"The Crucible," Vocabulary from Act 2

The accusations fly in Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." The play's dramatic retelling of the Salem Witch Trials where the truth gets obscured by sensational charges of possession by demons echoes the crusade of Senator Joseph McCarthy to root out communists, which was occurring while the play was being written.

Learn these word lists for the play: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4

Looking for more Arthur Miller vocab? Find lists from Death of a Salesman here.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. reprimand
    censure severely or angrily
    Elizabeth, with a sense of reprimanding herself for having forgot: Aye!
    Compare with "reproach" in the list for Act 3--the adverbs "severely" and "angrily" make the criticizing tone of a reprimand more unpleasant that that of a reproach. But because the reprimand here is directed at Elizabeth by herself, it is weaker than the reproach that Judge Danforth hears from Reverend Hale.
  2. friction
    a state of conflict between persons
    Elizabeth--she doesn’t want friction, and yet she must: You come so late I thought you’d gone to Salem this afternoon.
  3. condemnation
    an expression of strong disapproval
    Proctor, holding back a full condemnation of her: It is a fault, it is a fault, Elizabeth--you’re the mistress here, not Mary Warren.
  4. conviction
    an unshakable belief in something without need for proof
    Proctor, scoffing, but without conviction: Ah, they’d never hang--
    Proctor scoffs ("treat with contemptuous disregard") without conviction because as a secret sinner, he does not trust himself or the community. The seventeenth-century Salem court also seems to be scoffing at convictions ("a final judgment of guilty in a criminal case"); normally the accused must be tried and convicted before they are sentenced, but here, those who have been accused must confess their guilt to avoid a death sentence.
  5. falter
    move hesitatingly, as if about to give way
    Elizabeth, with a smile, to keep her dignity: John, if it were not Abigail that you must go to hurt, would you falter now?
  6. solemn
    characterized by a firm belief in your opinions
    Proctor, with solemn warning: You will not judge me more, Elizabeth.
    A couple of lines later, Proctor shouts: "I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judged for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house!" This, along with the next two example sentences, connects the Proctors' domestic dispute to a court case (which foreshadows the witch trials and sets up comparisons).
  7. plead
    enter a defendant's answer
    I’ll plead my honesty no more, Elizabeth.
  8. magistrate
    a lay judge or civil authority who administers the law
    I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you.
  9. pallor
    unnatural lack of color in the skin
    Her strangeness throws him off, and her evident pallor and weakness.
  10. compensate
    make amends for
    As though to compensate, Mary Warren goes to Elizabeth with a small rag doll.
  11. perplexed
    full of difficulty or confusion or bewilderment
    Elizabeth, perplexed, looking at the doll: Why, thank you, it’s a fair poppet.
    Compare with "confounded" in the list for Act 3--the adjectives are synonymous, but in the example sentences, the characters differ in their emotional intensity and resulting actions.
  12. ameliorate
    to make better
    He sentenced her. He must.
    To ameliorate it: But not Sarah Good. For Sarah Good confessed, y’see.
  13. compact
    a signed written agreement between two or more parties
    That she--in horror at the memory--she sometimes made a compact with Lucifer, and wrote her name in his black book--with her blood--and bound herself to torment Christians till God’s thrown down--and we all must worship Hell forevermore
    Compare with "covenant" in this list. Although the two are sometimes used interchangeably (both come from words--the Latin "pacisci" and the Old French "convenir"--that mean "to agree"), in the play, "compact" is used both as a noun and verb to refer to an agreement between a human and the Devil. Because a compact is often written and signed, which is necessary when the participants don't trust each other, it is also more appropriate for the Devil.
  14. indignant
    angered at something unjust or wrong
    Mary Warren, with an indignant edge: She tried to kill me many times, Goody Proctor!
  15. dote
    shower with love; show excessive affection for
    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.
  16. monstrous
    abnormally large
    She’d dare not call out such a farmer’s wife but there be monstrous profit in it.
    "Monstrous" also means "shockingly brutal or cruel"--both definitions fit, since Abigail would want the abnormally large profit, but Elizabeth would see the profit as shockingly brutal or cruel since it would be gained through her death.
  17. contempt
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    Elizabeth, “reasonably”: John, have you ever shown her somewhat of contempt?
  18. concede
    admit or acknowledge, often reluctantly
    Elizabeth, “conceding”: I think you be somewhat ashamed, for I am there, and she so close.
  19. deference
    courteous regard for people's feelings
    He is different now--drawn a little, and there is a quality of deference, even of guilt, about his manner now.
  20. evade
    avoid or try to avoid fulfilling, answering, or performing
    You cannot evade me, Abigail. Did your cousin drink any of the brew in that kettle?
  21. pious
    having or showing or expressing reverence for a deity
    But it’s hard to think so pious a woman be secretly a Devil’s bitch after seventy year of such good prayer.
  22. wily
    marked by skill in deception
    But the Devil is a wily one, you cannot deny it.
  23. glaring
    shining intensely
    I labor the earth from dawn of day to blink of night, and I tell you true, when I look to heaven and see my money glaring at his elbows--it hurt my prayer, sir, it hurt my prayer.
    "Glaring" also means "conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible"--both definitions fit (in addition to "glare" as "an angry stare"), since Proctor is describing the physical appearance of golden candlesticks and judging Reverend Parris for spending his hard-earned money on expensive items that add nothing to, and actually hurts, one's spiritual faith.
  24. restrain
    hold back
    Proctor starts to speak, then stops, then, as though unable to restrain this: I like it not that Mr. Parris should lay his hand upon my baby.
  25. covenant
    an agreement between God and his people
    There be no mark of blame upon my life, Mr. Hale. I am a covenanted Christian woman.
  26. covet
    wish, long, or crave for
    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods, nor make unto thee any graven image.
  27. misgiving
    doubt about someone's honesty
    He looks to both of them, an attempt at a smile on his face, but his misgivings are clear.
  28. daft
    foolish or mentally irregular
    I never knew until tonight that the world is gone daft with this nonsense.
  29. warrant
    a judicial writ commanding police to perform specified acts
    Mockingly quoting the warrant: “For the marvelous and supernatural murder of Goody Putnam’s babies.”
    "Warrant" also means "formal and explicit approval"--this is the opposite of what Francis is expressing here with his mocking of the words that charge his wife with murder. The warrant also seems to mock itself with the adjective "marvelous" that is supposed to mean "being or having the character of a miracle" but also means "too improbable to admit of belief" and "extraordinarily good or great."
  30. tainted
    touched by rot or decay
    Hale, turns from Francis, deeply troubled, then: Believe me, Mr. Nurse, if Rebecca Nurse be tainted, then nothing’s left to stop the whole green world from burning.
  31. flinch
    draw back, as with fear or pain
    Hale, pleading: Nurse, though our hearts break, we cannot flinch; these are new times, sir.
  32. subtle
    difficult to detect or grasp by the mind or analyze
    There is a misty plot afoot so subtle we should be criminal to cling to old respects and ancient friendships.
  33. gingerly
    with extreme care or delicacy
    Cheever: Why, a poppet--he gingerly turns the poppet over--a poppet may signify--Now, woman, will you please to come with me?
  34. ineptly
    with ineptitude; in an incompetent manner
    Cheever, ineptly reaching toward Elizabeth: No, no, I am forbid to leave her from my sight.
    Compare with the antonymous "gingerly" in this list. Both adverbs describe the manner of a court official, who is careful with a doll and clumsy with a real woman.
  35. obstruct
    hinder or prevent the progress or accomplishment of
    I tell you true, Proctor, I never warranted to see such proof of Hell, and I bid you obstruct me not, for I--
  36. avid
    marked by active interest and enthusiasm
    Mary Warren, glancing about at the avid faces: Why--I made it in the court, sir, and--give it to Goody Proctor tonight.
  37. vengeance
    harming someone in retaliation for something they have done
    I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem-- vengeance is walking Salem.
  38. wrath
    intense anger
    Let you counsel among yourselves; think on your village and what may have drawn from heaven such thundering wrath upon you all.
  39. lechery
    unrestrained indulgence in sexual activity
    Abby’ll charge lechery on you, Mr. Proctor!
    Compare this noun to the adjective "licentious" in the list for Act 1. Lechery is focused on sexual activity and is used here as a punishable crime, while licentious (the Latin "licentia" means "freedom") people simply lack the moral discipline to restrain themselves in any activity that may or may not be a punishable crime.
  40. grapple
    grip or seize, as in a wrestling match
    Now Hell and Heaven grapple on our backs, and all our old pretense is ripped away--make your peace!

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