Act II, Scene 4 Summary
Ezekiel Cheever, the clerk of new court, arrives at the Proctor home, announcing he has come to arrest Elizabeth Proctor on suspicion of witchcraft. Cheever asks John to hand over any poppets that may be in the house, but Elizabeth says she hasn't had a doll since she was a little girl (she's forgotten that Mary Warren just gave her a poppet she had made in court that day). Cheever spots the poppet, however, and when Elizabeth goes to fetch Mary, Cheever finds a needle stuck into the poppet's stomach.
He cries out that this is "calamity" for Elizabeth and recounts the following: Earlier that night, Abigail sat down to dinner and suddenly screamed aloud, falling to the floor in dramatic fashion. A needle was discovered stuck into her belly, and Abigail testified that Elizabeth had sent out her spirit to push it in.
Mary and Elizabeth reenter the room. Mary explains to everyone present that she made the poppet and stuck the needle inside it for safekeeping. She then announces—not knowing about Abigail's accusation—that they can ask Abigail about it because Abigail was sitting next to Mary when she made the doll in court. To the Proctors, this is proof that Abigail is trying to get Elizabeth hanged, but since no one else knows of the affair between John and Abigail, they don't see what motive she would have to lie. Elizabeth is arrested, and Reverend Hale assures John that if she is innocent, she has nothing to worry about and will be sent home soon.
In response, John calls Hale "Pontius Pilate." Pilate was the man who allowed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ because it was what the general public chose—even though he personally believed they were wrong. He famously washed his hands in front of the crowd as if to say that he was not responsible for their choice and Christ's death. Now, John claims that Hale is trying to do the same thing: deny responsibility for an injustice that he could actually stop. At the end of the scene, John tells Mary Warren that she is going to go to the court with him to tell the truth. She cries and says she's afraid to oppose Abigail.