WORD LISTS

"The Crucible," Vocabulary from Act 1

November 25, 2013
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
inert
His daughter, Betty Parris, aged ten, is lying on the bed, inert.
persecute
He believed he was being persecuted wherever he went, despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side.
conceive
"Conceive" also means "become pregnant" and is suggested in the example sentence's focus on children. This pun (along with the description of Reverend Parris as "a widower with no interest in children, or talent with them") makes the adults of Salem seem hypocritical, since they can conceive children, but cannot conceive of them.
He regarded them as young adults, and until this strange crisis he, like the rest of Salem, never conceived that the children were anything but thankful for being permitted to walk straight, eyes slightly lowered, arms at the sides, and mouths shut until bidden to speak.
creed
Compare with the antonymous "incredulous" in the list for Act 4. Both words come from the Latin "credere" which means "to believe" but here, the noun "creed" refers to the religious beliefs of all the Salem inhabitants, while the adjective "incredulous" refers to one person's disbelief.
Their creed forbade anything resembling a theater or “vain enjoyment.”
somber
Which is not to say that nothing broke into this strict and somber way of life.
ordinance
As suggested by the sentence structure, "ordinance" and "word" are nearly synonymous nouns--"ordinance" refers to the authoritative rules of the Salem community, which are mostly based on the Puritans' interpretations of the authoritative "Word" of God.
That there were some jokers, however, is indicated by the practice of appointing a two-man patrol whose duty was to “walk forth in the time of God’s worship to take notice of such as either lye about the meeting house, without attending to the word and ordinances, or that lye at home or in the fields without giving good account thereof, and to take the names of such persons, and to present them to the magistrates, whereby they may be accordingly proceeded against.”
predilection
This predilection for minding other people’s business was time-honored among the people of Salem, and it undoubtedly created many of the suspicions which were to feed the coming madness.
rankle
The first part of the definition connects more vividly to the Latin origin: "dracunculus" means "small serpent" and in the eyes of the Puritans, if old disciplines rankle, then that could be because the Devil (often connected to the form of a serpent) is gnawing into a person's flesh and soul.
It was also, in my opinion, one of the things that a John Proctor would rebel against, for the time of the armed camp had almost passed, and since the country was reasonably--although not wholly--safe, the old disciplines were beginning to rankle.
maraud
It stood, dark and threatening, over their shoulders night and day, for out of it Indian tribes marauded from time to time, and Reverend Parris had parishioners who had lost relatives to these heathen.
defile
"Defile" and "corrupt" are used synonymously here, although the slight difference that makes "corrupt" seem a stronger verb can be seen in their Latin roots: "fouler" means "to trample" (and connects to the definition "make dirty or spotty") while "corrumpere" means "to destroy" (compare with "corruption" in this list).
So now they and their church found it necessary to deny any other sect its freedom; lest their New Jerusalem be defiled and corrupted by wrong ways and deceitful ideas.
perpetuation
It was, however, an autocracy by consent, for they were united from top to bottom by a commonly held ideology whose perpetuation was the reason and justification for all their sufferings.
repression
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.
injunction
"Jungere" means "to join"--this Latin root can be seen more clearly in words such as "junction" and "conjunction" but it is hinted at here, since the "injunctions" described are those that are charitable ("showing or motivated by sympathy and understanding and generosity") and that should keep neighbors joined in peaceful harmony. However, similar to "ordinance" in this list, the example sentence focuses on the breaking of commands and rules.
Long-held hatreds of neighbors could now be openly expressed, and vengeance taken, despite the Bible’s charitable injunctions.
dissembling
He is bending to kneel again when his niece, Abigail Williams, seventeen, enters--a strikingly beautiful girl, an orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling.
apprehension
Now she is all worry and apprehension and propriety.
abomination
Now then, in the midst of such disruption, my own household is discovered to be the very center of some obscene practice. Abominations are done in the forest--
snivel
She hates me, uncle, she must, for I would not be her slave. It’s a bitter woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman, and I will not work for such a woman!
begrudge
"Begrudge" and "resent" can be synonymous verbs, and both parts of the definition are used here: Abigail wishes ill upon (resent) her uncle, because she thinks he might allow unwillingly (begrudge) the bed in his house on which she sleeps.
With ill-concealed resentment at him: Do you begrudge my bed, uncle?
corruption
They will howl me out of Salem for such corruption in my house.
blatant
He undoubtedly felt it poor payment that the village should so blatantly disregard his candidate for one of its more important offices, especially since he regarded himself as the intellectual superior of most of the people around him.
vindictive
His vindictive nature was demonstrated long before the witchcraft began.
corroborate
So it is not surprising to find that so many accusations against people are in the handwriting of Thomas Putnam, or that his name is so often found as a witness corroborating the supernatural testimony, or that his daughter led the crying-out at the most opportune junctures of the trials, especially when--But we’ll speak of that when we come to it.
intimation
I have spoke nothin’, but my heart has clamored intimations.
formidable
Goody Ann, it is a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!
trepidation
Compare with "apprehension" in this list--both states of mind refer to Abigail, and on the surface, suggest that she's worried about her cousin and friend's health. But the phrasing of the question here hints at Abigail's more selfish concern, because her focus is not on how sick Ruth is, but on how Ruth got sick, which could be traced back to their improper activities in the forest.
Abigail, with hushed trepidation: How is Ruth sick?
partisan
Proctor was a farmer in his middle thirties. He need not have been a partisan of any faction in the town, but there is evidence to suggest that he had a sharp and biting way with hypocrites.
calumny
Compare with "defamation" in this list--although the chosen definitions are identical, the tone in which each word is used is very different. Here is a serious description of Proctor's character and a foreshadowing of a plot point with the alternative definition ("a false accusation of an offense"). But in speaking to Giles, Proctor is jokingly accusing his friend of accusing him of defamation.
In Proctor’s presence a fool felt his foolishness instantly--and a Proctor is always marked for calumny therefore.
titillate
Mercy Lewis, both afraid of him and strangely titillated: I’d best be off.
canny
Giles Corey, eighty-three, enters. He is knotted with muscle, canny, inquisitive, and still powerful.
exude
Rebecca walks across the room to the bed. Gentleness exudes from her.
arbitrate
He was called upon to arbitrate disputes as though he were an unofficial judge, and Rebecca also enjoyed the high opinion most people had for him.
iniquity
To top it all, Mrs. Putnam--who is now staring at the bewitched child on the bed--soon accused Rebecca’s spirit of “tempting her to iniquity,” a charge that had more truth in it than Mrs. Putnam could know
defamation
Proctor, familiarly, with warmth, although he knows he is approaching the edge of Giles’ tolerance with this: Is it the Devil’s fault that a man cannot say you good morning without you clap him for defamation?
inculcation
when we see the steady and methodical inculcation into humanity of the idea of man’s worthlessness--until redeemed--the necessity of the Devil may become evident as a weapon, a weapon designed and used time and time again in every age to whip men into a surrender to a particular church or church-state.
enthrall
The Catholic Church, through its Inquisition, is famous for cultivating Lucifer as the arch-fiend, but the Church’s enemies relied no less upon the Old Boy to keep the human mind enthralled.
propitiation
I have no doubt that people were communing with, and even worshiping, the Devil in Salem, and if the whole truth could be known in this case, as it is in others, we should discover a regular and conventionalized propitiation of the dark spirit.
licentious
We have all manner of licentious people in the village!
blanch
Parris, blanched: She called the Devil?
exaltation
Hale, with rising exaltation: You are God’s instrument put in our hands to discover the Devil’s agents among us.
enrapture
Compare with "enthrall" in this list--although the given definitions are identical, the Middle English "thral" means "slave" and emphasizes the effect of a belief in the Devil. In Medieval Latin, "raptura" means "ecstasy" and in Latin, "rapere" means "to seize"--both connect to the Christian idea of Rapture, when the saved are caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord. Here, Abigail is dissembling, but she is convincing enough to enrapture her observers.
She is enraptured, as though in a pearly light.

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