In Act IV of "The Crucible" what things does Elizabeth say she is unable to do for John?Give examples of at least two things

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act IV, Hale is seen trying to convince those accused of witchcraft to confess and be saved from being handed death sentences. At the same time, Parris informs Danforth that his niece has stolen some money from him and escaped. He is guilty about what was about to happen to those accused, and he is seen trying to buy them more time. The unraveling situation is important because Hale, Parris, and the court officials are making desperate attempts to get a confession from John. They try to achieve their objective by going through Elizabeth.

Elizabeth goes to talk to her husband. John asks her for forgiveness for the affair he had with Abigail, but Elizabeth states that it is not for her to give.

PROCTOR: Spite only keeps me silent. It is hard to give a lie to dogs. Pause, for the first time he turns directly to her. I would have your forgiveness, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH: It is not for me to give, John, I am—

John wants to confess in order to avoid the death sentence and stay with his family. However, he is worried about the morality of that decision and asks Elizabeth for her opinion. Elizabeth states that she would not judge him. Additionally, she affirms that John is a good man and any choice he makes would not change how she perceives him. Thus, Elizabeth refuses to pass judgment on John.

PROCTOR, with a cry, as he strides to the door: Why do you cry it? In great pain, he turns back to her. It is evil, is it not? It is evil.
ELIZABETH, in terror, weeping: I cannot judge you, John, I cannot!

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One thing that she says she is unable to do is to judge him on his decision of whether to confess.  She wants him to make that decision for himself, without pressure from her.  He asks her a couple times, wanting to know what he should do, and if confessing would be that horrible.  But she remains neutral, stating, "I cannot judge you, John, I cannot!" and "Do what you will.  But let none be your judge."

The other thing that she is unable to do for him is give him forgiveness for his adultery.  This might sound harsh, but all that she is implying is that she is not God, and it is only God's place to forgive.  Also, she says that "it come to naught that I should forgive you, if you'll not forgive yourself."  She knows that if he doesn't forgive himself first, then nothing else matters, because he'll always be beating himself up.  Then she reassures him, saying that whatever he does do, "it is a good man does it."  This in essence is a sort of forgiveness from her.

Lastly, she cannot save him from his decision to not confess.  At the end, Hale is pleading with her to try to convince John to confess, but she states, "He have his goodness now.  God forbid I take it from him."  The last thing that she is going to do is take away a decision that finally brought John peace, redemption, ability to forgive himself, and vindication.