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Crucible Character Study: Elizabeth Proctor

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Like many puritan women, Elizabeth Proctor is reserved, slow to complain, and dutiful. Yet, Elizabeth is pained by the fact that her husband was having an affair with their “strikingly beautiful” young servant.

The script remains vague as to her true feelings. Has she forgiven her husband? Or does she just tolerate him because she has no other recourse? The couple tries to be tender to each other, but her husband often has spasms of guilt and anger, and she is still vexed with suspicion.

Despite their uneasiness, Elizabeth serves as Proctor’s moral compass. Whenever her husband is confused or ambivalent, she prompts him onto the path of justice. She urges him to stop the insane witch trials by revealing the truth about Abigail’s sinful, destructive ways.

In Act Four, when Proctor must decide whether to falsely confess to witchcraft or hang from the gallows, he seeks his wife’s counsel. Elizabeth doesn’t want him to die, but she doesn’t want him to submit to the demands of an unjust society.

Her character delivers the final lines of the play. After her husband has decided to hang from the gallows instead of signing a false confession, she remains in the jail. Even when Rev. Parris and Rev. Hale urge her to go and attempt to save her husband, she stays put. She states, "He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!" This closing line can be interpreted in several ways. However, most actresses deliver this line as if she is devasted by the loss of her husband yet proud that he has at last made a righteous decision.

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