The Crucible

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for The Crucible. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Main Character Resolve

He progresses . . . from shame to renewed assurance.  For a time his humility as an adulterer disposes him to accept the greater humiliation of confessing to witchcraft; since he has already blackened his “good name” by succumbing to and then publicly admitting lechery, he is tempted to save at least his life.  Indignation, however, compels him to salvage self-respect.  “How may I live without my name?” . . . (Moss 42)

Main Character Growth

John is waiting for the madness of the witch trials to stop and his life to return to some semblance of normalcy.

Main Character Approach

John would prefer to wait out a problem—hoping it will resolve itself—rather than to take immediate action.  An example of this is when he first hears of the young girls in town making accusations of witchcraft:
Proctor: Oh, it is a black mischief.
Elizabeth: I think you must go to Salem, John.  I think so.  You must tell them it is a fraud.
Proctor: Aye, it is, surely.
Elizabeth: Let you go to Ezekiel Cheever—he knows you well.  And tell him what she [Abigail] said to you last week in her uncle’s house.  She said it had naught to do with witchcraft, did she not?
Proctor: (in thought) Aye she did, she did.
Elizabeth: God forbid you keep that from the court, John.  I think they must be told.
Proctor: (quietly, struggling with his thought) Aye, they must, they must. . . .
Elizabeth: I would go to Salem now, John—let you go tonight.
Proctor: I’ll think on it.
Elizabeth: You cannot keep it, John.
Proctor: I know I cannot keep it.  I say I will think on it! (Miller 53)

Main Character Mental Sex

John focuses on what is the specific cause of a problem, without considering all other possibilities.
Proctor: . . . I know the children’s sickness has naught to do with witchcraft.
Hale: Naught to do—?
Proctor: Mr. Parris discovered them sportin’ in the woods.  They were startled and took sick.
Hale: Who told you this?
Proctor: Abigail Williams.
Hale: . . . Abigail Williams told you it had naught to do with witchcraft!  Why—why did you keep this?
Proctor: I never knew until tonight that the world is gone daft with nonsense. (Miller 68)

Story Driver

The inciting incident in The Crucible is Parris surprising his daughter, niece, and other girls dancing “like heathen in forest” (Miller 10).  He decides to send for Reverend Hale in the hope that he will confirm there are no unnatural causes at work in Salem; after his wife is taken away to jail, Proctor decides to take Mary Warren with him to court to prove the girls are liars, when this action fails, he decides to admit to being a lecher to prove the accusations Abigail has made against his wife are only an attempt to secure Proctor for herself; when Danforth forces Proctor to sign his name to the confession, Proctor decides to keep his integrity and protect other innocent people by ripping it up and going to his death; and so forth.

Story Limit

There are only a certain number of constraints that can be put on Salem’s theocracy in the face of that society’s burgeoning independence before the power of the theocracy collapses.  This is illustrated in Parris’ plea to Hathorne and Danforth to postpone the hangings to allay the outrage of the townspeople over innocent people’s executions:
Parris: I tell you what is said here, sir.  Andover [a nearby town] have thrown out the court, they say, and will have no part of witchcraft.  There be a faction here, feeding on that news, and I tell you true, sir, I fear there will be riot here.
Hathorne: Riot!  Why at every execution I have seen naught but high satisfaction in the town.
Parris:  Judge Hathorne—it were another sort that hanged till now.  Rebecca Nurse is no Bridget that lived three year with Bishop before she married him.  John Proctor is not Isaac Ward that drank his family to ruin.  (To Danforth): I would to God it were not so, Excellency, but these people have great weight yet in the town.  Let Rebecca stand upon the gibbet and send up some righteous prayer, and I fear she’ll wake a vengeance on you. (Miller 127)

Story Outcome

There are no witches in Salem.  Those who claim to recall that they themselves or others have used witchcraft, lied to the court causing a great number of needless deaths.

Story Judgment

John Proctor resolves his personal problem when he chooses to die rather than to blacken his own name and others of the community:
Parris: Go to him, Goody Proctor!  There is yet time!  Go to him!  Proctor!  Proctor!
Hale: Woman, plead with him!  Woman!  It is pride, it is vanity.  Be his helper!—What profit him to bleed?  Shall the dust praise him?  Shall the worms declare his truth?  Go to him, take his shame away!
Elizabeth: He have his goodness now.  God forbid I take it from him! (Miller 144-5)

Overall Story Throughline

""The Witchhunt""

Overall Story Throughline

In this Puritanical time, there is a definite fixed attitude of the ruling theocracy:
Danforth: . . . But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road in between.  This is a sharp time, now, a precise time—we love no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world.  Now, by God’s grace, the shining sun is up, and them that fear not light will surely praise it.  I hope you will be one of those. (Miller 94)  Robert Warshow comments:
The Salem “witches” suffered something that may be worse than persecution: they were hanged because of a metaphysical error.  And they chose to die—for all could have saved themselves by “confession”—not for a cause, not for “civil rights,” not even to defeat the error that hanged them, but for their own credit on earth and in heaven: they would not say they were witches when they were not.  They lived in a universe where each man was saved or damned by himself, and what happened to them was personal. . . . One need not believe in witches, or even in God, to understand the events in Salem, but it is mere provinciality to ignore the fact that both those ideas had a reality for the people of Salem that they do not have for us. (113)

Overall Story Concern

John’s inability to recall all of the Ten Commandments puts doubt into Reverend Hale’s mind as to his Christian nature; Elizabeth cannot forget her husband’s infidelity; upon hearing John Proctor’s confession of infidelity with Abigail—and her subsequent denial that it had ever happened, Danforth demands Elizabeth Proctor to tell the court why she had dismissed the girl “You will look in my eyes only and not at your husband.  The answer is in your memory and you need no help to give it to me” (Miller 112).

Overall Story Issue

Suspicion founded on envy and ignorance is a thematic issue that affects all of the characters in The Crucible:
“Old scores could be settled on a plane of heavenly combat between Lucifer and the Lord; suspicions and the envy of the miserable toward the happy could and did burst out in the general revenge” (Miller 8).
Elizabeth: Mr. Hale.  I do think you are suspecting me somewhat?  Are you not? (Miller 67)

Overall Story Counterpoint

Evidence manufactured from hysteria and revenge is thematically explored in the objective story:
Mrs. Putnam: How high did she fly, How high?
Parris: No, no, she never flew—
Mrs. Putnam: Why sure she did.  Mr. Collins saw her goin’ over Ingersoll’s barn, and come down light as bird, he says! (Miller 13);
Hale: Goody Proctor, I do not judge you.  My duty is to add what I may to the godly wisdom of the court. (Miller 67-68)
Abigail doubles over in pain as she accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft—the evidence being the “poppet” found in Elizabeth’s home with a needle stuck through its belly.  The poppet was put there by Elizabeth’s servant, Mary Warren, who at the time was under the spell of Abigail:
Cheever: . . .stuck two inches in the flesh of her [Abigail] belly, he [Parris] draw a needle out.  And demandin’ of her how she come to be so stabbed, she testify it were your wife’s familiar spirit pushed it in.
Proctor:  Why, she done it herself!  (To Hale): I hope you’re not takin’ this for proof, Mister!  (Hale, struck by the proof, is silent.)
Cheever: Tis hard proof.  (To Hale): I find here a poppet Goody Proctor keeps. . . . And in the belly of the poppet a needle’s stuck.  I tell you true, Proctor, I never warranted to see such proof of Hell . . . (Miller 74-75)

Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Suspicion vs.Evidence

Miller demonstrates how frenzied hysteria can develop from unfounded suspicion and faulty evidence:
Hale: . . . I have myself examined Tituba, Sarah Good, and numerous others that have confessed to dealing with the Devil.  They have confessed it.
Proctor: And why not, if they must hang for denyin’ it?  There are them that will swear to anything before they’ll hang; have you thought of that?
Hale: I have. I—I have indeed. (It is his own suspicion, but he resists it.) (Miller 68-69); The court suggests the fact that John Proctor plows on the Lord’s day is evidence he is in league with the devil:
Proctor: I-I have once or twice plowed on Sunday. . . .
Hale: . . . Your Honor, I cannot think you may judge the man on such evidence.
Danforth: I judge nothing. . . . I have seen marvels in this court.  I have seen people choked before my eyes by spirits; I have seen them stuck by pins and slashed by daggers.  I have until this moment not the slightest reason to suspect that the children may be deceiving me.  Do you understand my meaning? (Miller 91)

Overall Story Problem

The tendency to maintain the status quo creates problems in the objective story:
Proctor: . . . Learn charity woman.  I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven month since she is gone.  I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches around your heart. (Miller 54); Despite advice to the contrary, Danforth continues with the witch trials:
Parris: Excellency, I would postpone these hangin’s for a time.
Danforth: There will be no postponement. . . . Now hear me and beguile yourselves no more.  I will not receive a single plea for pardon or postponement. . . . Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now. . . . If retaliation is your fear, know this—I should hang ten thousand that dared to rise against the law, and an ocean of salt tears could not melt the resolution of the statutes. (Miller 129)

Overall Story Solution

Although the objective story ends in failure, Elizabeth’s change of heart toward her husband’s transgression is indicative of the kind of change that could have solved the objective story problem.  Elizabeth is able to alter her tendency to continue to blame John for his failings:
Elizabeth: (It is difficult to say, and she is on the verge of tears.) . . . be sure of this, for I know it now: Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it.  (He turns his doubting, searching gaze upon her.) I have read my heart this three month, John.  I have sins of my own to count.  It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery. (Miller 136-7)

Overall Story Symptom

Attention is focused on the certain recognizable patterns that indicate evil is afoot: “With the uncovering of the practices of “witchcraft” (and these are unmistakable: naked dancing, frogs, drinking blood, and conjuring of spirits) . . .” (Curtis 264).

Overall Story Response

To counter what is considered as a problem of organized witchcraft in Salem, government and religious leaders take it upon themselves to eradicate the evil—without looking carefully to see if it really exists—and since it does not, their actions of ordering many to imprisonment or death results in chaos:
Hale: Excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlot’s cry will end his life—and you wonder yet if rebellion’s spoke?  Better you should marvel how they do not burn your province! (Miller 130)

Overall Story Catalyst

The fabrication of lies is what accelerates the objective story forward.  The girls “crying out” of who in Salem is a witch begins the witch hunt: “Her [Abigail’s] action induces frenzy in the other girls and accelerates the chain reaction of accusation and confession” (Moss 40);  The story also moves forward as the court disbelieves any of John Proctor’s explanations of how Abigail effected the imprisonment of his wife:
Another venerable plot convention, the fatal exposure of a lie, appears twice: once, when the court disproves Mary Warren’s claim to be able to “pretend” fainting; again, when Governor Danforth discredits the veracity of John Proctor . . . . In the second instance . . . a woman inadvertently betrays her husband . . . Proctor is discredited, ironically, because the lie is believed (Elizabeth affirms his marital fidelity), while the truth (that Abigail, the adulteress, wishes to supplant Elizabeth) is disbelieved. (Moss 40)

Overall Story Inhibitor

It is inevitable that Abigail will accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft, inhibiting any progress the townspeople of Salem might make in coming to their senses:
Elizabeth: She wants me dead.  I knew all week it would come to this!
Proctor: They dismissed it.  You heard her [Mary Warren] say—
Elizabeth: And what of tomorrow?  She will cry me out until they take me! (Miller 60-61)

Overall Story Benchmark

The more Hale considers that the Proctors and their friends are telling the truth, and that Abigail, in fact, is a liar, the more he comes to the realization the witch hunt is absurd; the more Danforth considers his authority and righteousness called into question, the more adamant he is that he is doing the right thing; the more Elizabeth examines her own nature, the more she is able to forgive her husband; and so forth.

Additional Overall Story Information →
Overall Story Throughline Synopsis

In The Crucible innocent people are accused and convicted of witchcraft on the most absurd testimony—in fact, the testimony of those who themselves have meddled in witchcraft and are therefore doubly to be distrusted.  Decent citizens who sign petitions attesting to the good character of their accused friends and neighbors are thrown into prison as suspects.  Anyone who tries to introduce into court the voice of reason is likely to be held in contempt.  One of the accused refuses to plead and is pressed to death.  No one is acquitted; the only way out for the accused is to make false confessions and themselves join the accusers.  The play reaches its climax with John and Elizabeth Proctor facing the problem of whether John should save himself from execution by making a false confession; he elects finally to accept death, for his tormentors will not be satisfied with his mere admission of guilt: he would be required to implicate others, thus betraying innocent friends, and his confession would of course be used to justify the hanging of the other convicted witches in the face of growing community unrest. (Warshow 116-7)

Overall Story Backstory

The Salem tragedy . . . developed from a paradox.  It is a paradox in whose grip we still live, and there is no prospect yet that we will discover its resolution.  Simply, it was this: for good purposes, even high purposes, the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies.  It was forged for the necessary purpose and accomplished that purpose.  But all organization is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition, just as two objects cannot occupy the same space.  Evidently the time came in New England when the repressions of order were heavier than seemed warranted by the dangers against which the order was organized.  The witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom.  (Miller 6-7)

Main Character Throughline

John Proctor — Farmer

Main Character Throughline

An individual among a rigid, tightly controlled theocratic society, John Proctor refuses to change his way of thinking to accommodate others.  It is once he fails the woman he loves that he begins his exploration of pride, human fallibility, and forgiveness.  At story’s end, he understands what it means to extend yourself to the community, yet at the same time remain true to one’s self.

Main Character Concern

The struggle within John Proctor to achieve an honorable conception of himself and to fit his “raw deeds” into a pattern established by that conception comprises the single most important element in the play. (Calandra and Roberts 31)

State of Being
Main Character Issue

John begins to understand the true nature of his being when he cries to Mary Warren they must both tell the truth about Abigail, for he will not let his wife die for him:
Proctor: We will slide together in our pit; you will tell the court what you know.
Mary Warren: I cannot, they’ll turn on me—
Proctor: My wife will never die for me! . . . Make your peace with it!  Now Hell and Heaven grapple on our backs, and all our old pretense is ripped away—make your peace!  Peace.  It is a providence, and no great change; we are only what we always were, but naked now.  Aye, naked!  And the wind, God’s icy wind, will blow! (Miller 80-81)

Sense of Self
Main Character Counterpoint

As a thematic counterpoint to his true self, John Proctor questions his self image:
Proctor: God in Heaven, what is John Proctor, what is John Proctor?  (He moves as an animal, and a fury is riding in him, a tantalized search.) . . . I am no saint. (Miller 138)

Main Character Thematic Conflict
State of Being vs.Sense of Self

The thematic conflict of John’s perception of himself and his essential nature is explored throughout the story.  Set against a societal background of uncompromising mores, John Proctor perceives himself to be a “no good man” (Miller 136).  Once he is forced to choose between death or saving his own life—which would implicate innocent people—he accepts and forgives his failings, rising above them to save his friends at the cost of his life:
With exalted victory-in-defeat rhetoric he proclaims his rediscovery of what he thought had been lost—a “sense of personal inviolability. . . . That’s what Proctor means near the end of the play when he talks of his ‘name.’  He is really speaking about his identity, which he cannot surrender.” (Moss 42)

Main Character Problem

Although John is certain that all the accusations that Abigail and her friends have made are false, he maintains his silence because “to reveal his knowledge will require that he admit that he is a lecher” (Calandra and Roberts 13).

Main Character Solution

To resolve his personal drive, John must embrace the fact that he cannot stand alone; he must take responsibility as a member of the community.  He is able to change from a man who “wants only to be left alone with his wife and his farm” (Warshow 114) to a man willing to die to protect his name as well as other innocent members of the community:
Hale: Man, you will hang!  You cannot!
Proctor: (his eyes full of tears) I can.  And there’s your first marvel, that I can.  You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. (Miller 144)

Main Character Symptom

John’s attention is focused on what his wife holds to be true about him:
Proctor: When will you know me, woman? Were I stone I would have cracked for shame this seventh month. . . . I see now your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!
Elizabeth: You’ll tear it free—when you come to know that I will be your only wife, or no wife at all!  She has an arrow in you yet, John Proctor, and you know it well! (Miller 62)

Main Character Response

At his wife’s prodding, John contemplates how to let the court know that Abigail is a liar:
Proctor: I am only wondering how I may prove what she told me, Elizabeth.  If the girl’s a saint now, I think it is not easy to prove she’s fraud, and the town gone so silly.  She told it to me in a room alone—I have no proof for it. (Miller 53); Hale entreats Proctor to think of the reason why all the madness has come about:
Hale: . . . Man, we must look to cause proportionate.  Were there murder done, perhaps, and never brought to light?  Abomination?  Some secret blasphemy that stinks to Heaven?  Think on cause, man, and let you help me to discover it. (Miller 79)

Sense of Self
Main Character Unique Ability

John does not employ his unique ability of self image to achieve the goal.  Although his perception of himself is that of a fraud, and belief in that image could compel him to give the court the kind of recollections they wish to hear to save his own life, it is ultimately his true essential nature that will not allow it.

Main Character Critical Flaw

It is John’s innate impulses that gets him into trouble, as exemplified by his falling to the temptation of Abigail.

Main Character Benchmark

The more John takes seriously that the notion “witchcraft” can make a severe impact on the townspeople of Salem, and that he and his family can be caught up in mass hysteria, the more he examines his own nature:
I have wondered if there be witches in the world—although I cannot believe they come among us now. (Miller 69)

Additional Main Character Information →
Main Character Description

Proctor was a farmer in his middle thirties. . . . He was the kind of man—powerful of body, even-tempered, and not easily led—who cannot refuse support to partisans without drawing their deepest resentment.  In Proctor’s presence a fool felt his foolishness instantly . . . (Miller 20).

Main Character Throughline Synopsis

John Proctor tries to avoid any involvement in the Salem witchcraft trials.  His reason for this attempt is drastically motivated by his past folly of committing adultery with Abigail Williams. . . . This refusal to acknowledge the events transpiring in Salem is abruptly brought to an end when their [the Proctors’] servant, Mary Warren, announces she is an official of the court and that Elizabeth Proctor has been “somewhat mentioned.” . . . These events force an involvement upon John Proctor, since the trials he has tried to ignore have now invaded his private sanctuary. . . . He uses Mary Warren as an appeal to the law for a reversal of the court edict.  Only when this fails does John Proctor take his final step and denounce Abigail as a “whore.”  As a result of his involvement, John finds himself accused of being a witch.  After being tried and condemned to death, John refuses to confess . . . because of his pride and stubbornness.  However, he does not want to die for such an absurd reason.  He is therefore faced with the predicament of being completely against the other condemned witches, and by his confession, becoming partly responsible for the deaths of his fellow prisoners.  The other course open to him is to align himself completely with the condemned witches. . . . His choice to die is a choice to commit himself to his friends and die an honest man. (Calandra and Roberts 38)

Main Character Backstory

At the beginning of The Crucible, it is clear that John Proctor is well regarded in the community, yet a past failing is indicated as the audience is introduced to his character:
. . . the steady manner he displays does not spring from an untroubled soul.  He is a sinner, a sinner not only against the moral fashion of the time, but against his own vision of decent conduct. . . [He] has come to regard himself as a kind of a fraud. (Miller 21)

Influence Character Throughline

Abigail Williams — Harlot

Influence Character Throughline

Abigail endeavors to destroy the Proctor marriage so that she may have John Proctor for herself, first by using her sexuality, failing that—witchcraft:
Betty:  You drank blood, Abby. . . . You drank a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife!  You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor! (Miller 19)

Influence Character Concern

Abigail appreciates and uses her power over men who are prey to weakness, whether it be sexual weakness or weakness caused by pride.  It is only Elizabeth Proctor and Mary Warren, who fully understand Abigail and the damage she is capable of causing.

Influence Character Issue

Abigail uses her instincts for survival and to get what she wants.  She follows her innate impulses with little care for consequences.  She also has the ability to arouse others’ instincts, for example, John Proctor’s sexual instincts.

Influence Character Counterpoint

To avoid certain trouble, Abigail uses threats to condition her girlfriends to respond exactly as she does to convince authorities they have seen spirits:
Abigail: Now look you.  All of you.  We danced.  And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters.  And that is all.  And mark this.  Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.  And you know I can do it . . .(Miller 20)

Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Instinct vs.Conditioning

Abigail uses the thematic conflict between intrinsic unconditioned responses and responses based on experience to her utmost advantage.  At her most canny and diabolical, she cries out against those she wishes to suffer as if her cries are entirely involuntary.  She does this knowing her girlfriends will follow suit, and that the authorities of the court are now conditioned to accept her accusations:
Danforth: . . . Is it possible, child, that the spirits you have seen are illusion only . . .
Abigail: Why, this—this—is a base question, sir. . . .I have been hurt, Mr. Danforth; I have seen my blood runnin’ out!  I have been near to murdered every day because I done my duty pointing out the Devil’s people—and this is my reward?  To be mistrusted, denied, questioned like a—
Danforth: (weakening) Child, I do not mistrust you—
Abigail: Let you beware, Mr. Danforth.  Think you so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits?  Beware of it!  There is—(Suddenly, from an accusatory attitude, her face turns, looking into the air above—it is truly frightened.) . . . A wind, a cold wind, has come. . .
Mercy Lewis: Your Honor, I freeze. . .
Susanna Walcott:  I freeze, I freeze!
Abigail (shivering visibly) It is a wind, a wind! (Miller 108-9)
Miller further explains how Abigail is able to make an impact on Salem with her cries of witchcraft:
It was as though the court had grown tired of thinking and had invited in the instincts: spectral evidence . . . [meaning] that if I swore that you had sent out your “familiar spirit” to choke, tickle, or poison me or my cattle, or to control my thoughts and actions, I could get you hanged unless you confessed to having had contact with the Devil. (Miller 162-3)

Influence Character Problem

Abigail Williams is driven to destroy the stability of the Proctor’s marriage.

Influence Character Solution

Abigail unjustly accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft so that she will hang and Abigail can take her place as Goody Proctor.

Influence Character Symptom

Abigail’s focused, organized campaign to make John her own creates problems for the man:
And God gave me strength to call them liars, and God made men to listen to me, and by God I will scrub the world clean for the love of him!  Oh, John, I will make you such a wife when the world is white again! . . . (He rises, backs away amazed.)  Why are you cold? (Miller 150)

Influence Character Response

The havoc Abigail wreaks creates chaos in John Proctor’s life.

Influence Character Unique Ability

It is the conditioning of a court functioning in a time of theocracy to believe a young girl’s accusations of witchcraft, over the common sense John Proctor tries to submit to the authorities.  This conditioning undermines Proctor’s efforts to free his wife, and later, himself.

State of Being
Influence Character Critical Flaw

Abigail’s true evil nature undermines her efforts to make John fall in love with her.

Influence Character Benchmark

The more Abigail learns how to use her acting abilities to frighten the townspeople, the more she appreciates the power she has.

More Influence Character Information →
Influence Character Description

“Abigail Williams, seventeen . . . a strikingly beautiful girl, and orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling” (Miller 9).

Influence Character Throughline Synopsis

Abigail, the orphaned niece to Reverend Parris, Salem’s minister, is turned out of the household of John and Elizabeth Proctor for her part in the infidelity committed with John Proctor.  Her uncle is suspicious of her hasty exit, and even more so when he discovers her dancing in the woods.  To avoid punishment, Abigail claims to be victimized by evil, causing “a scorching wind of fanatic madness [that] blew on the little Puritan village, spreading its terror like a scourge and engulfing in its frenzy of purification—through death, that is—dozens of innocent souls.  Yet the one who escaped punishment, Abigail, is not innocent.  But her crime, invisible to the eyes of the judges, for whom faith had replaced psychology . . . is not to have trafficked with the Devil but, with truly diabolic determination, to have brought about the ruin of a woman whom she cannot forgive for being married to the one she loves. (Selz 243)

Influence Character Backstory

Abigail is an orphan put in her uncle’s care.  She is without a conscience, perhaps caused by seeing “Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night. . . (Miller 20).

Relationship Story Throughline

""Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery""

Relationship Story Throughline

The set of circumstances explored by John and Abigail is the extramarital affair that occurs between the vibrant, sensual, and amoral Abigail with the passionate, married John Proctor, a man who has been sexually rebuffed by his wife for many months.  Once the affair is discovered, Abigail becomes a woman scorned and is determined to get her man while eliminating his wife completely from his life.  She implements this plan by accusing John’s wife of witchcraft, which effectively places Elizabeth in jail, much to John’s fury.  The situation between John and Abigail evolves from one of lust to bitterness and revenge.

Relationship Story Concern

John and Abigail come into conflict over their past affair:
Abigail: I know how you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I came near. . . . I saw your face when she put me out, and you loved me then and you do now! (Miller 22)
And later—
Proctor: Abby, I may think softly of you from time to time.  But I will cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again.  Wipe it out of mind.  We never touched, Abby.
Abigail: Aye, but we did.
Proctor: Aye, but we did not. (Miller 23)

Relationship Story Issue

John approaches Abigail, in an attempt to interfere with her part in his wife’s trial:
Proctor: I come to tell you, Abby, what I will do tomorrow in the court.  I would not take you by surprise, but give you all good time to think on what to do to save yourself.
Abigail: Save myself!
Proctor: If you do not free my wife tomorrow, I am set and bound to ruin you, Abby. (Miller 151)

Relationship Story Counterpoint

Abigail envisions a blissful future for herself and John, in anticipation of Elizabeth’s death: “You will be amazed to see me every day, a light of heaven in your house, a—(He backs away amazed)” (Miller 150).

Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Interdiction vs.Prediction

The thematic conflict between interdiction and prediction in the subjective story can be seen in terms of the conflict between Abigail and John.  Abigail anticipates that once Elizabeth is permanently removed, she will step in as the next Goody Proctor.  John is determined to halt Abigail’s efforts to take his wife’s place.

Relationship Story Problem

Inertia as the source of problems between John and Abigail can be seen in two ways.  That John continues on with his marriage after his wife’s discovery of his and Abigail’s affair is a problem for Abigail, who has had every expectation he would leave Elizabeth for her:
Proctor: Abby, I never give you hope to wait for me.
Abigail: (now beginning to anger—she can’t believe it) I have something better than hope, I think! (Miller 22)
That Abigail continues on with her diabolical campaign to reunite with John creates problems for him, especially when the court authorities still believe her, even after he has given written testimony of her deception, and has admitted to his lechery:
Proctor: . . . God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat.  But it is a whore’s vengeance, and you must see it; I set myself entirely in your hands.  I know you must see it now.
Danforth: You deny every scrap and tittle of this?
Abigail: If I must answer that, I will leave and I will not come back again! (Miller 111)

Relationship Story Solution

If John could change his way of thinking in regard to his marital status, or if Abigail could quit her endeavor to endear John to her, they could solve the problem between the two.

Relationship Story Symptom

John lets Abigail know that he sees right through her and will not stand for it:
Proctor: If you don’t free my wife tomorrow, I am set and bound to ruin you, Abby. . . . I have rocky proof in documents that you knew that poppet were none of my wife’s, and that you yourself bade Mary Warren stab that needle into it.
Abigail: I bade Mary Warren—?
Proctor: You know what you do, you are not so mad! . . . I will prove you for the fraud you are! (Miller 151)

Relationship Story Response

Though John tries to make Abigail understand he knows what she is up to and that he will not stand for it, she chooses to continue with her particular reading of his actions:
Proctor: . . . You will tell the court you are blind to spirits; you cannot see them any more, and you will never cry witchery again, or I will make you famous for the whore you are!
Abigail: . . . I know you, John—you are this moment singing secret hallelujahs that your wife will hang!
John: You mad, you murderous bitch!
Abigail: Oh, how hard it is when pretense falls!  But it falls, it falls!  You have done your duty by her.  I hope it is your last hypocrisy. (Miller 152)

Relationship Story Catalyst

Once Abigail sets her sights on John Proctor, believing him to be her destined husband, she engages in witchcraft to win him by her side.  When she is found out, her uncle is alarmed enough to contact the nearest “expert” in the field.  Abigail next accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft, arousing John’s fury.  He counters by asking her to stop the nonsense—further infuriating this woman scorned—which precipitates the certain tragedy for John and his wife.

Relationship Story Inhibitor

Truth slows down the relationship between John and Abigail.  Once Elizabeth learns the truth of John and Abigail’s relationship, she puts a stop to it.  Abigail’s forsaking the truth as a way to win back John further alienates her from him.

Relationship Story Benchmark

As the current situation between John and Abigail moves from dallying behind the barn to a full-blown courtroom drama, it is clear that any close relationship between the two is dissipating at a fast rate.

Additional Relationship Story Information →
Relationship Story Throughline Synopsis

Abigail is a serving girl, hired to assist the ailing Elizabeth Proctor.  John Proctor falls to the sexual temptations of the young girl, and he and Abigail engage in an extramarital affair.  Once John’s wife becomes aware of this, Abigail is dismissed from their household service, but the torch she carries for John burns bright.  Abigail makes desperate attempts to seduce John—to the point of accusing his wife of being a witch—so once Elizabeth is sent to the gallows Abigail may take her place as John’s wife.  John’s sexual passion for Abigail turns to hatred as he does everything to save his wife from the horrific ramifications of his marital betrayal.

Relationship Story Backstory

At the time Abigail was in service for Goody Proctor, she and John Proctor had a passionate affair, resulting in her immediate dismissal from the Proctor home, but not quite from John Proctor’s heart.  Abigail returned to her uncle’s home, certain that John would one day come for her; John spent his days making every effort to restore his marriage.

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Overall Story Goal

The court demands the townspeople of Salem to come forward with their recollections of who in the town has acted in a manner that may be interpreted as that of being a witch, whether they are memories of their own actions or those of their neighbors.

Overall Story Consequence

As a consequence of the failure to achieve the goal, many of the townspeople lie about who they recall has exhibited witch-like behavior, resulting in the same kind of persecution they have suffered in the past in England:
Long-held hatreds of neighbors could now be openly expressed, and vengeance taken . . . Land-lust which had been expressed before by constant bickering over boundaries and deeds, could now be elevated to the arena of morality; one could cry witch against one’s neighbor and feel perfectly justified in the bargain. (Miller 7-8)

Overall Story Cost

An example of understanding as a cost incurred on the way to achieving the goal is when Hale comprehends his part in the madness:
Hale:  . . . I would save your husband’s life, for if he is taken I count myself his murderer.  Do you understand me?
Elizabeth: What do you want of me?
Hale: Let you not mistake your duty as I mistook my own.  I came to this viIlage like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crowns of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up.  Beware, Goody Proctor—cleave to no faith when faith brings blood.  It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. . . I beg you, woman, prevail upon your husband to confess.  Let him give his lie. ( Miller 131-132)

Overall Story Dividend

Conceptualizing as a dividend is illustrated as follows: Once Elizabeth is able to envision her part in her husband’s infidelity, she can truly forgive him, and ask for his forgiveness as well:
Elizabeth: I have read my heart this three month, John.  I have sins of my own to count.  It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery. . . . Forgive me, forgive me John. (Miller 137); Once Giles Corey envisions what will happen to his family and property if he “confesses” to being a wizard, “he stand mute, and died Christian under the law” (Miller 135).

Overall Story Requirements

As a requirement that must be met prior to achieving the goal, before one can claim to recollect themselves or a neighbor consorting with the Devil, they must consider the possibility of the existence of evil in Salem.  Elizabeth Proctor is one who does not consider the existence of witches, therefore she is unable to relay any recollection, false or true, of anyone (including herself) guilty of witchcraft:
Elizabeth: I cannot think the Devil may own a woman’s soul, Mr. Hale, when she keeps an upright way, as I have.  I am a good woman, I know it; and if you believe I may do only good work in the world, and yet be secretly bound to Satan, then I must tell you, sir, I do not believe it.
Hale: But, woman, you do believe there are witches in—
Elizabeth: If you think I am one, then I say there are none. (Miller 70)

Overall Story Prerequisites

For one to consider that there are evil forces at work in Salem, the current situation must have been:
. . . when the repressions of order were heavier than seemed warranted by the dangers against which the order was organized.  The witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom. . . . The witch-hunt was not, however, mere repression.  It was also, and as importantly, a long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly his guilt and sins, under the cover of accusations against victims. (Miller 7)

Overall Story Preconditions

A precondition imposed on meeting the requirement of “the conscious” would be the unessential restriction of learning what exactly constitutes witchcraft.  Parris takes steps to do this by inviting Reverend Hale to Salem:
Putnam: They say you’ve sent for Reverend Hale of Beverly?
Parris: A precaution only.  He has much experience in all demonic arts. (Miller 13-14)

Overall Story Forewarnings

Certain ideas that are entertained, such as the existence of witchcraft, describe the imminent approach of the story’s consequence of repeating the past, particularly persecution for celebrating one’s individuality that many people of Salem (or their ancestors) suffered in Europe.

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Overall Story Signpost 1

Thomas Putnam considers “himself as the intellectual superior of most of the people around him” (Miller 14); Parris is sensible to the fact that most of his parishioners despise him and that his position as Salem’s minister is in jeopardy; the townspeople consider the possibility of witchcraft in their midst; and so forth.

Overall Story Journey 1 from Conscious to Memory

Hysteria ensues as the townspeople of Salem consider there may be witchcraft in their midst, and begin to recall friends and neighbors’ past actions that have been suspicious:
Proctor: I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem now—vengeance is walking Salem.  We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! (Miller 77)

Overall Story Signpost 2

The recollection of John and Abigail’s affair is a bitter memory for Elizabeth Proctor:
Proctor: . . . I have forgot Abigail, and—
Elizabeth: And I.
Proctor: Spare me!  You forgot nothin’ and forgive nothin’. (Miller 54); Mary Warren justifies to Elizabeth why she has cried out against Sarah Good:
Mary Warren:  . . . she [Goody Good] sit there, denying and denying, and I feel a misty coldness climbin’ up my back, and the skin on my skull begin to creep . . . I hear a voice, a screamin’ voice, and it were my voice—and all at once I remembered everything she done to me! . . . You must remember, Goody Proctor.  Last month . . . she walked away, and I thought my guts would burst for two days after.  Do you remember it? (Miller 57-58)

Overall Story Journey 2 from Memory to Subconscious

Because the accusers attribute their recollections of certain women in Salem as that of evil, the women are summarily jailed.

Overall Story Signpost 3

The husbands of Goody Corey, Goody Nurse, and Goody Proctor are driven to prove to the court their wives’ innocence of practicing witchcraft:
Francis Nurse: We are desperate sir; we come here three days now and cannot be heard. (Miller 86)
Danforth: . . . I understand well, a husband’s tenderness may drive him to extravagance in defense of a wife. (Miller 89)

Overall Story Journey 3 from Subconscious to Preconscious

The authorities in Salem are driven to make certain God and justice are served; they are, in fact, driven to the point of irrationality.  This fixed state of mind conflicts with the many accused innocent people who desire to keep their lives.  The objective story progresses from exploring the subconscious to exploring the raw, unconditioned responses that go deeper than basic drives and desires, especially when faced with ones’ mortality.

Overall Story Signpost 4

The witchcraft trials have taken their toll on Parris; when bade good morning by Hathorne “he wept and went his way” (Miller 124); When Elizabeth is brought to John in the jail after three months of no contact, “. . . the emotion flowing between them prevents anyone from speaking for an instant” (Miller 133), and as John touches his wife “a strange soft sound, half laughter, half amazement, comes from his throat” (Miller 134).

Main Character

Main Character Signpost 1

By refusing to attend church services and other community activities, John has become an outsider:
Putnam: I never heard you worried so on this society, Mr. Proctor.  I do not think I saw you at Sabbath meeting since snow flew. (Miller 28)

Main Character Journey 1 from Becoming to Conceiving

John Proctor, disgusted at the materialistic ways of the town’s minister and those like him (Thomas Putnam), has practically isolated himself and his family from the community, becoming more of a loner than a citizen.  His disdain for what he thinks is the townspeople’s foolishness over witchcraft turns to horror as he must devise a way to keep his wife from being caught up in the madness:
Hale: . . . I know not if you are aware, but your wife’s name is—mentioned in the court.
Proctor: . . . We are entirely amazed. (Miller 63)

Main Character Signpost 2

John has trouble conceiving of the madness that has taken over the town: “Oh it is a black mischief. . . . the town gone so silly.” (Miller 53)

Main Character Journey 2 from Conceiving to Conceptualizing

Although he cannot imagine that any sane person can believe his wife is a witch, he must act fast to devise and implement a plan that will release his wife from jail.  One plan is to coerce Mary Warren to tell the truth about how Elizabeth came to be accused in the first place:
Mary Warren: Mr. Proctor, very likely they’ll let her come home once they’re given proper evidence.
Proctor: You’re coming to the court with me, Mary.  You will tell it in court. (Miller 79-80)

Main Character Signpost 3

John envisions one way to save his wife from hanging is to compel Mary Warren to sign a document declaring the girls are frauds.

Main Character Journey 3 from Conceptualizing to Being

The ideas John has visualized to free his wife backfire, when Elizabeth lies to the court about his infidelity.  Shortly thereafter, he is accused of being a witch as well.

Main Character Signpost 4

John Proctor pretends to be a witch so that he may “confess” and then go back to his normal life.  Once he explores the true consequences of what acting like a witch will bring, he denounces the role.

Influence Character

Influence Character Signpost 1

From Abigail, Reverends’ Parris and Hale learn the devil is afoot in Salem.

influence Character Journey 1 from Learning to Understanding

Abigail gathers the information necessary to fashion a position of power for herself.  She uses this understanding to particular effect when she cries out against the wife of the man she loves.

Influence Character Signpost 2

Elizabeth easily comprehends why Abigail is accusing her of being a witch:
Elizabeth: John—grant me this.  You have a faulty understanding of young girls.  There is a promise made in any bed—
Proctor: What promise!
Elizabeth: Spoke or silent, a promise is surely made.  And she may dote on it now—I am sure she does—and thinks to kill me then to take my place. (Miller 61)

Influence Character Journey 2 from Understanding to Doing

Abigail’s appreciation of the power she wields leads her to execute a plan that will effectively destroy the wife of the man she loves.

Influence Character Signpost 3

Abigail make use of her status in town:
Proctor:  . . . I hear only that you go to the tavern every night, and play shovelboard with the Deputy Governor, and they give you cider. (Miller 149); To deflect Mary Warren’s testimony to Danforth that the claim the girls had seen spirits was only a “sport” (Miller 107), Abigail puts on a performance of one that is possessed.

Influence Character Journey 3 from Doing to Obtaining

As soon as Abigail has done all the damage she could possibly do in Salem, she steals her uncle’s money and leaves town.

Influence Character Signpost 4

Abigail vanishes from Salem taking her uncle’s money with her:
Hathorne: She have robbed you?
Parris: Thirty-one pound is gone.  I am penniless. (Miller 126)

Relationship Story

Relationship Story Signpost 1

The affair between John and Abigail is halted by Elizabeth, and Abigail’s services are no longer required in the Proctor household.  As of this moment, Abigail is determined to once again win John’s affection; he is just as determined never again to succumb to her charms: “I will cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again” (Miller 23).

Relationship Story Journey 1 from Present to PastAbigail believes that as of this moment John Proctor is love with her, because of their past relationship: "You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!" (Miller 24)
Relationship Story Signpost 2

Elizabeth cannot let go of the affair that has happened between John and Abigail, certain that:
Elizabeth: . . . There is a promise made in any bed—
Proctor: What promise!
Elizabeth: Spoke or silent, a promise is surely made. (Miller 61)

Relationship Story Journey 2 from Past to Progress

Any remaining feelings of tenderness John Proctor may have for Abigail from their shared past are turned to hate when he realizes she has set into motion the accusations of witchcraft made against his wife.  Abigail believes her actions will move their relationship forward.

Relationship Story Signpost 3

The way things are going, John is determined to prove Abigail a fraud in order to save his wife, even if it means confessing himself as a lecher:
Proctor: I will prove you for the fraud you are!
Abigail: And if they ask you why Abigail would ever do so murderous a deed, what will you tell them?
Proctor: I will tell them why.
Abigail: What will you tell?  You will confess to fornication?  In the court?
Proctor: If you will have it so, so I will tell it! (Miller 152)

Relationship Story Journey 3 from Progress to Future

As Abigail advances toward evil and John toward reclaiming his wife’s love and forgiveness, any future they could have together is effectively void.

Relationship Story Signpost 4

With Abigail’s disappearance and John’s imminent demise, there is no future for the two of them.

Plot Progression Visualizations

Dynamic Act Schematics


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