Abigail is a very powerful girl and the other girls are obviously afraid of her. It is clear that Abigail is out for revenge against Elizabeth Proctor. She wants her arrested and blamed as a witch so badly that she stabs herself in the stomach just so she can say she has put a spell on her and wants her dead. Elizabeth is then arrested on her evidence. Proctor is pushed to his limits – having to stand up in court for his wife. This is one example of how much he stands by his principles. Standing up in court could result in death if he slips up. This shows John’s good character as his pride will be greatly crushed by confessing to adultery, as well as the fact that Elizabeth will find out. Being honest is a strong personal quality which John did not seem to have earlier in the play. Proctor’s journey of self discovery is unfolding at this point.Order now
John stands up in court and it is clear that his confession to sleeping with Abigail is a great test of faith for him. This is one of the hardest things that he would ever have to go through. ‘How do you call Heaven! Whore! Whore!’ (note the use of juxtaposition which places words side by side to contrast the two.) as well as ‘I have known her sir, I have known her.’ The repetition of the word ‘Whore’ gives stronger emphasis over what John is saying.
Calling someone a whore in a court of law was a very serious accusation. Having just confessed to adultery, John shows great character and shows that he is becoming a changed man, a man of good principles who is prepared to sacrifice his pride. The journey John has embarked on has already shown great changes in the the person he once was. Elizabeth is called into the courtroom to back-up John’s accusation that he has slept with Abigail. She lies in court, defending her husbands name not knowing that John has just confessed. The audience are aware of John’s confession which shows dramatic irony.
Proctor now knows his life his collapsing, He is then arrested after being accused of being in league with the devil – antagonised by Abby. John and Elizabeth are allowed some time together – supervised by members of the court. Elizabeth tries to get John to confess, but he only asks her what she would do in his situation. ‘I would have your forgiveness, Elizabeth.’ She replies that it is not up to her to forgive him.
John Proctor is given the chance to save himself by condemning his friends and other members of the community. He refuses to testify – showing he is no longer afraid of standing up for what he believes in. “I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another,” he states. Proctor is then asked to sign his confession – which gives him much suffering. Eventually he is persuaded and agrees. However, the lie soon gets to him. He is no longer prepared to give up his good name for his life.
‘I have confessed myself! Is there no good penitence but it be public? God does not need to see my name nailed upon the church door!’. By now John is pleading for his life and his name. ‘You are the high court, your word is good enough! Tell them I confessed myself; say Proctor broke his knees and wept like a woman; say what you will’. Now and only now has John accepted his fate and is prepared to die for his principles. He tears up his ‘confession’. Now a doomed man,
he maintains his dignity to the gallows. Elizabeth refuses to watch his execution and exclaims ‘He has his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!’. Elizabeth saying this enforces the idea that John has gone on a journey of self discovery. ‘He has his goodness now’ can be interpreted that in the beginning of the play, John was not a man of integrity or goodness but through the trials and tribulations of the play has been made into a better man. ‘God forbid I take it from him’ suggests that Elizabeth feels that she should not be present at Johns funeral as she feels partly to blame for his death.
In conclusion I believe that the above events outlined from the play explain the trials and transformation of John Proctor – from being impulsive and passionate to being loving and believing that his principles are worth dying for. Elizabeth being the woman he loves and seeks forgiveness from, and Abigail, the jealous and frightening girl who seeks revenge on both of them. Miller has used ‘The Crucible’ to send a message to modern America about the consequences of repeating history; comparing the 1950s McArthur trials to the Salem witch trials.