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Elizabeth is in despair at the inevitability she has felt since first realizing the extent of John's involvement with Abigail. Mary Warren comes home after spending the day in the village. When John confronts her for leaving home after being told not to go, Mary defensively proclaims that she saved Elizabeth's life in court. Elizabeth then realizes that Abigail must have accused her of witchcraft. Elizabeth, more than anyone else in the play at this point, knows what Abigail must be up to. She knows that Abigail wishes to get her out of the way so that she can have John all to herself, and she realizes that all of Abigail's accusations against the villagers have led to this moment. She feels helpless and hopeless to defend herself against this accusation.
At this point in the play (Act I, scene 2), Elizabeth informs John that the witchcraft rumors and accusations have resulted in courtroom proceedings taking place in Salem. She is not yet aware of how serious things can get but says "it is a black mischief." Elizabeth and John have a disagreement because she worries John may still harbor feelings for Abigail. This emotional discomfort informs what happens later, after they receive more information about what's been happening in court. They learn from their servant Mary Warren, who is deemed "an official of the court," that Elizabeth herself has been accused. Elizabeth grows thoughtful when she hears Mary Warren's story about being "attacked" in court by the "spirit" of Goody Osburn, and Mary says that Osburn will hang because she's been found guilty of witchcraft. Both Elizabeth and Proctor are dismayed when Mary cannot offer any proof of the accusations against Osburn. They realize the matter has grown serious because hearsay and hysteria have taken over, and anyone accused might be in danger of execution.
Elizabeth aptly surmises that Abigail means to accuse her, and asks John to speak to Abigail. She tells him "You have a faulty understanding of young girls" and convinces him he must be straightforward with Abigail and not let her nurture any hope she might replace Elizabeth. Elizabeth understands Abigail will stop at nothing to remove Elizabeth as an obstacle to Proctor.
John agrees to have this conversation, but then the Reverend Hale comes in, surprising them as he is visiting after dark, and questions the Proctors regarding their spiritual practices, hinting at the very issues that condemned Goody Osburn, such as John not recalling all of his commandments when asked to recite them. Then Giles Corey arrives with Francis Nurse, upset that Nurse's wife Rebecca has been accused, and finally the constable Ezekiel Cheever, who has come to take Elizabeth to jail. Even though Elizabeth has correctly surmised that the situation is serious, she could not have predicted that on the very day they learned of the court proceedings, she'd be arrested and charged with witchcraft and hauled away from her home at night. The mayhem of the sudden visitors, and the fact that night has fallen, add to the ominous tone of this scene and its pivotal content for the play's dramatic action.
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