Analyzing the Text
They show what a dark and lonely place this town has become. The setting in act one is homey and fairly comforting, even as Parris is worried for his daughter. In contrast, the stage directions for act four show how irrevocably life has changed for the residents of Salem.
Danforth doesn’t want his authority to be undermined and knows that having the prisoners “prove” their guilt by confessing will make him look good in the eyes of the town. Parris feels guilty for the role he played in instigating this whole situation. Hale is sorry that he may have played a part in condemning Proctor to die.
Her words portray him as a determined and principled man who skillfully evades Danforth by never confessing one way or another. To Miller, Giles represents someone who is faithful to his own principles until the very end and refuses to, as the saying goes, “throw others under the bus” in order to save himself.
All the characters in this play find their courage, loyalty, faith, et cetera tested under such extreme conditions. Titling this play The Crucible alludes to and foreshadows the fact that all the characters undergo immense pressure and reshaping.
The central paradox is that if the accused don’t confess to witchcraft, they will be hanged for something. But if they confess to witchcraft, they are living a lie and must face the judgement of the town. Here, Miller stresses the point that these situations can quickly spiral out of control and may be used for neighbors to enact old grudges.
Proctor’s conflict is one many other characters face: Do they die knowing they have stayed true to what they know is right or do they capitulate to the wishes of others? Proctor’s determination is, apart from Giles’, probably the strongest in this play.
It hints at how the condemned, including Proctor, will indeed hang. It is also hinted that the nearby town of Andover was more sensible in their handling of the situation and that residents of Salem are beginning to suspect Danforth & his cronies.