The Crucible: Novel Summary: Act 2

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Act 2

Act II opens in the house of John and Elizabeth Proctor, eight days later.  They begin having dinner and it gradually comes out that Mary Warren has gone into Salem.  John Proctor had forbidden her to do so and reprimands his wife for allowing Mary to override her.  She tells John what Mary has told her about the appointment of a court and its proceedings regarding the girls' accusations.  She tells John that he must go and tell the court that Abigail is orchestrating the whole affair.  They argue again about his past involvement with the girl and Elizabeth's continuing suspicion.  Mary Warren arrives home at that moment and so Proctor turns his rage onto her.  She hangs limp and claims illness.  Proctor releases her and reminds her of her duty to his family.  She responds by giving Elizabeth a poppet she made for her and then updating the Proctors on the current state of affairs in Salem.  Goody Osburn has been the first sentenced to hang.  Sarah Good escaped this fate by confessing to witchcraft.  Mary Warren claims that Sarah Good sent her spirit to choke her in the courtroom and reveals that she had a key role in the evidence against Goody Good.  Proctor forbids her from returning to the court but Mary Warren insists she is doing God's work and when threatened further, reveals that Elizabeth herself has been accused.  Mary Warren says that she defended Elizabeth but will not reveal who brought the accusation to court.  Elizabeth realizes that it was Abigail (as does John) and that she means to take her place in the Proctor household.  She tells John that he must now go to Abigail, rather than the court, to stop the accusations.  They argue again about the girl but John agrees to confront her. 
Reverend Hale arrives at that moment.  He discusses Elizabeth's accusation and hints at suspicion regarding Rebecca Nurse.  He questions the Christianity of the Proctor household.  Proctor admits that he does not respect Parris as a minister.  Hale asks Proctor to recite the commandments (Sarah Good's inability to do so was taken as proof of witchcraft).  Proctor tells Hale then what Abigail revealed to him about the true cause of their affliction.  Hale is more taken with Elizabeth's denial of the existence of witches than Proctor's revelation.  Giles Corey arrives at that moment, quickly followed by Francis Nurse, reporting that their wives had been arrested.  Rebecca Nurse has been accused of supernaturally murdering Goody Putnam's babies.  Reverend Hale attempts to defend the witch trials in the face of this outrageous accusation.  It does little to alleviate the men's anger.  Ezekiel Cheever arrives and announces that he is now the clerk of the court and he has a warrant for Elizabeth.  He says that Abigail Williams has accused her and he has been instructed to search the house for poppets (dolls).  The Proctor's hand over the only one they have, the one Mary Warren has just given Elizabeth.  Cheever bids Elizabeth to come with him but Proctor insists on sending her to fetch Mary Warren.
Upon examination of the poppet, Cheever discovers a needle imbedded in it and becomes convinced of Elizabeth's guilt.  They learn that Abigail had suddenly clutched her stomach that evening and pulled out a two-inch needle.  She claimed that Elizabeth Proctor had been her assailant. Mary Warren enters and admits to having made the poppet and to leaving the needle in it.  She states that Susanna Walcott and Abigail had both seen her make it in court.  Elizabeth displays her fury toward Abigail.  Cheever takes this as further evidence of her guilt and insists on her arrest.  Proctor turns to Hale who responds by again defending the court system.  Elizabeth is taken.  Proctor commands Mary Warren to accompany him to court to tell the truth about the poppet.  She responds that Abigail will kill her for this and that they will only incur Abigail's wrath by going to court.  Proctor realizes then that he must reveal his relationship with Abigail to save his wife.