Goodwife Osborne with the devil. Sensing her survival at stake, Tituba names both women as companions of the devil. Abigail picks up the accusations and adds the names of other villagers. Soon the rest of the girls begin hysterically chanting out the names of village men and women seen in company with the devil. At the Proctor farm, Proctor tells Elizabeth that Abigail revealed that the dancing in the woods was only “sport.” When Proctor hesitates to go to the authorities with this information, Elizabeth quietly reminds her husband of his past infidelities with Abigail. Their argument is interrupted by the arrival of Hale, who comes to inquire into the sanctity of the Proctor home. Elizabeth suspects that Abigail means to destroy her so that she might become Proctor’s wife. Mary Warren, another of the afflicted girls and the Proctors’ servant, returns from court where she gave testimony. She gives Elizabeth a rag doll that she made in court. At this point, officers of the court arrive at the Proctor farm with an arrest warrant for Elizabeth on the charge of witchcraft. They search the house for poppets (dolls) and find the one Mary gave to Elizabeth. They discover a pin in its stomach and take it for proof that Abigail’s stomach pains are the result of Elizabeth’s witchcraft. Elizabeth is taken away in chains. Proctor confronts Mary, demanding that she tell the court the truth. At the court of Deputy Governor Danforth, Giles Corey, Francis Nurse, and John Proctor present evidence to save their wives from the charge of witchcraft. Danforth confiscates the list of names brought by Francis testifying to Rebecca Nurse’s good character and marks the petitioners for arrest. Giles refuses to name the people who back him, so the deputy governor has Corey arrested. When Proctor brings Mary to court to recant, Abigail pretends to be possessed by the evil spirits brought by Mary. Proctor accuses the girls of lying and confesses to committing...