The Marriage of John and Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Marriage of John and Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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The Crucible is one of the most bizarre accounts of a historical event to date. The naïveté of the townspeople leads them down a road of madness and confusion, led by a shameless Puritan girl. Abigail Williams was a ruthless girl who showed no mercy upon accusing her victims of witchcraft. Knowing the entire town of Salem would believe her and the other girls, she would not hesitate at charging anyone she wished with the crime of the Devil’s work. However, a challenge arose to Abigail when she decided to accuse Elizabeth Proctor, and eventually her husband John, of witchcraft. The Proctor marriage was not just any simple marriage; it had its times of cold shoulders, heartfelt truth, and undying love.

Indeed, Abigail had a strong motive for charging Elizabeth with evil divination. Seven months before the play takes place, Abigail and John had an affair while Abigail was working as a servant in their home. Eventually, John confessed and apologized to Elizabeth, pledging his fidelity to her. Nonetheless, at the time the play takes place, Elizabeth still hasn’t fully forgiven him, and gives him a hard time about it. Abigail confessed the pretense of her accusations to him when they were alone, and now he has no way to prove that she’s lying to the court. But because he was alone with her again,
Elizabeth becomes angry with him.
“ELIZABETH: You were alone with her?
PROCTOR, stubbornly: For a moment alone, aye.
ELIZABETH: Why, then, it is not as you told me.
PROCTOR, anger rising: For a moment, I say. The others come in soon after.
ELIZABETH, quietly-she has suddenly lost all faith in him: Do as you wish, then.
PROCTOR: Woman, I will not have your suspicion any more.
ELIZABETH: Then let you not earn it.”

Elizabeth still doubts her husband because she feels that if it were any other girl that he had to go testify against, he would not hesitate. But, because it’s Abigail, he feels he has to think harder on making a decision. John Proctor feels he is now justified in becoming angry because for the seven months since his confession, he has done nothing but try to please his wife, and she still approaches him with suspicion and accusations.

“PROCTOR: 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.

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I have not moved from there to there without think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches round you 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!”

Marriages are sometimes put to the test, and if at that time, things aren’t going well, chances are it will take a lot of faith and love for the marriage to survive. During Act Two, the Proctor marriage is going through one of its toughest times. This may or may not prove to be a downfall when the Proctor marriage is put through such a test.

This test surfaces during Act Three when Proctor appears in court to try to uncover Abigail’s falseness. None of his tactics were working to convince the judges; they didn’t believe him or Mary Warren, so he turns to his last resort. Proctor reveals his infidelity to Elizabeth before everyone, and therefore, exposes Abigail as a harlot.
Consequently, if in fact Abigail is found to be guilty of this accusation, she will lose her validity as a true witness of witchcraft. This makes truth an extremely important issue in the union between John and Elizabeth. The court decides to question Elizabeth to confirm John allegations, at which John feels she will because she’s an “honest woman” and never lies. If she testifies truthfully by admitting exactly what John has, then she will be saved from the witchery allegations against her. If she doesn’t, and lies, she will be found guilty and hung like the others. This is the time of truth that will save or kill Elizabeth, and she is faced with an internal struggle as to which choice will save her. Elizabeth doesn’t know whether she should admit the truth or hide her husband’s lechery for fear that it might cause greater problems.

“DANFORTH, reaches out and holds her face, then: Look at me! To your knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery? In a crisis of indecision she cannot speak. Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher!
ELIZABETH, faintly: No, sir.”

Ironically, revealing her husband’s infidelity is the only thing that will save them both from the delirious plague infecting Salem. In the end, Elizabeth chooses to try to defend her husband and hide the truth from the judges, which causes her husband to be put in jail. The love that Elizabeth has for John, which causes her to lie, is ultimately what signals his end.

However, in the last act, the prevalent issue is their everlasting love for each other despite all the events in Salem. John Proctor asks his wife, while sitting in jail, if he should confess to witchcraft before they end his life that morning. However objective Elizabeth might want to be, she admits to her husband that she would prefer to see him alive. This is the first implication that she wants him to lie so that they could be joined together again. Nonetheless, John feels it wouldn’t be right for him to confess to a crime he didn’t commit nor go into darkness like a saint, because he’s already committed a sin. He begs for her forgiveness if he should confess, and she in turn begs for his. Elizabeth realizes that if she had not been so cold to him in the past, he wouldn’t have been infidel. Proctor resolves to confess, but ends up tearing up the paper because he refused to be publicly denounced for a crime he knows he did not perpetrate. Elizabeth rushes to him in tears, but he tells her not to cry, for he has found at last "some shred of goodness" in himself. Elizabeth shows her strength of character in this last act. Though she loves her husband and wants him to live, she realizes he can only do so if he compromises himself. She refuses to ask him to confess and, once he recants his confession, refuses to ask him to reconsider, saying that she would not deny him his sense of goodness even to save his life. Elizabeth emerges as one of the strongest characters in The Crucible. Her continuous strength and determination presents a great contrast to the moral weakness of Parris, the moral impotence of Hale, and the moral uncertainty of Proctor.

Clearly one of the most impenetrable relationships in The Crucible is the matrimony of John and Elizabeth Proctor. Throughout the play’s entirety, they went through a myriad of obstacles. They represented a couple going through difficult marital problems, attempting to keep their honesty to each other, and demonstrating their utmost love and respect for one another. Towards the play’s end, they regained the love that they both thought was lost when he wronged her. However, they were an example of the times a marriage will go through and how love really can conquer all. Even though John Proctor is hung, he will surely meet his loving wife at Heaven’s gates because they kept their honest and eternal vow to God and each other.
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