In The Crucible, Act III, what is the signifigance of this quote?
"Do you know, Mr. Proctor, that the entire contention of the state in these trials is that the voice of Heaven is speaking through the children?"
I would say that the primary significance of the quote is that it shows the absolutism with which Danforth approaches the trials. It never occurs to him that the girls could be lying, or that the evidence collected by the court could be suspect to questioning or scrutiny. The quote is a reflection of how Danforth's court could not be committed to the idea of seeking justice and determining the validity of the charges being brought to it. Danforth's insistence on the court's superiority and the idea of "the voice of Heaven" is one whereby he cannot accept any type of questioning of the court's motives. At the same time, the significance of the quote is reflective of exactly what people like Proctor and Corey are facing in their uphill battle for truth. If the court is so biased, and if the head magistrate is so driven to accept what is being offered as truth, then the court shows itself to have little hope for finding justice and the institutional fairness that a court and legal system must possess. It is in quotes like this that Miller suggests truth and justice in Salem were going to be impossible to find given the lack of institutional control and checks featured in the Salem legal system of the time.
Prior to the statement by Danforth, Mary Warren, the Proctor’s house help and one of the girls claiming to have been bewitched confesses to John of the conspiracy and pretense behind the witchcraft accusations. At the time, Rebecca Nurse, Mrs. Corey, and Elizabeth are in custody after being accused of witchcraft. Francis, Giles, and John approach the court to try and clear their wives. They seek to present Mary’s deposition, testifying that she had seen no spirits. However, Danforth rejects the signed deposition.
According to Danforth, the girls are innocent, equating their claims to “the voice of Heaven”. Despite all the evidence pointing to the fact that the girls are acting and engaging in a conspiracy, Danforth seems certain that the claims of witchcraft are true. The statement demonstrates Danforth’s prejudice and ineptness in conducting a fair hearing, which also speaks to his qualification as a judge. Further, the statement suggests that the fate of the accused is already sealed and any attempts to clear their names would only commit those defending them to the same fate.