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Upon being presented with this petition in Act Three of "The Crucible", Danforth arrests all 91 people who have signed their names, stating their good opinions of Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse. Danforth claims that these people must be taken in for questioning, and, therefore, sends his court officer, Herrick, to arrest all 91 of them. This is why in the later part of the play Giles refuses to say a word to the court again.
John Proctor presents what he calls a "testament" to Justice Danforth, saying "the people signing it declare their good opinion of Rebecca and my wife, and Martha Corey." He then says the people who signed it are landowners and church goers. Reverend Parris says everyone on the list should be summoned for questioning, saying it is "a clear attack upon the court." The Reverend Hale, who has been growing increasingly distressed by the courtroom proceedings, responds to this (the stage direction says "trying to contain himself") to ask Parris if every defense must be seen as an attack upon the court.
Justice Danforth then orders Cheever to have warrants drawn up for all 91 people who signed the testament, "arrests for examination." Mister Nurse, who, with John Proctor, decided to get the villagers to sign their names to show their support, is horrified that he may have put them in danger. Danforth assures him all will be well "if they are of good conscience," but that he must understand: "that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it; there be no road between."
This scene is one of many in the play that shows a clear parallel to the McCarthy hearings and the activities of McCarthy's operatives as they attempted to ferret out Communists. Guilt by association, that is, the assumption that anyone who supports people who are wrongly accused must be in league with the accused, or in this case, those wrongly accused of being Communists must somehow be sympathizers or even Communists themselves, was a common tactic used by McCarthy. It is clearly the dominant theme here, as the supporters of Martha Corey, Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth Proctor are all to be arrested for questioning.
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