Miller's portrayal of John and Elizabeth Proctor's relationship in The Crucible

Categories: The Crucible

Miller presents the relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor as an element which develops and changes in the course of the play.

The relationship doesn't change a lot but it changes a bit but at the end of the play goes back to how it was in the beginning of the play.

John's character progresses from showing guilt over his relationship with Abigail to exasperation with Elizabeth intractability, and finally to repentance and the rediscovery of his honour.

Elizabeth's character changes less during the course of the play. Initially she is portrayed by Abigail as being cold and unfeeling. In the play Abigail says 'It's a bitter woman, a lying cold, snivelling woman.' Even though Abigail is a wicked girl she is saying this to make the relationship of John and Elizabeth much more badly as she wants to separate both of them.

Elizabeth finally enters the action in Act Two. She doesn't seem to be the unpleasant person described in the first act, she's more like some inadequate to her task.

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Most of Act Two is to do with how Elizabeth and John Proctor's Relationship is going on. Well in that act it isn't going that well as it started with some suspicion which grew until Reverend Hale was introduced later in the play.

John Proctor criticises her four times in the opening of the act. Firstly John criticises her by altering the taste of the rabbit to his liking without telling her. In the narrative it says 'Then he lifts out the ladle and tastes.

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He is not quite pleased.' Secondly he criticises her, it's when she doesn't provide the cider to him. In the play John says 'Cider?' And the Elizabeth says 'Aye' (with a sense of reprimanding herself for having forgotten). Thirdly, it's about the lack of flowers in their house, 'It's winter in here yet.' He was trying to say there should he some flowers when she replied 'Oh I forgot!!' Finally his criticism of allowing their servant, Mary warren, to go to Salem for the entire day, 'It's a fault, Elizabeth you're the mistress here, not Mary Warren.'

Their relationship seems extremely fragile, unable to overcome the damage that Abigail has done to it. Even when Cheevers and Marshall had come to arrest Elizabeth, she is unable to respond to John's concern and increases attention. The only expression of any affection is when John promises to bring her home again and she responds by saying 'Oh John, bring me soon.'

Well during the play the relationship changes quite a lot. In the beginning the relationship is very dreadful, during the middle it's getting better and in the end the relationship is quite good but can be better. Read also "Mass hysteria in the crucible"

In the beginning of the play we can see that it wasn't a happy marriage; we can see this by when Abigail says 'I have no sense for heat, John, and yours has drawn me to my window, and I have seen you looking up, burning in your loneliness.' The word loneliness shows that it's not a happy marriage. Also the play tells us that there aren't living happily even after the marriage, when Abigail replies to John 'Oh, I marvel how such a strong man may let such a sickly wife be.' The word sickly shows that they aren't living happily at that moment of life. We can see that Elizabeth is a cold and snivelling woman, when Abigail answers back to John 'She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies bout me! She is an old, snivelling woman, and you bend to her!'

In the middle of the play John Proctor becomes protective and aggressive when Elizabeth is being taken away. He cares, also starts to take more notice of her and he knows she is honest and a good lady but still doesn't like her a lot yet, 'My wife will never die for me! I will bring your guts into your mouth but hat goodness will not die for me!' This shows that knows that she is a god lady but doesn't like her a lot yet.

Near the end of the play Elizabeth is almost persuaded to liking John by Reverend Hale, 'What profit him to bleed? Shall the dust praise him? Shall the worms declare his truth? Go to him, take him shame away!' We can also see that Elizabeth likes him a lot more now, than the beginning, and wants him to live, 'As you will, I would have it. I want you living, John. That's sure.' She's started to believe in him much more and likes him too, 'And yet you've not confessed till now. That speak goodness in you.' This scene depicts how there relationship has got better compared to the first scene.

Elizabeth in mentioned several times in the first act but doesn't appear until the beginning of the second act. However there are several meaningful references to her particularly from Abigail when she is alone with John Proctor, when it slips out of his mouth 'She told it to me in a room alone.' From this we refer that Elizabeth has not been a particularly warm or responsive wife.

John Proctor, on the other hand, is portrayed as a man requiring physical contact and warmth when Abigail says 'I know how you clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a stallion whenever I come near!' And by inference we can deduce that John and Elizabeth Proctor are not compatible.

The character of John is described as one of basic dignity and honesty led astray momentarily by the distractions of Abigail. The fullest picture of John Proctor is actually given in the stage directions just before he enters. He is portrayed as a man who had a sharp and biting way with hypocrites, he was even tempered and not easily led by others, and he has a steady manner he displays does not spring from an untroubled soul. Although John Proctor purports to reject Abigail 'I'll not be coming for you more', his denials are not wholly convincing. Moments later he says to her 'I may think of you softly time to time.'

The first direct interaction between Elizabeth and John opens Act two. Elizabeth is not initially portrayed as a cold woman but beginning with her suspicious remarks over John's lateness Miller increases dramatic tension until the turning which is reached when John inadvertently reveals that he was alone with Abigail. This is not what John had previously told Elizabeth, 'Why then, it is not as you told me' she says the mistrust of the relationship is apparent.

The dramatic tension builds more by the arrival of their servant, Mary Warren, who was due to the court has now become virtually beyond the Proctors' control. This is important because it introduces the idea that there is now a greater power which will affect John and Elizabeth's relationship.

The arrival of reverend Hale begins to bring John and Elizabeth a little closer in mutual defence. He attempts to protect her 'When such a steady minded ministers as you will suspicion such a woman that never lied and cannot.' But it seems how powerless his arguments are, he resorts to threats of violence 'I'll pay you, Herrick, I will surely pay you!' John Proctor's powers to change the course of events are successively reduced. He is showing his love for Elizabeth by attempting to protect her but his efforts are to no avail. He cannot explain away the guilty presence of the poppet and he is unable to prevent Elizabeth being chained when she is taken away under arrest. His frustration at his impotence when confronted by the force of the law is plain to see. He realises his powerlessness and finally resorts to threatening Hale and Cheevers with threats of God's retribution, 'God will not let you wash your hands at this.' Well John is saying that God will not forgive them if they take Elizabeth away.

During the incident involving the arrival of Hale and the arrest, Elizabeth is the pivotal figure but does not actually have a large speaking parts, she is not portrayed as being overly concerned about her predicament. She gives the impression that she has nothing to fear, 'There be no mark of blame upon my life, Mr hale, I am a covenanted Christian woman.' There is very little in this scene to indicate Elizabeth's feelings towards John except at the end of act two when she says 'Oh John, bring me soon.'

In the court scene, Act three, John Proctor is attempting to destroy Abigail Williams and the other girls as credible witnesses but, in doing so, has inadvertently had to reveal himself as a lecher. He admits to having had a relationship with Abigail. With this device, Miller increases the dramatic tension. Elizabeth is unaware of John's confession but is called into the court to confirm his relationship with the wicked girl, Abigail Williams. This, she fails to do by attempting to protect John's reputation, 'My husband is a good and righteous man.' And when directly questioned by Danforth 'Is your husband a lecher.' She denies it by replying 'No sir.'

This shows their relationship in a new light. It is the first time we have seen Elizabeth showing any love at all for John Proctor.

In the final act, Act four, Elizabeth is brought to confront John to persuade him to confess and thereby save his life. But Elizabeth cannot bring herself to give John her forgiveness, 'It is not for me to give John.' She admits her faults when the play describes 'I never knew how I should say my love.' It were a cold house I kept and we can view this in the play when Elizabeth says 'I have no sins of my own to count. It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery.' This is close as Elizabeth comes in admitting any love for John, during the whole play.

John and Elizabeth's relationship changes in the course of the play. In Acts one and two it is exposed as a difficult relationship with problems; there is Abigail and John which is critical and criticized at home. In the arrest scene, Act 3, the relationship improves slightly, more on John's part than Elizabeth's. In the court scene, Act 4, Elizabeth displays the first signs if any love for John, but in the final act Elizabeth has reverted to coldness again.

Both of them, in a strange way, retain their integrity. They are both true to their ideals, John to his religion and Elizabeth in able to admit to something she feels to be untrue. Well in Arthur Miller's notes at the end of the book, Echoes down the Corridor, it says that Elizabeth proctor got married again, four years later. Well in that time a woman needed a partner so they would get married again if their husband died. But nowadays we would say that Elizabeth wasn't a good wife because in modern times you could survive would a husband or wife. So I can't say if she was a good wife deciding on the point, she got married again.

The message of 'The Crucible' is still relevant today particularly with the analogy which Arthur Miller intended i.e. Salem and McCarthyism. But it is also relevant in more recent times with today's preoccupation with terrorism, Guantanamo Bay being an example.

Overall I think there relationship went from difficult to slightly fine and then went back a slightly hard relationship. But I don't think both of them were being a kind and well-mannered to each other. But I would say that Elizabeth Proctor would be the worse person between both of them. I say this because when John Proctor admits he did adultery with Abigail Williams, Elizabeth doesn't forgive John when he asks her to forgive him. Whereas I think if Elizabeth was John and John was Elizabeth then I think that John would have forgiven Elizabeth. But I can't assume this because you can never know.

Updated: May 03, 2023
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Miller's portrayal of John and Elizabeth Proctor's relationship in The Crucible. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

Miller's portrayal of John and Elizabeth Proctor's relationship in The Crucible essay
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