Explain how, in The Crucible, the proposed hangings of Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor differ from the past executions.

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Except for the execution of Giles Corey, before Act IV the other executions were of less significant citizens of Salem. They did not command the respect and authority that Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor enjoyed. Sarah Good, for example, was mostly treated with disdain, and George Jacobs was not regarded as important. They were, to put it harshly, expendable.

John and Rebecca, however, occupied prominent positions in the village. Both were much admired for their courage and outspokenness. John, especially, had no qualms in criticizing not only Reverend Parris, but also was outspoken about Mr. Putnam and his greed for land. Rebecca was respected for her intelligence and her general good nature. Everyone in the town turned to her for advice, and her reputation spread far and wide; even Reverend Hale commented positively about her when he came to investigate rumors of witchcraft.

Reverend Parris believed that John and Rebecca were part of a faction that was turning the village against him, while Mr. Putnam was constantly in dispute with both about land which he claimed belonged to him. Parris and Putnam's efforts to demonize Rebecca and John are obvious from the start; therefore, if these two were permanently removed, Parris and Putnam's situations would be vastly improved. 

Because of the aforementioned factors, the proposed executions of these two characters resulted in greater drama than that of any of the other condemned. It is also important to note that John's execution, in particular, was preceded by an urgent appeal that he sign a confession. He was asked to write and sign his admission of guilt so that it could serve as an open encouragement to others to admit theirs. John tore up his written and signed confession, however, refusing to sacrifice his good name. The fact that he was asked to sign and submit his admission is evidence of the level of influence he had.

In the end, both John and Rebecca were taken to the gallows and lost their lives for standing up for themselves and others. Their deaths indicated a turning point in events in the village, as fewer and fewer people were driven to admit to something they did not do, and the executions soon stopped.

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Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor are upstanding citizens of Salem. Prior to their hangings, only the poor and homeless have been hanged. The Nurses own a great deal of land, but they are also greatly respected as a prominent family of Salem. The Proctors are also a respectable family. Though some don't like John, he is respected for his honesty and fairness. To hang these respectable people is a turning point in the trials and is one of the reasons that led to its end.

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Parris comments that the proposed hangings of Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor differ from the past executions. In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, why are these executions different?

The Crucible by Arthur Miller ends with the hanging of two of the most respected citizens of Salem in 1692.  After the terrible witch trials, over a hundred people had confessed so that they would not lose their lives by hanging.  On this day, John Proctor...

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and Rebecca Nurse are to be hanged.  Even Reverend Parris knows that these are wrongly accused. 

In order to save one’s life, Governor Danforth insists that  each person sign a confession to witchcraft.  If a person does not, then he is hanged.

In the town of Salem, a person’s reputation was important to the social standing and acceptance by the church and trade.  Business and trade meant life and having enough to eat.  When a person was accused, his  reputation lost some of its value because living became the ultimate goal. 

Religion was the heart of life in the puritan communities.  Reverend  Parris stood by his daughter and the other girls as they accused respected, ordinary citizens of bewitching them.  Now, two of the leading citizens of Salem were the last of those to be executed.  Everyone wants them to sign the confessions because no one really believes that they bewitched anyone.  One of the judges, Reverend Hale doubts the validity of these accusations.

John Proctor has been accused because of his relationship with Abigail Williams.  Abigail has left Salem and stolen money.  Her affair with Proctor was denied by Elizabeth, John’s wife, but validated by Abigail and John. He was accused of bewitching Mary Warren, his house girl.  Proctor had come to the court to help his wife and to tell them that Abigail had told him that it was all a pretense. Now, he is going to be executed for his efforts.

Rebecca Nurse was a pillar in the community. A devout religious woman—no one believes that she is a witch. Rebecca Nurse has lots of children and grandchildren.  Anne Putnam has lost seven children.  In her bitterness, Anne Putnam accuses Rebecca of killing 7 of her 8 babies.  No one believes it, but it makes no difference: Rebecca is accused and found guilty.  She will not sign a false confession, so she will go to the gallows. Danforth tries to get Proctor to accuse Nurse, and of course, he refuses. 

Rebecca: Why, John!

Danforth: Now, woman, you surely see it profit nothin’ so keep this conspiracy any further.  Will. You confess yourself with him?

Rebecca: Oh, John—God sen His mercy on you!

Danforth: I say will you confess yourself, Goody Nurse!

Rebecca: Why, it is a lie, it is a lie, how may I damn myself? I cannot, I cannot.

After Elizabeth forgives him for his affair with Abigail and observing how Rebecca Nurse carries herself, John realizes that he cannot sign the confession. He will not give it to Danforth. John tells the judges that he will not lose his good name by admitting to something that he did not do

These two courageous people are willing to give up their lives to save their good names and reputations.  Consequently, their descendants will know that they died for what they knew was right in the eyes of God.

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