To What Extent Is John and Elizabeth’s Relationship the Main Focus of the Play Essay
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After reading the Crucible I think that John and Elizabeth’s relationship is the main focus of the play, we can see in each act how their feelings and emotions towards their relation ship changes and progresses throughout the play. In Act 1 we are introduced to John Proctor. We find out that he is a farmer in his middle thirties and that he is known, and respected throughout the village as a good, honest man. We also learn that John has committed adultery with his former servant – Abigail Williams, niece of Reverend Paris.
John deeply regrets this, and, as we learn from act one he wishes to no longer peruse his relation ship with Abigail any further; “I will cut off my hand before I ever reach for you again! ” Abigail responds to this remark in anger, not being able to bear the fact that John no longer wants her. She calls Elizabeth a “cold, snivelling woman” and accuses her of spreading lies “She is blackening my name in the village, she is spreading lies about me! ” Immediately John responds in defence of his wife “You’ll speak nothin’ of Elizabeth! We can see from this Act how John can’t bear the fact that he committed such a terrible sin against his wife who he loves and cares for.
In At 2, we learn more about John and Elizabeth’s feelings towards each other. It begins with them having a civilised conversation, perhaps too civilised for a married couple, Elizabeth is keeping her answers short and blunt, for example; “ That’s well” and “It must be. ” John picks up on this, and asks Elizabeth if she is sad again. As we read further we find out that Elizabeth thought John had gone into Salem, as he was home so late.
What she really means when she says “You come so late I thought you’d gone to Salem this afternoon”, is that she thought John had been to see Abigail. Elizabeth knows that John had an affair with Abby, and she still holds this against him. The fact that Elizabeth bought this subject up angers John and therefore, results in an argument. John hates it that Elizabeth cannot seem to forgive him “Spare me! You forgive nothin’ and forget nothin’ learn charity woman! ”. The argument progresses with John trying to convince Elizabeth that he has no feelings for Abigail anymore, when reverend Hale enters the scene.
John and Elizabeth find out that Elizabeth’s name was mentioned at the witch trials in Salem and Hale has come to “Put some questions as the Christian Character” of John and Elizabeth’s household. Hale asks John to recite the 10 Commandments, John just about remembers them all except for one. The very one that he has committed. “Adultery, John” he is reminded by Elizabeth which adds a lot of tension to the scene, and a certain power to Elizabeth’s character as she knows that this is the sin John has committed and yet she is not afraid to say it. As if she is admitting to her husband’s weakness.
In Act 3, it is at the court scene where John is trying to make the court see that Abigail and the girls have been lying. It gets to the point where John is so determined to prove Abigail is a fraud; he admits to have “Known” her. He tells the court that this is the reason his good wife threw Abby out, because she knew her as a harlot.
He tells the court that his wife is a good woman and would never lie “In her life, sir, she have never lied” However, when the court asks Elizabeth to join, Danforth asks her “To your own knowledge has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery! At this one point in her life, ElIbeth tells a lie “No sir” she answers. She tells this lie to defend and protect John it shows that she loves him and that maybe she loves him more than God. John tells the court that Elizabeth only thought to save his name, and Hale agrees with him that it is a natural lie to tell. Elizabeth is not sentenced for lying to the court, but John is taken to jail. In Act 4 Elizabeth finds out that John is going to be hanged, the only way he can save his life is if he signs a confession to witchcraft.
Elizabeth goes to John to see whether or not he will sign this confession. At first John confesses to Danforth but refuses to sign the confession in fear of blackening his name, in the end John says “I lie and sign myself to lies! ” He decides against signing the confession and to die an honest man. Elizabeth greatly respects his decision, and even when Hale tells her to persuade John otherwise she holds her ground “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him” Elizabeth doesn’t want John to die, but she knows this is what he has to do.
As well as John and Elizabeth’s relationship being the main focus of the play, I think that Abigail plays an important role too. She is the main instigator of the witchcraft accusations and she is the reason for John and Elizabeth’s relationship to falter. Up until the end Abigail’s character is extremely powerful, she has control over so many people’s lives and she knows it. Abigail tries hard to split John and Elizabeth up, she accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft so that she will hang, and Abby then means to take Elizabeth’s place next to John.
However this does not happen, John is the only one who knows Abigail’s evil ways and even thought he is being hanged because of her, he is still standing his ground and not confessing to witchcraft, which would only be a lie to get out of his punishment which he feels he deserves. Abigail’s plan backfired on her, as she did not mean for John to die. Religion plays a very important part in this play as the whole community of Salem is based upon the Ten Commandments (a theocracy) If Salem wasn’t so religious the trials would have never gotten so out of hand and would probably never of even started in the first place.
We can see that Arthur Miller had linked McCarthyism to his play, this was an organisation called the House Un- American Activities Committee who were constantly trying to seek out people who threatened the safety of the state. The committee became so paranoid about communist sympathisers that any person who made any sort of criticism towards the government was seen as a communist and they would then ask them to name the names of any other communists they knew.
This is how McCarthyism is linked to the play – there is a resemblance between the way that the committee would ask for other communist names, and the way that during the Salem trials any one found to be a witch would be asked to name any other witches they knew of. My conclusion is that I definitely think John and Elizabeth’s relation ship was the main focus of the play, we can see how their relation ship changes from Act 2 when they are arguing with each other, to Act 3 when Elizabeth tells the only lie she has ever told in her life to defend John in court, to Act 4 when eventually they forgive each other.
We see how first of all Elizabeth holds the fact that John committed adultery against him, and then, throughout the play, she manages to see the good in him and defends him, and eventually forgives him. We see how John is ashamed to admit his sin but then he admits it, and is man enough to take the punishment and die an honest man. I think Abigail’s role is equally as important as John’s and Elizabeth’s as she is the villain of the play and I think that Arthur Miller has linked his play to McCarthyism to show that even though two hundred years have passed, not very much in the political side of things, has changed.