How does this dialogue exchange connect to The Crucible as a whole?

CHEEVER, looking about the room: Mr. Proctor, I have little time. The court bid me search your house, but I like not to search a house. So will you hand me any poppets that your wife may keep here?

PROCTOR: Poppets?

ELIZABETH: I never kept no poppets, not since I were a girl.

CHEEVER: embarrassed, glancing toward the mantel where sits Mary Warren’s poppet: I spy a poppet, Goody Proctor.

ELIZABETH: Oh! Going for it. Why, this is Mary’s.

The cited exchange of dialogue from The Crucible precedes the arrest of Elizabeth Proctor, the wife of protagonist John Proctor, who is falsely accused of injuring a teenage girl named Abigail Williams. Williams was formerly involved with John Proctor through witchcraft. The denouement of The Crucible hinges on Proctor's relationships with these two women.

Expert Answers

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This sequence of dialogue occurs toward the end of act 2 of Miller's The Crucible, following two powerful scenes.

In the first, John Proctor and his wife Elizabeth have learned from their young servant Mary, who has just come from the courtroom, that many local women have been arrested as witches and one has been condemned to death. The couple is shocked by this news and frightened by its possible implications for them.

In response to a rebuke from her employer, Mary adds that she had defended Elizabeth from charges of witchcraft and prevented her arrest. Although she refuses to identify the accuser, both Elizabeth and John realize it must have been Abigail Williams, a teenage girl with whom John had once had a relationship, and who remains intensely jealous of his wife.

Next, Thomas Hale, the young minister investigating charges of witchcraft, arrives to question John and Elizabeth on the degree and quality of their devotion to their professed faith. When asked to recite the Ten Commandments, John forgets the imperative against adultery. Hale mentions that many of the accused have confessed, hoping to offer a way out for both of the Proctors. But, as John correctly observes, that is because the alternative to confession is hanging.

Finally, the clerk of the court, Ezekiel Cheever, appears at the Proctor home, bearing an arrest warrant for Elizabeth. In the cited dialogue, he asks her for a poppet, a child's doll, that she has made. After she denies having any, he notices the one that Mary had made while in court and left as a gift. When he picks it up, he finds a needle stuck in the poppet. Cheever goes on to explain that Abigail Williams had been found screaming with pain earlier that evening, and a needle withdrawn from her stomach. She had accused Elizabeth of stabbing her with the needle via the poppet, in the style of a voodoo doll. Mary explains that it was she who had made the doll and inserted the needle while Abigail was watching. John angrily tears the arrest warrant to pieces, but Elizabeth is still arrested and taken to jail.

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