In act 2 of The Crucible, what are examples of irony?

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There are many instances of irony in act 2 of The Crucible. Elizabeth encourages John to go to Ezekiel Cheever for assistance (since the two are well acquainted) when, at that moment, Cheever is already on his way to arrest Elizabeth and bring her before the court.

When Mary...

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There are many instances of irony in act 2 of The Crucible. Elizabeth encourages John to go to Ezekiel Cheever for assistance (since the two are well acquainted) when, at that moment, Cheever is already on his way to arrest Elizabeth and bring her before the court.

When Mary Warren gives Elizabeth the doll that is to be a key piece of evidence against her, she says "We must all love each other now, Goody Proctor." The poppet is a symbol of hatred—ostensibly of Elizabeth's for Abigail and really of Abigail's for Elizabeth. Both Mary and John appeal to Abigail as a source of truth (Mary for the source of the poppet, John for the fundamental innocence of the girls' behavior in the woods) when the lies they are trying to combat in fact originate with her.

When the Reverend Hale comes to question the Proctors about the Christian character of their house, John Proctor can remember all his commandments except one. In a moment of profound irony, Elizabeth reminds him that he has forgotten adultery (something one certainly could not accuse her of doing after her recent reproaches).

At the end of act 2, the Reverend Hale asks Giles and Francis to consider what terrible evils may have been done in Salem to draw down God's wrath upon them. He says "I shall pray God open up our eyes." This is ironic in view of the conversion the Reverend Hale is to undergo. His eyes will be opened up to the terrible evil in which he is even now participating.

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Irony is created when there is a discrepancy between one's expectations and reality. There are three kinds of irony: verbal, when one says the opposite of what one means; situational, when what happens in reality is the opposite of what one expects to happen; and dramatic, when the audience knows more than a character does.

One example of irony occurs--both situational and dramatic--when John Proctor adds salt to his wife's cooking and then compliments her by saying that it is "well seasoned." This is situational irony because we don't expect John to compliment the flavor of the meal his wife has made after we've just watched him add salt to it (an action that implies that it lacked flavor). Further, she does not know that he has seasoned the food and that his compliment is not completely honest; this creates dramatic irony. We see that he's trying to please her, even perhaps butter her up, and this gives us some clues to their relationship.

Another example of dramatic irony occurs when Ezekiel Cheever tells the story about Abigail Williams pulling a huge needle out of her belly and blaming Elizabeth Proctor's specter for pushing it in. We know that Mary Warren made that doll, and she says that she, herself, put the needle in it for safekeeping. She tells them,

"Let you ask Susanna Walcott--she saw me sewin' it in court. Or better still: Ask Abby, Abby sat beside me when I made it."

We know without a doubt that Abigail is the guilty one here and not Elizabeth, and yet it is Elizabeth who is arrested and tried for a crime. This dramatic irony creates a great deal of tension.

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There's a wonderful example of what's called dramatic irony in Act II Scene iii of The Crucible. In the context of a play, dramatic irony is where the audience knows something that one of the characters does not.

As Elizabeth's name has come up in court, Reverend Hale feels that he needs to investigate the matter further. So he visits the Proctors at home to try and establish if there's any basis in fact to the accusations of witchcraft leveled against Elizabeth.

In conducting an interview with the Proctors, Hale hopes to find out what kind of Christians they are. Among other things, he asks them both to recite the Ten Commandments. Elizabeth does so without any trouble whatsoever. John, however, tellingly forgets one Commandment: "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Embarrassingly, Elizabeth has to remind him of it. This is an example of dramatic irony because we, the audience, already know that John has committed adultery with Abigail Williams, whereas Reverend Hale is at this stage blissfully unaware.

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Irony can broadly be defined as something that is the opposite of what you expected occuring.  So, taking that as a base definition, there are numerous examples of irony that can be found in act two.  The first is in the character of Mary Warren.  In act one, we saw her as a terrified, submissive, mouse of a girl who could barely speak for herself, especially in the presence of John, her employer.  Well, in act two, she comes home late and boldly stands up to John and Elizabeth, defying their commands for her to remain away from the courts.  Her reaction is surprising and a bit ironic.

Then, let's take the arrests that happen at the end of the act.  Elizabeth, one of the most righteous and upstanding members of the community, a respected farmer's wife with an outstanding reputation, is arrested for witchcraft.  Not only is Elizabeth arrested, but the pure and nearly perfect Rebecca Nurse is arrested for being a witch also.  This is bizarre--Rebecca's reputation is so solid and amazing that even Reverend Hale, who comes from Andover, has heard of how amazingly charitable she is.  It is ironic that these upstanding women are arrested, while the corrupt and conniving girls accusing them go untouched and are revered as angels of God.

Also, consider how Elizabeth was arrested.  Mary was sewing a doll as a present for Elizabeth, and it is that "present" in the end that is evidence for Elizabeth's arrest.  Another irony:  John's good friends, Cheever and Herrick, are involved in taking Elizabeth away.  They claim that their hands are bound.  But in the end, it is by friends that Elizabeth is dragged away from her house and family.  These examples, and more, are some of the bits of irony that can be found in act two of the play. I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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