What did Rebecca do to Betty in The Crucible?

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appletrees | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Miller's description of what happens when Rebecca Nurse enters the room where Betty lies ill gives a sense of how dramatic seemingly innocuous occurrences can be in this play:

Everything is quiet. Rebecca walks across the room to the bed. Gentleness exudes from her. Betty is quietly whimpering, eyes shut, Rebecca simply stands over the child, who gradually quiets.

Ann Putnam, who is distraught over her own daughter, is impressed by what happens and asks Rebecca if she will also go and see Ruth, who is suffering a similar affliction to Betty. In response, Rebecca says:

Pray calm your-selves. I have eleven children, and I am twenty-six times a grandma, and I have seen them all through their silly seasons, and when it come on them they will run the Devil bowlegged keeping up with their mischief. I think she'll wake when she tires of it.  

Ann is somewhat taken aback by this; perhaps there is some bitterness here because Rebecca has so many children and grandchildren, while Ann Putnam's children have mostly perished in their infancy. Ann tries to convince Rebecca that Ruth is not being "silly" and tells her that Ruth is "bewildered" and "cannot eat."

This exchange is followed by a more lengthy conversation between Proctor and Putnam and Parris, and eventually the Reverend Hale enters. He is eager to use his books that describe witchcraft to try and figure out what is wrong with Betty, and before he gets started with this, the pious and sensible Rebecca, who disapproves of the emphasis on witchcraft that seems to be preoccupying so many people in the village, decides to leave.

Rebecca's calming influence upon Betty is short-lived; by the end of the scene, she, following the lead of Abigail, is chanting accusations aimed at half the women of Salem Village.

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pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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When Rebecca Nurse enters the room where Betty is lying in bed appearing to be feverish and whimpering, she approaches the bed and stands over the child, her gentleness is evident. Betty calms down due to Rebecca's presence.

Reverend Parris is surprised by the effect that Mrs. Nurse has on Betty.  She explains that she has a great deal of experience with children, being a mother and grandmother many times over.  She advises Reverend Parris that Betty is not under any spell and that she would wake-up when she tired of pretending to be sick.

She tells Reverend Parris:

"I think she'll wake when she tires of it.  A child's spirit is like a child, you can never catch it by running after it; you must stand still, and , for love, it will soon itself come back." (Miller) 

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