In Act III of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," what can Mary Warren not do when requested, and what point does Judge Hathorne make about it?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act III, Mary Warren tries to confess she was lying the last time she testified in court. Previously, she claimed she only pretended to faint.  In order to prove this, Judge Hathorne asks if Mary Warren can "pretend to faint now," and Reverend Parris orders her to do so.  Although she "looks about as though searching for the passion to faint," Mary Warren claims she has "no sense of it now."  This leads Deputy Governor Danforth to assume Mary Warren cannot faint now because there are no spirits loose in the courtroom.  Again, Mary tries to "[search] for the emotion of it," but without the other girls screaming, the heightened emotion of them all acting together, Mary finds she doesn't know how to pretend to faint alone. 

Mary Warren's second experience testifying in court is very different from her previous one. Now, everyone stares at and questions her as though they suspect her of lying.  Mary tries to explain her prior behavior, saying, "I heard the other girls screaming, and you, Your Honor, you seemed to believe them, and I — It were only sport in the beginning, sir, but then the whole world cried spirits, spirits."  Without the incredibly heightened emotion of a trial, without the group all around her acting as one, Mary simply cannot pretend as she did before.  As a result, the magistrates do not believe her, which is terribly ironic given the fact that this is the first time Mary's told the truth in court.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When asked to pretend to faint, Mary is unable to do so. The judge makes the point that if she cannot pretend to faint at that point then perhaps she did not pretend to faint before. This casts a lot of doubt on Mary's claim that Abigail and the rest of the girls are also pretending. Mary's credibility is also destroyed and eventually she rejoins Abigail in making accusations against John Proctor.