In Arthur Miller’s parable about the dangers of the Red Scare and allegations of communist affiliations that were a characteristic of the post-World War II period, The Crucible, the character of Giles Corey is a strange, physically powerful old man whose ignorance and innocence both contribute to and later detract from the hysteria sweeping Salem. He is introduced in Act I in the midst of chaos and hysteria, as Parris continues to panic over Betty while Abigail and John Proctor argue over their relationship and Elizabeth Proctor’s accusations against Abigail. In this context, the old Giles Corey makes his entrance:
Giles Corey, eighty-three, enters. He is knotted with muscle, canny, inquisitive, and still powerful.
Giles is a recent convert to Christianity, and, typical of recent converts to any religion, is particularly pious. He is also highly susceptible to the paranoia running rampant through the community – paranoia that he initially applied to his wife, whose interest in books was, to Giles, highly suspicious. As with others who initially got caught up in the hysteria about witchcraft and sorcery, Giles would come to his senses and prove his mettle when subjected to torture in an effort at forcing him to accuse his wife. At the play’s end, Giles dead from the weight of the rocks placed on his torso to compel compliance, is described by the Proctors [stage directions in italics]:
Elizabeth: Great stones they lay upon his chest until he plead aye or nay. With a tender smile for the old man: They say he give them but two words. “More weight,” he says. And died.
Proctor, numbed - a thread to weave into his agony: “More weight,”
Elizabeth: Aye. It were a fearsome man, Giles Corey.