The Crucible: Act I
A small upper bedroom in the home of Reverend Samuel Parris, Salem, Massachusetts, in the spring of they year 1692. There is a narrow window a the left. Through its leaded panes the morning sunlight streams> A candle still burns near the bed, which is at the right. A chest, a chair, and a small table are the other furnishings. At the back a cdoor opens on the landing of the stairway to the ground floor. The room gives off an air of clean sparseness. The roof rafters are exposed, and the wood colors are raw and unmellowed. As the curtain rises, Reverend Parris is discovered kneeling beside the bed, evidently in prayer. His daughter, Betty Parris, aged ten, is lying on the bed, inert. His niece, Abigail Williams, seventeen, enters; she is all worry and propriety. At the time of these events Parris was in his middle forties. In history he cut a villainous path, and there is very little good to be said for him. He believed he was being persecuted wherever he went, despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side. In meeting, he felt insulted if someone rose to shut the door without first asking his permission. He was a widower with no interest in children, or talent with them. He regarded them as young adults, and until this strange crisis, he, like the rest of Salem, never conceived that the children were anything but thankful for being permitted to walk straight, eyes slightly lowered, arms at the sides, and mouths shut until bidden to speak. His house stood in the “town” – but we today would hardly call it a village. The meeting hose was nearby, and from this point outward – toward the bay or inland – there were a few small-windowed, dark houses snuggling against the raw Massachusetts winter. Salem had been established hardly forty years before> To the European world the whole province wasa a barbaric frontier inhabited by a sect of fanatics who, nevertheless were shipping out products of slowly increasing quantity and value. No one can really know what their lives were like. They had no novelists – and would not have permitted anyone to read a novel if one were handy. Their creed forbade anything resembling a theater or “vain enjoyment.” They did not celebrate Christmas, and a holiday from work meant only that they must concentrate even more on prayer. Which is not to say that h nothing broke into this strict and somber way of life. When a new farmhouse was built, friends assembled to “raise the roof,” and there wawould be special foods cooked and probably some potent cider passed around. There was a good supply of ne’er-do-wells in Salem, who dallied at the shovelboard in Bridget Bishop’s tavern. Probably more thn the creed, hard work kept the morals of the place from spoiling for the people were forced to fight the land like heroes for every grain of corn, and no man had very much time for fooling around. That there were some jokers, however, is indicated by the practice of appointing a two-man patrol whose duty was to “walk forth in the time of God’s worship to take notice of such as either lye about the meeting hous, without attending to the word and ordinances, or that lye at home or in the fields without giving good account thereof, and to take the names of such persons and to present them to the magistrates, whereby they may be accordingly proceeded against.” This predilection for minding other people’s business was time-honored among the people of Salem, and it undoubtedly created many of the suspicions which were to feed the coming madness. It was also, in my opinion, one of the tings that a John Proctor would rebel against, for the time of the armed camp had almost passed, and since the country was reasonably – although not wholly – safe, the old disciplines were...