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In the moving climax of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, John Proctor rips up the confession he has just given to Danforth. The courts spent the act convincing Proctor that he should confess to witchcraft. He has learned that his wife is pregnant, and he knows confessing, even though it would be a lie, would be the only way he could live. He also believes that their is no honesty left in him.
He speaks with Elizabeth asking her permission to lie to the court. He sites all the wrong he has done (alluding to his affair with Abigail) and tries to convince himself that one more lie wouldn't be that bad.
I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. I am not that man. My honesty is broke, Elizabeth, I am no good man. Nothing’s spoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before.
However, as he signs the confession a weak Rebecca Nurse is being lead to the gallows. As she questions him, he realizes that be confessing he is leaving a bad example for his sons. He realizes that it is better to die an honest man, than to live as a fraud. Taking ownership of his sins and his name, he rips the confession knowing that he will be hung.
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