What is learned of the relationship between Elizabeth and John from the opening dialogue and stage direction in Act 2 of The Crucible?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In the beginning of Act II, we learn that Elizabeth and John Proctor's marriage isn't as solid as it might be.  This is because of John having cheated on Elizabeth with Abigail Williams.  Elizabeth knows, but hasn't forgiven John yet -- seven months later.

The stage action at the begining shows us this because he tastes the soup and adds salt secretly rather than openly.  He also at one point kisses her and she only "receives it" rather than kissing back.

Then in the dialogue there is a lot of distrust on her part when she asks him about him being in Salem, and about how late he is getting back from plowing.

He tries to be cautious -- not blaming her when he wants to, complimenting her cooking, but they still end up arguing.

favoritethings's profile pic

favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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The dialogue and stage direction at the beginning of Act II shows us that John and Elizabeth's relationship is strained and tense, though both are attempting to move on from John's affair with Abigail (which ended seven months prior).  For example, though the direction tells us that John "is not quite pleased" when he samples the stew Elizabeth made, and that he adds salt, when he tastes it later under her gaze, he tells her it is "well seasoned," a compliment that causes her to "[blush] with pleasure."  We know that his compliment is not genuine, but he seems to want an opportunity to compliment her, and she responds quite positively to his words. 

Further, John tells her, "I mean to please you, Elizabeth," and it is difficult for her to respond.  The stage direction tells us that when she says, "I know it, John," "it is hard [for her] to say."  And when he kisses her, she merely "receives it" and he is "disappoint[ed]" with her response.  We know that he means it when he says that he wants to please Elizabeth because he complimented her earlier, knowing it would make her happy, but the fact that it is hard for her to acknowledge his good intention shows how much tension still exists between them.  Then, her inability to easily return his affectionate touches confirms this. 

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