What worries Parris when he meets Danforth? What does he propose? Why does Danforth arrange a meeting with John & Elizabeth?Act IV
When Parris meets Danforth, he is worried because his niece, Abigail Williams, has run away with Mercy Lewis. The girls have been missing for three days, and they have stolen all of Parris's money. Parris is worried that the news from Andover, a town that has turned against the witchcraft accusations, affected Abigail and her friend. Parris proposes postponing the hangings, but Danforth will not agree to his proposal. Danforth says to Mr. Hale, "God have not empowered me like Joshua to stop this sun from rising, so I cannot withhold from them the perfection of their punishment." In other words, Danforth says that the guilty deserve punishment from God, and Danforth believes he is not entitled to stop this punishment.
Danforth decides to arrange a meeting with John and Elizabeth Proctor because he knows that Elizabeth is "well on with child now" and that she has not seen her husband for several months. He believes that Proctor will soften when he sees Elizabeth and confess. Danforth summons Elizabeth because John is set to die the next morning, and he asks Elizabeth to intervene with John and ask him to confess. When Elizabeth and John Proctor meet, he asks her what she wants him to do, and she answers, "As you will, I would have it...I want you living, John. That’s sure." At first, Proctor decides to confess to witchcraft to save his life, but he later rips up his confession.
Parris is mainly concerned that "there will be riot" in Salem because there are rumors that Andover (a nearby town) had overthrown the courts and "will have no part of witchcraft". He is worried that will happen in Salem too, especially because Abby and Mercy, the main accusers, skipped town. He thinks that they left because "they fear to keep in Salem any more", which means that they fear that people will turn against them.
So far, only disreputable people have been hung, and that morning, people with "great weight" were scheduled to die. Parris is afraid that if people like Rebecca Nurse get hung, in conjunction with Andover's rebellion and Abby's bail-out, that people will turn against him and the courts, and declare them frauds. So, he proposes that they should "postpone these hangin's for a time." Danforth refuses, but compromises by saying if Elizabeth can get John to confess, then maybe the people will be struck by a man of such "weight" actually confessing, and maybe John's confession will prompt the others to confess too.