What are some paradoxes found in Act 3 of The Crucible?

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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A troubling paradox from the play's third act is found in Danforth's behavior. Presented with evidence that convinces Hale of the fraudulent nature of the accusations of witchcraft that are the basis of the ongoing trials, Danforth protests.

He says that the sentences must continue to be carried out because some have already been carried out. People have been executed already, so more people should be executed, whether the charges are fraudulent or not. 

Danforth reasons that the court's authority would be undermined if it were to grant "mercy" and admit to its mistakes. The convictions will be upheld even though they will almost certainly serve to undermine the court's moral authority in Salem. To protect the court's legal authority, Danforth is willing to risk its moral authority, which is closely connected to its legal authority in this religious community. 

Another paradox is found in Danforth's challenge to Mary Warren's testimony. When she says that she cannot actually see spirits, Danforth demands that she pretend to see them. This is not a huge contradiction as she is confessing to pretending to see spirits, but it does stand as a paradox of sorts. To prove that she is lying she is asked, not to tell the truth, but to continue lying.


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