The Crucible: Novel Summary: Act 4

Act 4The final act opens that fall in the Salem jail.  Several hangings are scheduled for that morning, including those of John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse.  Marshal Herrick enters and shoos Sarah Good and Tituba from the room.  Danforth, Hathorne, and Cheever arrive and ask why Reverend Hale has been allowed in the prison.  They discover that Parris has allowed it and so they send for him.  They discuss how Parris has seemed rather unstable lately.  When he enters, they discover that Hale has been trying to convince Rebecca Nurse to save herself by confessing. They ask Parris why he has been troubled and it is revealed that Abigail has vanished with Mercy Lewis having taken every cent he had.  Parris attempt s to convince the men to stop the hangings, realizing that it has all been taken too far.  He feels that the townspeople no longer support it.  The men refuse however, to even postpone the hangings as it will bring the executions that have already taken place, and therefore themselves, into question.  They then speak to Elizabeth Proctor, now three months pregnant, to try to convince her to compel her husband into confessing and saving himself.  She promises nothing but asks to speak to him anyway.  When they are left alone, they discuss their baby and recent events.  He has been tortured and has not heard anything.  She tells him that Giles Corey was pressed to death.  He had refused to enter a plea in order to prevent his land from being forfeited.  The court piled stones upon him, the idea being that he would answer under the stress of the great weight.  Instead, Corey simply called for more weight until he was finally crushed and since he could not be convicted without a plea, his sons were able to retain his land.  Elizabeth tries to take the blame for Proctors unfaithfulness, which causes him great pain.  Hathorne enters and John states that he will keep his life.  The men enter and begin to take his confession.  Rebecca is brought in to hear that Proctor has given in.  She is horrified and is not moved from her position of innocence.  Proctor says that he had never seen any of the accused women with the Devil when questioned.  He states that his confession should be enough.  When it comes time to sign it however, he is hesitant.  The confession will be posted on the church door for everyone to see.  He finally does sign it but then, unable to stand the lie, rips the confession to shreds.  Danforth announces his fate.  Rebecca and John are led out.  Hale begs Elizabeth to plead with her husband but she will not. Proctor will die an honest man, condemned by a corrupt system.