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John Proctor hopes to discredit Abigail Williams by confessing to his affair with her. In so doing, he also hopes that his confession will open the Judges' eyes to the wrongdoings behind the Salem witch trials and in turn prove the innocence of his wife as well as the other good people of Salem such as Rebecca Nurse. This confession should have a great impact because as Proctor so emotionally says at the end of the play:
"Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!"
Although this quote is not said at the time of his confession to the affair, but rather at the time of his decision to confess to witchcraft, it goes to the heart of why he believes the Judges will believe him about the affair. A man's name is everything to him. It represents his status in society, and a man would not ruin his reputation on such a lie as the sin of adultery if it were not true.
Admitting this embarassing and painful truth to the entire Salem community, and in front of the Puritan judges from Boston will give him instant credibility. Why would anyone confess something that would ruin their reputation in the eyes of the entire village, and permanently, unless it were true? Why would any man toss away his good name? By confessing this, Proctor has his best chance to convince the court that Williams is lying, and that the hangings are of innocent people.
It's a gamble, to be sure, but since his wife's life is at stake, along with many of Proctor's innocent friends, he feels it is worth it, that it is his last resort.
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