Hale says: "Mary—you charge a cold and cruel murder on Abigail." What does he mean in The Crucible?

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They are accusing Elizabeth of witchcraft involving a needle.  She supposedly left it in the stomach of a doll Mary was knitting.

Things are getting fully hysterical here in the witch trials in Salem.  Mary has been sewing a doll, and apparently she left one of her sewing needles in its stomach.  Abigail uses this to accuse Elizabeth of murder.

MARY: Murder! I charge no…

HALE: Abigail were stabbed tonight; a needle were found stuck into her belly….

ELIZABETH: And she charges me?! (Act 2)

Abigail was actually saying she had stomach pains.  The stomach pains were supposedly caused by the needle.  She is accusing Elizabeth because she wants revenge against her because Elizabeth kicked her out of the house for having an affair with her husband.  Elizabeth was supposedly using witchcraft, using the doll as a surrogate, like a voodoo doll, using the needle in the doll to murder Abigail.

Elizabeth if furious about being accused, of course, and shouts, “The girl is murder! She must be ripped out of the world!” (Act 2).  It adds an extra element of craziness to the trial.  Instead of just meekly taking it or proclaiming her innocence, she says she wishes Abigail dead!  She seems to know that hysteria has taken them all, and claiming that she didn’t do it, or there is no such thing as witchcraft, will do know good.  Instead, she is cam (after this outburst).

ELIZABETH: I will fear nothing. (Takes shawl from wash stand, he puts it on her. They cross R. Cheever exit R.) Tell the children I have gone to visit someone sick…. (She breaks off, goes out.) (Act 2)

Abigail was sitting next to Mary the whole time.  She knew where the needle was.  This means she stuck the needle in her own belly to frame Elizabeth.  She is one cold and crazy girl.  She will go to great lengths to get revenge.  She is using the system, and the current political and religious climate, for her own ends.

Miller was making a statement about the ends to which people will go, and why we have to stop them.  He wrote this play in response to the McCarthy hearings, but he was also talking about all threats to democracy and the American way of life.  People get caught up in mass hysteria all the time, and we have to know when to say enough is enough.

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