In the Crucible
In the Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, the character John Proctor is a landowner Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was falsely accused of witchcraft in the Salem Witch Trials. Although, he did admit to adultery and his affair with Abigail Williams, a servant of his home, which ultimately led to his death by hanging. Throughout this play the steady manner that John Proctor displays, does not spring from an untroubled soul.
At the beginning of the play Proctor’s first entrance, the first act, was in Parris’s house to join the girls. When he sees that Abigail is involved with the dancing in the woods he is troubled. He states that the whole town be talking of witchcraft. Abby tells him that she be a waiting for him every night, for him to love her again. He tells her, “Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But will cut off my hand before i reach you again. Wipe it out of mind, we never touched, Abby” (pg. 177). Proctor is conniving and wishes to neglect their past. Abigail then beating her fists against his chest and proclaims that Elizabeth, John’s wife, be blackening her name in the village. He shouts to her, “Do you look for a whippin?” (pg. 177). John is defending of his wife. The second act opens up in the Proctor’s home, John just gets home from planting seeds in crops. Elizabeth serves him supper and tells John she let Mary Warren into Salem, even though John forbid her to go. Elizabeth explains that it was because Mary is an official of the court. Proctor has no idea of the court, Elizabeth explains that they have a proper court now. Proctor tells Elizabeth of his encounter with Abigail. She is questioning the fact that they were alone together, and is suspicious of what happened when they were alone together. As the argument rages on John tells his wife, “Spare me! You forget nothin’ and forgive nothin’. Learn charity, woman. I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven month since she is gone. I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches around your heart. I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judged for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house!” (pg. 194). John Proctor is practically pleading his forgiveness from his own wife.
In the beginning of act 3 the play in set in the Salem courthouse where Danforth, deputy governor of Massachusetts, is addressing the issue and the accusations of witchcraft within the town. Abigail has accused Elizabeth of witchcraft. Danforth reveals that the morning of the hearing, Elizabeth sent a claim that she be pregnant. Proctor shouts, “My wife pregnant!”. Danforth tells him that there be no proof and that they examined her body. Proctor claims that, “… if she say she is pregnant, then she must be! That woman will never lie…” (pg. 212). Proctor in hopes to prove his wife’s innocence, tries to inform Danforth that Abigail be lying. Just then Abigail acts as if she is being witched by Mary Warren. Proctor doesn’t know what to do, so he tells Danforth the real truth, “In the proper place—where my beasts are bedded. Eight months now, sir, it is eight months. She used to serve me in my house, sir. A man may think God sleeps, but God sees everything. I know it now. I beg you, sir, I beg you—see her for what she is. My wife, my dear good wife took this girl soon after, sir, and put her out on the high road. And being what she is, a lump of vanity, sir…. (Starts to weep.) Excellency, forgive me, forgive me. She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave! And well she might!—for I thought of her softly, God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat! But it is a whore’s vengeance, and you must see it; I set myself entirely in your hands, I know you must see it now. My wife is innocent, except she know a whore when she see one” (pg. 220-221). Proctor is willing to let go his good name and prove his wife’s innocence. Towards the end of Act 3 Abigail, again, tries to draw the attention of the court to her, she claims she sees a little yellow bird flying around the courtroom. Proctor shouts at Danforth, “A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face. And it is my face and yours, Danforth. For them that quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud. God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!” (pg. 227). Danforth informs Marshall to take away Proctor and put him in jail, as he is leaving he yells, “You are pulling heaven down and raising up a whore” (pg. 227). Proctor is being falsely accused and he has one last chance to prove his wife and his innocence. Danforth is not happy when John shouts at him, and that seals his fate.
At the end of the play Elizabeth cries, as she cannot judge John for his life. He tells her, “Then who will judge me? God in Heaven, what is John Proctor, what is John Proctor! I think it is honest, I think so: I am no saint.” She tells him again, she is not his judge, she simply cannot judge him. John informs her, “Would you give them such a lie? Say it. Would you ever give them this? (She can’t answer.) You would not; if tongs of fire were singeing you, you would not! – it is evil. (Slight pause. Sitting.) Good then, it is evil, and I do it” (pg. 238). John must know that Elizabeth will live with honor. Danforth enters with Cheever, Parris, and Hale. He informs John that he must sign a declaration proving his wrong doing to the village. Proctor isn’t having it, he says that they have all witnessed it, what more does it need, Danforth’s good name and good word should be enough to confirm his confession. Though Danforth insists that he need the paper signed, he asks why John doesn’t want to sign it. John proclaims, ” I have confessed myself! Is there no good penitence but it be public? God does not need my name nailed upon the church! God sees my name, God knows how black my sins are! It is enough” (pg. 240). Danforth keeps persisting, he is interrupted by John, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life. Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!” (pg. 240). John Proctor has confessed, Elizabeth claims he has goodness now, God forbids that she take it from him.
John Proctor’s lust for Abigail Williams which led to their affair, is the underlying problem of the play. Throughout the series of commotion from witchcraft to adultery, John is honorable and he is loyal to his wife, after he realizes that he made a huge mistake when he lusted for Abigail. He was willing to throw aside his good name to save his wife from Abigail’s jealousy driven accusations of witchcraft. John dies with pride and honor.