In Miller's description of the physical properties of the courtroom in Act III, what specific details make the room "forbidding"?

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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Miller describes the vestry room of the Salem meeting house as a dull room with a forbidding, solemn atmosphere. The room is practically empty except for two plain benches facing each other on both sides of the room with a long table that is positioned in between the benches. There are also two high windows located on the back wall with a set of closed doors leading to the courtroom. The characters standing in the vestry room can listen to the hearings but cannot see what is happening because of the closed doors.

This vestry room is considered forbidding for several reasons. The lack of decorations provide a plain aesthetic that symbolically represents the primitive and traditional nature of the trials. The only light entering the room comes from the high windows positioned on the back wall. People cannot look into the windows, and those inside are essentially isolated from the outside. The light beaming through the windows reveals that only God is passively watching the events that take place in the vestry room. The fact that the characters inside the vestry room cannot see outside the windows or inside the courtroom adds to their sense of isolation. The long empty table represents an open forum where characters are free to express themselves. However, the lack of audience and isolated atmosphere stifle the truth. These elements create the perfect setting for John Proctor to reveal his infidelity while Abigail continues to manipulate the court.

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edcon's profile pic

edcon | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Miller describes the vestry room that has been pressed into service as the anteroom to the court room as "solemn, even forbidding."

The "two high windows in the back wall" admit strong sunlight, implying that a metaphorical bright light will expose all in the hearings.  The windows offer no view to outsiders, suggesting that anything that the officials desire could happen inside. The high placement of the windows offers no comforting view of the world outside to those who have come to court. It is an isolating physical space that would feel forbidding.

The plain benches, likewise, offer no comfort, and the primitive architecture with exposed beams and rafters offers no aesthetic beauty with which to distract oneself. The empty chairs and long table suggest that one's fate will be put into the hands of others who will pass judgment. 

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The room is empty, but plainly decorated and has a serious, dark air about it.  There is sunlight, but only through the upper windows--it is not cheerful.

The heavy beams jut out, plain boards make up the walls, and there is a long meeting table and chairs in the center.  The starkness gives the feeling of lack of hope for those who enter, especially when they face the serious and solemn faces of the judges and accusers.

It is dark, lonely, too serious, and intimidating.  These things make up the quality of "forbidding" as used by Miller.

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