Why was there tension between John and Elizabeth at the beginning of Act 2 in The Crucible?

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favoritethings's profile pic

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

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In addition to the tension that exists between this husband and wife as a result of his adulterous affair with Abigail Williams, as well as the tension that is produced by John's unwillingness to reveal Abigail's confession to him that Betty's illness has nothing to do with witchcraft, more tension exists as a result of John's perception that Elizabeth does not take an authoritative stance when dealing with their hired girl, Mary Warren.  John had forbidden Mary to go to town, but Elizabeth claims that she could not stop her because she "is a mouse no more."  John must "[hold] back a full condemnation of [his wife]" as he listens to her speak.  He tells Elizabeth, "It is a fault, it is a fault, Elizabeth -- you are the mistress here, not Mary Warren."  When Elizabeth tried to stop Mary, the girl "raise[d] her chin like the daughter of a prince and says to me, 'I must go to Salem, Goody Proctor; I am an official of the court!'" 

This conversation, over Elizabeth's perceived weakness in dealing with Mary, prompts the discussion to turn to Elizabeth's desire that John should go to Salem to tell the authorities what Abigail told him.  First, John reproaches Elizabeth for her behavior toward Mary, and then she reproaches him for his unwillingness to reveal Abigail's deception.  Tension mounts.

ms-mcgregor's profile pic

ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Elizabeth wants John to tell the court investigators what Abigail told him. Earlier, Abigail had admitted that the girls' actions were "pretense", but John does not want to get involved. Underlying this disagreement is the tension that still exists between Elizabeth and John over his affair with Abigail. Elizabeth, understandably, still does not trust John and his refusal to tell authorities about the pretense seems like John is still protecting Abigail.

dbrooks22's profile pic

dbrooks22 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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In Act II the reader finds out that John Proctor has had an affair with Abigail while she worked for the Proctors. Elizabeth is still dealing with the hurt that John has caused her, and she is distant and cold towards him. The conversation between the two at dinner is strained. Proctor tries to draw Elizabeth into conversation, but she is not receptive. When the subject of the trials comes up, Elizabeth urges John to reveal to the court that Abigail confessed to him that it was all pretense. John, however, is reluctant, and Elizabeth becomes suspicious that he still has feelings for Abigail and rightly so. He explains that he may not be able to prove that she told him that because there were no witnesses. Upon hearing this Elizabeth becomes hurt and angry and accuses John of holding back the truth because of his feelings for Abigail.


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