In Act IV of The Crucible, how have the townspeople been affected by the last several months of court proceedings?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act Four of The Crucible marks the crumbling of Salem and the unraveling of those who live there. Fall has descended upon the town, and rather than yielding a fruitful and abundant harvest, rot has destroyed all the crops. Because over one hundred individuals have been accused of witchcraft, those people have been forced to abandon their household duties as they waste away in prison, resulting in untended livestock wandering through the roads. Many children have also been left orphaned by the trials, with their parents either dead or awaiting sentencing. Holistically, the town has fallen into disarray.

Many specific individuals have also been dramatically impacted by the trials: Marshal Herrick has become an alcoholic, Reverend Hale has practically gone mad trying to save the souls of prisoners, Giles Corey has died during a torturous confession, and Abigail and Mercy Lewis have stolen the life savings of Parris. Ultimately, there are threats of insurrection in the town as the community becomes increasingly paranoid and disenfranchised by the systematic imprisonment and execution of their friends and neighbors.

aoibhinn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act IV, the entire mood of the town as changed.  Where before they were highly involved and almost ecstatic for the trials, by Act IV they have realized that there is no real basis for the accusations.  One of the major things that brings about this change are the arrests of Elizabeth Proctor, John Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, and Martha Corey, all well respected in the town.  The people refuse to accept that they could be in league with the Devil, and according to Parris, are on the verge of riot.  The townspeople have also finally seen the hypocrisy in Parris and Abigail.  Abigail, presumably under intense scrutiny, runs away from home.  Parris opens his door one night to find a threatening knife embedded in his door.  It is obvious from these acts that the trials have greatly affected the townspeople.