But Parris has already called for Reverend Hale of Beverly, who is known to have special knowledge about witchcraft. Among these girls there is Mary Warren, who is the Proctors' maidservant, and she knows that the whole situation has nothing to do with witchcraft.
Miller, Arthur - The Crucible - The role of John Proctor
John and Rebecca Nurse, a respected woman in Salem, are the only persons in town who do not believe in witchcraft. Proctor, however, wants to stop this horror scenario and convinces Mary to go to the court and tell the truth. He himself is willing to admit his adultery to show Abigail that she has no chance to renew their relationship. In the next three months there are several hangings but by now nearly everyone in- and outside Salem knows that the witch-trials were wrong, even Abigail has run away so that they cannot blame her for the terrible events in Salem. After that Hale comes back to Salem to convince Proctor and other people in jail to confess, because otherwise the judges will have to sentence them to death just like the people who have been hanged already.
After Proctor has agreed to sign his confession, he sees that in this way the judges just want to use his good name and influence to save their own skins. He is a farmer in his mid- thirties, he is married to Elizabeth Proctor and the father of three sons. He is a very direct person and because of his behaviour to other people he is respected and even partly feared in town. He tells people the truth into their faces whether they want to hear it or not, even if there are other people around. This behaviour is based on his deep honesty towards himself and every other person.
But if this is not the case, you discover it immediately because he leaves no doubt about it.
By acting like this he has made some enemies in Salem. Proctor had noticed that Parris was not only interested in the well-being of his parish but very much more in his material wealth and his reputation in the community. He is not convinced that people should do what the priest tells them without thinking about it. Religion and society have surely left their mark on John Proctor, but his mind is free and so he lets himself get involved in discussions with Parris or Putnam, for example, and that is also a reason why he got into the mess with Abigail.
A strictly religiously living man would possibly not have made this mistake, but John has certainly had a more interesting life than the average citizen of Salem. He is a man with a temper and is willing to use the whip when you deserve it, but you can say he is full of goodness. He is very generous, helps his neighbours and is an attractive man, powerful of body and well-built. His appearance and passionate nature make him such an attractive person for women.
He loves his wife Elizabeth so much that he even tells her about the affair with Abigail, but he is also disgusted with himself. He is ashamed that he lay his hands on Abigail, and this affair has ruined his inner peace. Ever since then he has had a difficult relationship with his wife and he lives in an endless conflict with himself; he wants to be the man he was before, but he thinks he is a fraud.
The affair with Abigail happened when Elizabeth was ill and Proctor looked for some warmth in his house, so things developed to the inevitable end. He wants to know what is wrong with Betty because the town is murmuring witchcraft. At this moment we can only assume that she loves him, but we do not know anything about his feelings for her. That is the evidence that they had an affair and we also see that John does not want to continue the relationship.
After he had confessed it to Elizabeth, she dismissed her from her service and because she did not want to tell the people in Salem that the reason was the affair between John and Abigail, she said that Abigail had dissatisfied her, that she was lazy and things like that, so her name was not spotless in town any more. Consequently Abigail was angry with Elizabeth and wanted to make life difficult for her whenever she could.
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And for a man in his situation it is quite understandable because Abigail is an attractive young woman and his wife Elizabeth has been cold and bitter since she got to know about the affair. Elizabeth is a person who is able to hide her feelings, she does not show any warmth to Proctor, she still cooks and cares for the household, but they do not live together as a married couple or as lovers, they just live in the same house.
He does not want to hurt her and maybe if he were not married with Elizabeth, he would take Abigail as his lover, so maybe he wants to keep on being on good terms with her. His wife Elizabeth rejects him because she is very disappointed in him as a husband, she does not trust him any more. But she truly loves him, she does not tell other people in town about it and in the end we see how she acts against her own strict code of always saying the truth.
But if she had always shown him how much she loved him, he probably would not have approached Abigail. So maybe she also feels responisble for his adultery and now she punishes herself, too by punishing him with her coldness. So she accuses Elizabeth of sending her spirits out on her because she wants to get rid of her. When the witch-hunters knock on their door, John and Elizabeth have to support each other and in this situation they start to have a conversation about his infidelity.
Learn charity, woman. When Cheever comes to take Elizabeth to jail, John and Elizabeth forget all their problems and defend each other when they are accused of being not a Christian family that believes in prayer; they also are reproached that they rarely go to church and that John ploughs on Sunday. This is the first time that John gets to know that there are trials in Salem, because he knows the truth and could not imagine that Abigail had not told the truth. Obviously Abigail is very unscrupulous, she even is willing to hurt herself in order to harm somebody else.
But it shows, too how much she loves John and what he really means to her.
As we know she is just seventeen and so we can assume that she had her first sexual experience with him. That is also of importance when we judge her for making such efforts to get him. Proctor immediately assumes that she has hurt herself, but for the people in town she is something like a saint. He convinces Mary to go to the court and tell the truth and he himself wants to tell the court about his adultery so that the judges see that Abigail is not so innocent as she seems. And so he wants to show Abigail that she has no chance to renew their affair. Maybe he also wants to tell the court about it to rid himself from his bad conscience, because he knows he will be sentenced and punished for it.
Here we see that she really loves him because she even acts against her own nature. But in this case she does it, and now it looks as if he is the liar. Abigail is asked about it, she and the other girls start a scene again and say Mary has bewitched them, so she does not have to answer the accusations, which is very clever of her. This is a character-trait we have known from the beginning of the play, she does everthing to aviod trouble even if it means to harm others. So he is arrested. Three months later we see Proctor and Elizabeth in his cell, they discuss whether he should confess, because that would save his life.
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