The Crucible Analysis Essay, Research Paper
Arthur Miller portrays a world corrupt with vengeance and malevolent intent in his play “The Crucible.” The play follows the lives of John and Elizabeth Proctor and the entire Salem community, as they battle accusations of witchery. As Elizabeth is accused of witchery by Abigail, a young girl seeking revenge. The society of Salem testifies to the accusations in fear of being accused themselves lest they mark the girl, Abigail Williams, false. The characters battle not only with the ones accused of witchery, but the demons of guilt lurking within themselves.
Although marked to be practicing black sins, Elizabeth Proctor was a woman knowing nothing but the truth and was determined to preach it, no matter what the consequences. Abigail Williams had been an aide to the Proctor’s, but was released after only a few months. John Proctor began having an affair with Abigail while she was present in his household, and Elizabeth aimed to rid of the problem. Abby then wished to be rid of her and claimed John as her own (Proctor) “She wishes to dance with me on my wife’s grave!” (106), so Abigail accused Elizabeth of witchery, with the evidence of a poppit with a needle shoved into it’s stomach. When Reverend Hale addresses John and Elizabeth after the accusation he says “It’s said that you hold no belief that there may even be witches in the world. Is that true, sir?” (John) “…I cannot believe they come among us now.” (Hale) “And you, woman?” (Elizabeth) “…I cannot believe it… If you say that I am one, then I say there are none.” (67)
Elizabeth knows that Abigail and the others girls are pretending when they find “evidence” that she is a witch; she and her husband are two of the only voices of reason and truth in Salem. Elizabeth and John are desperate to find a way to save Elizabeth’s life; later in the court, Elizabeth is said to have been found pregnant.
Elizabeth’s pregnancy may have been planned to keep her alive for a time with her husband. The Proctors know that there is no way that they will be able to overcome the courts and prove to the judges that the girls are frauds, so they devise a scheme to keep Elizabeth living.
Elizabeth was an honest woman who loved her husband, although he had committed lechery. Elizabeth had been suspecting John of knowing Abigail Williams for seven months as the play opens; yet, she denies she has any suspicion of him in hopes of putting an ease on her husband’s weighted heart. John feels guilty about his affair, and it puts a strain on his relationship with Elizabeth. He, however, is determined to end the affair, when he confronts Abigail. (Abigail) “Give me a word, John. A soft word.” (Proctor) “No, no, Abby. That’s done with.” (Abigail) “…I am waitin’ for you every night…” (Proctor) “…Abby, you’ll put it out of mind. I’ll not be comin’ for you more… I think of you softly from time to time. But I’ll cut off my hand before I ever reach for you again.” (19-21) John wishes to end the affair for his wife; he does love her, and he recognizes that his relations with Abigail were a mistake. He doesn’t know that Elizabeth is aware of the affair, but she knows and it hurts her. She abandons her truthful reputation in court when confronted about the affair. (Danforth) “Your husband- did he indeed turn from you?” (Elizabeth – in agony) “My husband, he is a godly man, sir.” (Danforth) “Then he did not turn from you.” (Elizabeth) “He…” (Danforth) “To you knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery?…” (Elizabeth) “No, sir.” (Danforth) “Remove her, marshal.” (Proctor) “Elizabeth, tell the truth!… I have confessed it!” (Elizabeth) “Oh, God!” (the door closes behind her) (Proctor) “She only meant to save my name!” (108-109) Elizabeth without a second thought was willing to cast away her conscience in order to spare her husband humiliation; she lied to save his good name in Salem. However, the court had already recorded John’s confession when Elizabeth was not present. For lying, Elizabeth was arrested. She knows her husband for a lecher; at that point in the play, it was only a matter of his confessing to her. Since he hadn’t confessed to her up to this point, Elizabeth believed that he would have withheld it from the assembly. In the above quoted scene, Elizabeth looks to John many times for reassurance; his back was turned to her by request of Danforth. He was truly turned from her, and during this time of great moral conflict between truth and good name, Elizabeth was on her own. In the pauses in her speech, Elizabeth is probably considering her situation. She knows that if she accuses her husband of lechery and he has not confessed, he will be persecuted for perjury. If she does not accuse him and he has confessed, she will be persecuted. Rather than have harm or shame be set upon her husband, she chooses to take the chance of having the blame upon herself. Elizabeth, no matter how much she loves her husband and wants to live with him, will not stand in his way when he has made a decision. In the resolution of the play, John Proctor is hung for witchery. Mary Warren, the aide that replaced Abigail, cries out on Proctor in court. Elizabeth talks to Proctor in his cell, and he declares that he wants his life. He signs a confession, but then realizes that the document he just put his name on was a lie. (Proctor) [speaking of Danforth's wish to post his confession on the church] “What others say and what I sign to is not the same!” (Danforth) “Why? Do you mean to deny this confession when you are free?” (Proctor) “I mean to deny nothing!” (Danforth) “Then explain to me, Mr. Proctor, why you will not let-”
(Proctor) Because it is my name!… Because I lie, and sign myself to lies!… I have given you my soul, leave me my name!” (Danforth – pointing to the confession in Proctor’s hand) “…If it is a lie I will not accept it!… You will give me your honest confession in my hand, or I cannot keep you from the rope.” Proctor tears the paper and crumples it. (137-138) Seeing this, Elizabeth realizes that if Proctor cannot convince the court that the girls are frauds and that the accusing of witches were simply a manifestation of revenge, the only thing that John could do then was to keep his name free of the black sin of witchcraft. He would prove to the town that he would stand by his belief in that there were no witches, and the best way that he could do so was to be martyred; he refused to be broken by authority. Elizabeth recognized this, and although Reverend Hale persuaded her to convince John to step away from the gallows, she refused. (Hale) “Woman, plead with him!… It is pride, it is vanity! Be his helper- what profit him to bleed? Shall the dust praise him? Shall the worms declare his truth? Go to him take his shame away!” (Elizabeth) “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!” (139) Elizabeth, in loving her husband, let him stand up- and die- for what he believed in. She would not tell him to let go of a cause that she knew he believed in strongly as he believed in the lack of existence of witches. Although it undoubtedly pained her beyond comprehension to see her husband hung when she easily could have stopped him, she would not think to take her husband’s good name away and have him confess to the witchcraft he declared he did not believe in. She put her own state in disregard in favor of letting John show Salem that he was going to keep his good name, even if it meant dying for it.
Elizabeth Proctor was a strong woman who had love and respect for her husband John, no matter what pain he inflicted upon her. She was determined to speak of nothing but the truth, but when her husband’s well-being came into question, she disregarded her own credibility to spare him. Elizabeth stood up to Salem and, while others went wild and called witchery on whomever they pleased, didn’t waver from her steadfast decision to keep her name white. She succeeded, and although she was unable to save the life of her husband, she kept the goodness the Proctors projected. The Crucible remains a precise portrayal of society as it still stands today; not one willing to stand up against majority, although they believe in what is right, and those who do are subjected to the final judgment of the crucible.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York: Penguin Books, 1982.