1. What does the reader learn about the Proctors’ marriage through the discrepancy between what John Proctor does before he sees his wife and when he talks to her? John comes into the house, tastes the stew and adds seasoning. At dinner he compliments her seasoning of the meal. This lie shows how he does find fault with Elizabeth, but also that he will not be open and honest with her. There is an obvious barrier between the two that is demonstrated in the first few pages of this act. Some students might argue that this early action of John establishes that he loves his wife and tries to please her, but Elizabeth remains separated from him. She appears somewhat aloof or withdrawn. This distance is obviously due to John’s infidelity.
2. In what ways is Miller’s use of dialogue effective in the first two pages of this scene to show the rift between the couple?
There is no flow to the conversation at first. Each makes statements, and the other responds, but there is no conversation. The coldness they feel toward each other comes across in this forced dinner dialogue.
3. When Proctor kisses his wife, what does her reaction show about her feelings? Miller writes: “She receives it.” Elizabeth does not return the affection; she allows herself to be kissed. This action demonstrates their aloofness and lack of intimacy.
4. What does Proctor’s hesitation to travel to Salem indicate about his inner conflict? While he would like to clear up the hysteria about witchcraft, he does not want to attack Abigail. The reason may be that he still has feelings for Abigail and/or the reason may be that he does not want his adultery to come out in court.
5. Explain the ironic ultimatum the head of the court has given to those who have been arrested.
The accused must confess or die. If they claim to be innocent, they die. If they claim to be guilty, they live. Thus, ironically, they are punished for telling the truth yet rewarded for lying.
6. Explain Proctor’s...