An Analysis of the Character of John Proctor, a Tragic Hero in Arthur Miller's The Crucible

Categories: John Proctor

When we are reading a story, most of us will predict that the hero’s fortune would surely change from misery to happiness somewhere in the story, but what if the exact opposite of what we expected would apply in the story? This means that the hero’s fortune would change from happiness to misery which contradicts the stereotype about the stories’ endings and their heroes. This contrary of the way a hero’s fortune change can be also classified as an important aspect of what makes a tragic hero according to the Aristotle’s model.

Aristotle explains the qualities that a tragic hero should possess, where some of them are the human flaw, the goodness, and the punishment is greater than deserved. All of these characteristics fit perfectly with the character of ‘John Proctor’ from the play of The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and they help us classify him as a tragic hero. John Proctor is considered a tragic hero because he recognized his sin of committing adultery with the young girl ‘Abigail Williams’.

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John’s wife ‘Elizabeth’ has started to distrust him because of his affair with Abigail, where John has been trying so hard to please his wife and make her forget about the whole thing, but since it’s taking a long time, he became tired of her suspicion so he bluntly tells her,” I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you…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.

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” (Miller 163).

This shows that John regrets his action of cheating on his wife, where he’s trying to relieve himself and get rid of this huge stone off his chest by simply confessing his sin to his wife where he says,” But I wilted, and, like a Christian, I confessed. Confessed!,” (Miller 163). However, John still believes that Elizabeth is judging him even though she doesn’t, and he keeps urging her to stop judging him “… and judge me not.” Elizabeth replies,” I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you.” (Miller 163). So this illustrates the mental conflict that John has between his feeling of guilt towards his sin and the resistance of forgiving himself so that he keeps judging himself. This marks the beginning of John’s path of becoming a tragic hero. John’s character is classified as a tragic hero because of the human flaw he has which is his excessive pride that led to his desolation eventually. John’s good name and reputation has kept him from confessing to adultery and tell the court that Abigail has caused this hysteria in order to take her revenge because he dumped her. Moreover, Elizabeth urges John to go to the court and tell the judges that Abigail is a fraud; John refuses and says,” I know I cannot keep it.

I say I will think on it!” (Miller 162). This is all due to his dignity, where he would have confessed earlier to the court and stopped this hysteria from going on and on, but when Elizabeth got arrested because Abigail has accused her of witchcraft, he knew that he has to choose between his pride and his wife, so that John tries to compromise by bringing Mary Warren (his servant) into the court to save his wife by confessing to lies and pretence regarding Abigail’s accusations of witchcraft. However, his plan fails when Mary turns on him and starts to accuse him of dealing with the devil and forcing her to lie to the court about witchcraft’s existence.

Ultimately, John was forced to confess that he’s an adulterer, but when they brought Elizabeth into the court in order to assure the court that John has cheated on her, where the judge Danforth questioned her,”…Is your husband a lecher!,” (Miller 190). She denies it in an attempt to protect her husband and therefore John got arrested for witchcraft. John has put his dignity aside when he confessed of committing adultery, so it proves that he’s trying to be good, but his misfortunes keep coming. The court decided to hang John, but if he confesses of being a wizard he wouldn’t be hanged, so now he has to make another decision concerning his pride. John agrees to confess after speaking to Elizabeth, and after he signed the confession he tore it up because he couldn’t handle ruining his name anymore, where he says, “How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” (Miller 207).

Here John is still concerned about his name and reputation so that he refuses to move on with this lie especially because it has his name, so he decided to die as a good man with pride and dignity. This helps the audience categorize John as a tragic hero. John’s fate of being hanged at the end represents a hideous punishment that is way more than what he deserves, so it supports the idea that John is a tragic hero. One might think that John’s sin of adultery makes him deserve to die, but at the end we can clearly see the shift in John’s personality, and even Elizabeth started to see how good John became especially after he asked for her forgiveness when he was talking to her about whether to sign the confession or not, where he says, “I would have your forgiveness, Elizabeth.” (Miller 204). We can conclude that John’s action of refusing to sign for his life is because he wanted to punish himself for his sin, so that he still can’t forgive himself regardless his good reputation reason that kept him from signing. Before John was about to be hanged, Hale and Parris started begging Elizabeth to speak to him again to convince him to sign the confession, Elizabeth replies,” He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!” (Miller 208).

Elizabeth believes that John is redeeming his sins by letting death to be a purifying way that will help him forgive himself. In this way pathos are formed within the audience, causing them to feel sorrow for him. Anyways, this makes John a tragic hero. Altogether, the qualities that John Proctor has that makes him a tragic hero are the human flaws with goodness that triggered the undeserved misfortunes. When John’s pride was presented as a main factor of causing the hysteria at first because of his refusal to confess his affair with Abigail, the audience might see John as an antagonist in the play who refuses to be a solution key in the problem, but when it comes to his refusal of signing the confession because his pride doesn’t let him, the audience might now see the goodness in John clearly. Moreover, John’s undeserved fate at the end would make the audience feel sympathetic and pity.

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An Analysis of the Character of John Proctor, a Tragic Hero in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. (2022, Oct 25). Retrieved from

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