We just wrapped up The Crucible in my AP English class. I was grading one of their online reading quizzes, and realized there must be something SparkNotes missed on their coverage of Act IV: the cows.
The Crucible (for once I did NOT get parent complaints on) is a retelling of the Salem Witch Trials, and the final climactic act occurs in the jail before the execution of some of the lead characters. The scene opens with some of the “confessed” witches: the Barbados slave Tituba and a Salem outcast, Sarah Good.
They appear to be insane, and when the jailer Herrick attempts to usher them out, they tell him how the Devil is going to come to take them home to Barbados (Herrick says that sounds nice, as it’s probably warmer than Massachusetts). They hear cows bellowing, and mistake it for the Devil calling.
Herrick explains how the cows are wandering without owners, because so many Salemites are locked up in jail or have been executed. Crops are rotting, and children go unheeded. It’s a mark of the chaos and the social harm of the witch trials upon the larger society.
What is the significance of the cows in Act IV?
I was willing to take either “Tituba thought they were the Devil” or something about the owners being in jail. However, this question seriously stumped students, and the creative answers were HILARIOUS. Please enjoy.
Also, a winner for reading for detail:
The ultimate BS
Based on the rest of this following student’s answers he had not finished reading the play, but I absolutely loved this totally BS-noncommittal final quiz answer to hide that fact:
My last round of grading gaffs included bad essay revision, so I had to include just one unfortunate typo: the “brawd” form of success:
Happy fall and end of the first quarter, readers!
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