The second lie is possibly one of the most significant events in the play. Towards the end of Act three, during his court hearing, John Proctor finally admits to his adulterous affair with Abigail. The court wished to investigate this affair and John informs them that Elizabeth is aware of it, so they ask her to enter the courtroom and testify. However, she is not aware that he has confessed and she is told not to make eye contact with either John or Abigail.
“Look at me only, not at your husband” The court then question Elizabeth as to whether Abigail, the Proctor’s former servant, was dismissed for her adultery with John. She prevaricates for a long time. This scene is full of dramatic tension, especially when we see Elizabeth panicking as to whether or not she should condemn her husband. When she is asked the question “Is your husband a lecher?” she eventually answers no.
Unbeknown to her, the first lie she has ever made, has condemned her husband to almost certain execution. In the book we do not get the full feeling of the tension in the courtroom, however, in the film the scene involves long pauses and we see Elizabeth desperately trying to find the answer in John’s eyes. This lie condemns John, because he was attempting to show the jury that Abigail is not as innocent as she appears. Unfortunately, this plan works against him and instead, he is seen to be the liar. Statements of truth are also very important to this play. The first major incident is when Mary Warren tells the truth about what really happened in the woods. “That were pretence Sir… I never saw no spirits!
She starts confidently and the court appears to be believing her until Abigail and the other girls try to break Mary down by chanting everything she says. Abigail pretends to see a bird, supposedly Mary’s spirit, but the other girls believe it is really there and they become wrapped up in the hysteria. “Her claws, she’s stretching her claws” The girls then repeat both her words and her actions until she breaks down. This is both frustrating and upsetting for Mary as she knows there is no witchcraft in Salem, but she also is aware that Abigail is very convincing and the jury will suspect the supernatural. “Abby stop it!”
“Abby stop it!” Eventually Mary gives in to the other girls and she accuses John Proctor of compacting with the Devil much to his surprise. She says that he came to her at night and he asked her to sign the Devil’s book. “You’re the Devil’s man” Proctor goes temporarily insane and he tries to take Danforth down with him. He says that he should never have started the affair with Abigail, and if he had not Abigail would not have started all the witch-trials. He also said he should have owned up sooner. However, he believes that Danforth is as much to blame because he has always known deep down, that Abigail is guilty and it is all just pretence.
“God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!” The last scene of the play is very powerful and emotional. This scene shows that John’s refusal to lie in fact costs him his life. The jury, Danforth and Hathorne, want to get as many people as possible to confess. This is because people like John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse are respected in Salem, and if other villagers found out it was fraud, the court would lose its good reputation. However, they do not wish to sign the confession because they have high principles and would rather die than lie again. Hale asks Elizabeth to beg her husband to ‘confess’ and lie to the court:
“I beg you, woman, prevail upon your husband to confess. Let him give his lie.” She tells him that she will talk to him but it is not for her to decide as to what he tells the court. “I think that be the Devil’s argument.” Elizabeth goes to see John before his execution to try and get him to confess to witchcraft. This scene, especially in the film version, shows great emotion from both characters as they discuss what he should do. Although John wishes to live and grow old with his family, he is reluctant to live a lie. Elizabeth tells him that she is unable to judge him, and whatever he does, she will still respect him:
“Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it…I am not your judge, I cannot be.” When Hathorne comes to see if Proctor will sign the confession, he eventually says yes. He tries to get John to tell of people he has seen with the devil, but he will tell nothing. When Rebecca Nurse enters we see the shame on his face, as he realises how he is betraying her and God by lying about witchcraft. She shows her shame of Proctor when she says she will not sign the confession:
“Why, it is a lie, it is a lie; how may I damn myself.” He reluctantly signs the confession but it is short lived. When Danforth tries to take the paper away to place in the village, John starts to have second thoughts. He realises he could not live with being a liar and he could not teach his children how to behave when he had sinned so greatly: “I have three children-how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends.”
He wishes to regain his self-respect and he wants his name to be valued in the village. However he knows he cannot have this as long as his confession is held high in Salem. He rips up the paper and although we see him weep, we can see that he is content with his decision. This last part of the scene shows how many people are brave enough to die for what they believe in and the emotion is high. He marches with Rebecca Nurse to the gallows and we see her bravery for she believes they are going on to a better life:
“Let you fear nothing! Another judgement waits us all!” The rest of the scene is seen to the beat of drumbeats. Hale asks Elizabeth to stop John, but she knows he has done what he thought was the right thing to do and she has no right to take it from him. “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!”
The last thing we see of the play is the accused villagers, including John and Rebecca, chanting the Lord’s Prayer on the gallows. This is very effective because we hear them stop one by one as they are pushed over to hang. Overall, this scene shows that sometimes doing the right thing costs a price, even death.
There is very different staging in the film and the book. In the play, all the scenes were set inside, which gives a strong sense of claustrophobia. There are just four scenes, and each involves dark rooms with high windows. This shows that the play is gloomy and it could relate to the cold and dark characters involved, such as Abigail. However, in the film, there are both inside and outside scenes. The insides were dull and dreary whereas when it was outside the skies were blue. This reduces the tension and it creates a greater contrast. In addition, pathetic fallacy was used, so when the play was ominous, the weather reflected this and the skies were dark. The title of the play, ‘The Crucible’, is very significant and relates to the content. A crucible is a small dish used to break down chemicals in. This could be
metaphorically describing how the people in the play were tested until they broke down and confessed. Although the play was set many years ago, even today we still lie and corrupt in order to protect ourselves or gain an unfair advantage. For example, because of the New York terrorist attack which occurred in September, it is now open for people to accuse others who they may not like of being involved. This is mainly happening to Muslims and the accusers are probably racists. Nevertheless, people today are still happy to accuse others to help themselves.