What happens to Giles Corey in the third act of The Crucible?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Giles Corey angers Judge Danforth, who has him arrested for contempt of court. He asks him to take his seat and keep counsel with himself. Giles has to reconsider his actions prior to the judge's finding.

Giles finds himself in this unfortunate situation because he drew up a deposition accusing Thomas Putnam of using his daughter, Ruth, to accuse George Jacobs of witchcraft. Giles claims Putnam used his daughter to accuse Jacobs so he may be arrested and incarcerated. Jacobs's property would then be forfeited to the state and sold at auction. In terms of Giles's accusation, Putnam would be the only one with the means to buy the property. Giles's deposition thus accuses Putnam of illegally abusing the witch trials to profit from the accused's misfortune.

Giles's deposition claims that a friend of his had heard Putnam instruct his daughter to accuse George Jacobs. Both judges Hathorne and Danforth then ask him to name his witness. Giles refuses to do so, saying:

I will not give you no name, I mentioned my wife’s name once and I’ll burn in hell long enough for that. I stand mute.

Giles is afraid his friend will be arrested if he should identify him and, therefore, refuses. He believes having innocently mentioned his wife's name on a previous occasion put her in jail -- an act for which he feels great regret.

As it is, Giles refuses to relent and is later put in jail, where he is incarcerated with other accused people. We learn of his tragic fate in Act Four, when Elizabeth Proctor informs her husband, John, of his death. Giles refused to respond to the charges against him and was pressed to death. His accusers placed huge stones on his chest until he died. His last words supposedly were, "More weight!"

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Giles is convicted of contempt of court for refusing to reveal the source whom he claims overheard a conversation between Thomas Putnam and another man wherein Putnum admitted to prompting his daughter to cry witch against their neighbor, Mr. Jacobs, in order to obtain is land.

In an effort to force Giles Corey into naming his witness, the court tortures him by a method called pressing that is laying heavier and heavier stone weights upon the chest of the person being questioned. Corey's last words before the stones crush his ribcage are "More weight." He dies without ever revealing his source.

Interestingly, the real Corey was held in contempt of court for a different reason. He himself stood accused of witchcraft, and knowing that a confession or a plea of not guilty would ultimately lead to his being found guilty and the forfeiture of his land to the court, he refused to enter a plea. This way, even though he died, his sons could still inherit his property, since it was never confiscated by the court.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial