Search English The Crucible by Arthur Miller 14-16Key Stage 4

An illustrated summary of each act: Act One

Betty, the ten-year-old daughter of the stern Reverend Parris is ill, apparently in a trance. He cannot find any reason for the sickness nor can the doctor. He is advised by Doctor Griggs to look for 'unnatural' causes - in other words, witchcraft. Parris is horrified by this suggestion. He fears that his enemies will take advantage of such revelations.

Parris's beautiful orphaned niece, Abigail, attempts to give support to her uncle , but is obviously hiding something. He caught Abigail, Betty and some other girls dancing in the woods. She gives a display of innocence when Parris asks what happened. When pressed she admits to dancing but she becomes resentful.

By now, rumours of witchcraft are rife and onlookers arrive at Parris's house, including the Putnams. Goody Putnam's daughter, Ruth, was one of the girls in the forest. Ruth was there - at Goody Putnam's instigation - to conjure spirits, and thereby find out who murdered the babies that Goody Putnam had lost at birth. Parris is devastated by these revelations.

Betty is ill
Betty is ill.

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When Abigail is left on stage with Betty and two of the other girls who were in the woods, it is clear who is in charge. Betty finds her voice for long enough to reveal that Abigail drank a charm to kill John Proctor's wife, but she is silenced again by a vicious threat from Abigail.

The sudden appearance of middle aged farmer, Proctor, brings a change over Abigail. She used to work as a servant in his household until his wife threw her out after discovering her husband's relationship with her. She attempts to rekindle their past intimacy, but he refuses her advances.

in the forest
Dancing in the forest.

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The cries of Betty bring Parris and others back into the room. Rebecca Nurse, the voice of common sense, is ignored by those who are determined to find evidence of witchcraft.

A supposed expert on witchcraft, the Reverend Hale, arrives. Bloated with pride and overloaded with books, he sets out to establish whether witchcraft is present. It doesn't take him long to break down the terrified Tituba who, in fear of her life, confesses to dealings with the Devil. Abigail seizes the opportunity to 'cleanse' herself by naming and discrediting others. The other girls follow her lead and so 'cry out' the names of others supposedly involved in witchcraft. Those who are looking for witchcraft now have the evidence they wanted.

Tituba confessing.
Tituba is forced to confess.


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