1. Use evidence from the play to show how Arthur Miller conveys one of the following themes:1. Fear and suspicion are infectious and can produce a mass hysteria that destroys public order and rationality.2. It is more noble to die with integrity than to live with compromised principles that harm others.
3. The ideas of witchcraft and “the devil’s work” in The Crucible are extended metaphors for Communism.
2. Act IV opens in a Salem jail cell. It is the day when Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor are to be hanged. Both have resisted confessing up to that point, but Rev. Hale – previously unseen at the court since Proctor’s arrest – is trying to encourage their confession. Even though he knows their confession would be a lie, he wants to save their lives. Rev. Parris is also trying to get them to confess, but that’s because he wants to save his own life: since the trials began, Parris has received some not-so-subtle threats to his life. To make matters worse, Abigail has fled, taking all of Parris’s money with her.
Since Proctor went to jail, over one hundred people have restored their lives by “confessing” to witchcraft, but the town is in shambles. There are orphans, cows wandering all over the place, and people bickering over who gets whose property.
Judge Hathorne and Danforth call upon Elizabeth, still imprisoned, to talk to her husband to see if she can get him to confess. When Elizabeth finally agrees to speak with Proctor (who has been in the dungeon, separated from the other accused), the married couple finally gets a few private moments alone in the courthouse. In these warm exchanges, Elizabeth says she will not judge what Proctor decides to do, and affirms that she believes he is a good man. While Elizabeth will not judge Proctor, she herself cannot confess to witchcraft, as it would be a lie.
Proctor asks for Elizabeth’s forgiveness, and she says he needs to forgive himself. Elizabeth also says she realizes she had been a “cold wife,” which might have driven him to sleep with Abigail. She asks him for forgiveness and says she has never known such goodness in all her life as his. At first, this gives Proctor the determination to live, and he confesses verbally to Danforth and Hathorne.
But Proctor cannot bring himself to sign the “confession.” Knowing that the confession will be pinned to the church door, for his sons and other community members to see, is too much for Proctor to bear. Moreover, he will not incriminate anyone else in the town as a witch. He believes it should be enough to confess verbally and to only incriminate himself. When the court refuses this, Proctor, deeply emotional, tears up the written confession and crumples it. Shocked, Rev. Hale and Rev. Parris plead with Elizabeth to talk sense into her husband, but she realizes that this is, at last, his moment of redemption: “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!” And so he goes to his death. The curtain falls as we hear the drum beat just before John Proctor is hanged.