The setting is Salem, Massachusetts, in the year 1692. Someone once said of the Puritans that they did not leave Europe because they were persecuted, but that they were thrown out of Europe because they persecuted everyone else. As you read Miller’s stage direction in the opening of Act I, how do you suppose he would respond to that statement?
Act I 1. In his stage directions, what are some good and bad points that Miller observes about the Puritans?
2. Who is Betty and what is wrong with her?
3. When Abigail enters, she is described as “a strikingly beautiful girl.. .with an endless capacity for dissembling.” What does the phrase an “endless capacity for dissembling” suggest?
4. Why does Rev. Parris become upset at the thought that Betty’s illness is a result of unnatural causes?
5 What negative aspect of his character does this reveal?
6. What innuendo does Rev. Parris make about Abigail’s character?
7. How does Abigail respond?
8. How does Goody Putnam move the plot along? “Goody” is a term of address much like our “Mrs.” It is short for “Goodwoman.”
9. What motivation is Miller attributing to Thomas Putnam’s actions?
10. What do we learn from the conversation that Mercy, Abigail, and Mary Warren have while alone?
11. How do we see that Abigail is the acknowledged leader of this group?
12. In his stage directions, Miller tells us that despite, or perhaps due to, his upright appearance, John Proctor feels he is a fraud because he knows he is a sinner. What does his conversation with Abigail tell us about the nature of his sin?
13. As Abby flirts with John Proctor, what is her opinion of Betty’s illness?
14. What seems to be the attitude of Giles Corey and the others gathered in the house?
15. Rebecca Nurse, who walks to Betty’s bed and quiets her with her own calming presence, is a voice of reason and rationality. To what does she attribute Betty’s condition?
16. Who is Rev. Hale, and why was he sent for? Why does Rebecca Nurse tell Parris that Hale should be sent home rather than allowed to see Betty?
17. Why are the Putnams unwilling to accept this?
18. Why do Putnam and Proctor get into an argument?
19. How does Proctor’s subsequent comment on Parris’ fiery sermons cause an outburst from Rev. Parris?
20. In this argument the theme of authority explicitly arises. What are the two points of view?
21. In what way do the two men find themselves aligned regarding the congregation’s opinion of Parris?
22. Who is Giles Corey and how does Proctor treat him?
23. How is Putnam’s materialistic ambition further revealed in his argument with Proctor?
24. The Rev. Hale enters. From his comments, where may we infer that he believes that authority resides, and what does this say of his personality?
25. Who is Tituba and of what does Abigail accuse her?
26. Why has Abigail turned on Tituba and accused her of these things?
27. What does Putnam say that terrifies Tituba and causes her to say that she told the devil she did not want to work for him?
28. Why does Tituba come up with the names Goody Good and Goody Osburn as the two women she saw consorting with the devil?
29. In your opinion, what motivates Abby and Betty to begin denouncing everyone?
Act II 1. In what way has Mary Warren changed and what changed her?
2. How would you describe the relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor at the beginning of this scene?
3. What is it she wants him to do?
4. Why can’t John prove what Abigail told him? Why does Elizabeth pick up on this?
5. Of what does...