In the opening scene of “The Crucible”, the playwright reveals insight into John and Elizabeths troubled marriage through Elizabeths subtle passive-aggressive gestures, Johns incoherent ramblings, and his emotional explosion at the end showing his frustration.
Tension between the two immediately increases when John Proctor comes home late. Apparently, Elizabeth knows about Johns extramarital affair with Abigail. Elizabeths annoyance is seen when Proctor states, Oh, is it [a rabbit]! In Jonathans trap? Elizabeth replies sarcastically, No, she walked into the house this afternoon; I found her sittin in the corner like she come to visit.When John gets up and kisses Elizabeth, she rejects him further by sampling receiving his gesture. Disappointed and somewhat aware of his wifes unspoken displeasure, he sits down. The mood has become awkward. John makes small talk, stating, Its winter in here yet. On Sunday let you come with me, and well walk the farm together; I never see such a load of flowers on the earth. Lilacs have a purple smell. Lilac is the smell of nightfall, I think. Massachusetts is a beauty in the spring! The winter remark refers to the cold atmosphere of the two spouses; they are talking together but are not communicating anything worthwhile. His unfocused rambling does not successfully establish common ground between the two.
He turns to her and watches her. A sense of their separation rises, states the stage directions. Proctor asks, I think youre sad again. Are you? Elizabeth, reluctant to cause an argument, replies, You come so late I thought youd gone to Salem this afternoon. However, her attempts are futile because Proctor is set off by Elizabeths blunt remark, Mary Warrens there [at Salem] today. He screams, Whyd you let her? Your heard me forbid her to go to Salem any more!Insight into their troubled marriage continues when Elizabeth loses all faith in him when Proctor replies For a moment alone [I was alone with her], aye and Elizabeth replies, Why, then, it is not as you told me. Proctor becomes violent again, warning Elizabeth not to judge him anymore.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York: Penguin, 1952.