The inevitability of Proctor’s death is reinforced when Danforth orders Elizabeth to the court. Elizabeth must admit to firing Abigail for having an affair with her husband, so that Abby can be charged with murder but instead she says that she fired Abigail because she thought that her husband fancied her and therefore tells the court that Proctor never committed adultery. She did this because she thought she was protecting her husband, which expresses the deep loves between them but somehow dooms her husband as he is then charged and the audience still feel he will not lie to save himself.
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Elizabeth denying her husband’s affair is also ironic as to save him from accusations of witchcraft, she has to condemn him for adultery. Miller has already shown she is an honest woman who never lies, but at the time where her honesty is needed the most she chooses to lie. Proctor cries out for Elizabeth to tell the truth because he has already confessed, but Danforth orders Elizabeth to leave. This shows her strength of character and how she really cares for her husband, as she is only willing to lie for loved ones and not to save her own skin.
John Proctor also has an extremely strong and sensible character as is easily aware of the foolishness and wickedness. He is aware of the stupidity of the witchcraft trials and also aware of how wicked Abigail is. Abigail’s simple, vengeful, malicious motives are easily seen by the audience and the Proctors but are difficult for the other members of Salem to see. For that reason and many others, John Proctor is an extremely well respected, influential member of the village; he is a ‘good example’.
Proctor is the voice of reason and justice in ‘The Crucible’. He is a good man but because of his affair with Abigail Williams, he questions whether or not he is a moral man, yet this major sin is the only big fault he has had. Miller places John Proctor as the main protagonist of the play, as he is the main moral character. He is a rational man with a rough manner who seems not to care about expressing his own true opinion.
Miller portrays Proctor as quite a modern man, who is not superstitious and shows that he has doubt in some of the aspects of orthodox religion, mainly he hates Parris’ hypocritical fascination with hell. He symbolises humanity in the play, he is someone who has made mistakes and learned from them, this draws the audience’s sympathy to him, even if he is a sinner who has had an affair. The true character of Proctor that Miller portrays towards the end of ‘The Crucible’ hardly seems capable of giving in to lust for a controlling, wicked young girl like Abigail.
Abigail’s wickedness is revealed in further depth when she dramatically claims that Mary Warren’s spirit is attacking her as a bird, trying to hurt her. Even when Mary Warren begins to cry she continues expresses just how cruel and heartless she is. The trials started because so many people were breaking the orthodox rules of the puritan religion and sinning but Abby sins so easily and breaks the Ten Commandments by lying, in this way she can use religion to her advantage. Abby is such a deceptive hypocrite, just the type of person Proctor hates most which seems to make it unbelievable that Proctor ever got mixed up with her.
Proctor mistakenly overestimated Mary Warren as he underestimated Abigail as he felt that Mary Warren was strong enough to not give in to the spiteful treatment from Abby. He was wrong as even when Mary Warren tries to tell the court that the girls are lying, she soon breaks down and tells Danforth that Proctor is the ‘Devil’s man’, and that he made her sign the ‘Devil’s book’ and made her try to overthrow the court. He strongly believes in justice and cries out that ‘God is dead’ and that ‘a fire is burning in Hell’ because the court is ‘pulling Heaven down’ and ‘raising up a whore’. This expresses his care for truth, integrity, and most importantly God.
The court officials feel terribly guilty after Proctor has been taken away as they know that he strongly cares for the truth and now know that the accusations of witchcraft are all lies, as a result of these lies an innocent man’s life may end. They ask Elizabeth to plea with him and ask him to reconsider admitting to witchcraft so his life will therefore be spared, expressing the great respect outsiders from the claustrophobic village of Salem have for him, which was very unusual as the society was so close and confined. When he is brought in to see his wife; he looks filthy and pitiful and has suffered a lot, including being tortured.
This expresses his strength and willing to do what is moral and just. He does not talk about the pain and persecution he has suffered and asks about Elizabeth’s pregnancy and the boys which shows how he puts his family before himself and how much he deeply cares for them as he is willing to go through so much for them. The key test for Proctor is if he will allow himself to suffer yet more pain for the cause of justice or if he will choose to save himself. It is considered if it is a worse to lie to save yourself or if it is worse to tell the truth even if it leads to your death. Miller shows that Proctor can choose to face his death for his pride and his beliefs, as it is not a question only of his reputation, but it also about the reputation of his family. He feels he could not be a good father to his children if he gave up his name to save himself so easily.
He does not wish to admit to witchcraft as he wants to hold up the family name, he is such a well respected man and he wants to keep that respect by doing what is right and not continuing the accusations which have caused so much misery already. He asks Elizabeth what she would think if he confessed to witchcraft, but Elizabeth says that she cannot judge him. She says that she will have him do what he wishes, but she does want him alive. He says that he ‘cannot mount the gibbet as a saint’; for it would be a ‘fraud’ but she says that she has her own sins, for only a ‘cold wife’ would let her husband have an affair.
This shows how brave both of them are as they know the consequences of not admitting to the accusations and illustrates just how much Proctor cares about, not only his, but his family’s name. Proctors concern about upholding the family name is emphasised more when Proctor finally says that he will confess to witchery, as he asks Elizabeth once again if what he is doing is evil but she answers that she cannot judge. Proctor’s strength and bravery lead to the conclusion that he is strong enough to face his own death by not admitting to witchcraft. His great indecisiveness and hesitation in admitting to the charge also further helps to create the audiences belief in his inevitable death.
However, Proctor’s hesitancy gives a false sense of hope to the audience as it is believed that such a good, decent man’s life will not end because of the wickedness of one young girl. Nevertheless, tension is added and the audience return to feeling that John Proctor’s death will be inevitable as when the court officials demand a written confession, he demands to know why he must sign. They want him to sign to show the people in the rest of the village, who will not confess, what they should do and to prove the purity of his soul to others. This shows how the rest of the village looks up to and respects him, ‘it’s a weighty name; it will strike the village that Proctor confess’.
However, he is an extremely proud man, ‘I have given you my soul, now leave me my name’. He feels that he has confessed to God and that that is enough, further expressing his faith in God. The officials also ask him to say that he saw other people with the devil therefore accusing them of witchery. He wants to know if his regret must be public and asks how he can teach his children to walk like men if he has sold his friends. Proctor wishes to keep only his name for the respectability of his children and consequently Danforth refuses to accept his confession and orders that he is to be hanged. He will not even lie to save his life even though he knows his death will not be justified. Elizabeth is begged to plead with Proctor to sign a confession, but Elizabeth states that Proctor has ‘his goodness now’, and ‘God forbid that she take it from him’ showing her great self-control and willpower.
Elizabeth shows the sense to do what is right and wrong but by doing this Proctor is faced with the dilemma of accepting his own death, causing bringing shame on his family name even though everyone around him wants him to stay alive. Elizabeth is finally shown not to be a cold woman; she refuses to try to influence her husband and even admits her faults, accepting some bit of the blame for her husband’s affair. It shows that she can overcome her problems as she does not run and leave her husband when she discovered the affair. She is also quite fragile here showing the strong emotions and clear compassion she has towards her husband.
Elizabeth shows great strength of mind and generally as a person. She eventually forgives him for the sins he has committed and knows that he is now faithful as he is willing to give so much up for her. She is extremely strong as she lets her husband do what is right even if it means she will never see him again. She also shows strength and bravery as her execution is left looming for another year until after she has given birth to her baby and will never get to see the child grow up.
Miller emphasises Proctor’s strength and courage in the way he presents Proctor as a martyr as he died for the cause of justice and for what is right. His bravery and courage in the event of his death lets his amazing strength of character show and creates not only the audiences’ respect for him but also the respect of the villagers of Salem. Even outsiders of the village such as Hale and Danforth have admiration for him, as he is willing to give his life for the cause of justice. He is extremely emotional and is extremely concerned about holding up the respect of the family name and reputation, both illustrate his deep love for his wife, ‘you are a marvel, Elizabeth’ and his love for his children. He also knows he will never even get to see his baby grow up.
These strong characteristics of his personality make his death and the ending of the play unavoidable. This inevitability is clear, as there are certain aspects of his character that will not let him stand and let his name be disrespected and to go against his main beliefs and integrity. He does not believe in blackening his name for the sake of survival and overcomes adversity by not giving in to the pressures of society, which ultimately ends in death. It is this untimely death that cleanses him from all of his past sins and lets his once true, hidden character shine; the true character of a moral, honourable, well respected man.