At the end of act 3, what does the following John Proctor quote quote say to the audience?

A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this will be fraud—God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!

John's outburst at the end of Act III tries to tell the audience that what Danforth is doing is an act of evil that can only lead to his eternal damnation. John has accepted his own sins of adultery and lying and will leave his judgment to God. He challenges Danforth, and everyone who can hear him, to admit to their own deceptive acts.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John Proctor has come to a point in his persecution that he knows the time for pretense has ended. He knows that he is a sinner; he has committed adultery and lied about it. And in his reluctance to reveal his crime to the theocratic authority, he has had to conceal the fact that he knows what Abigail and the girls were doing in the forest. He also knows that Abigail has a compelling reason to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of practicing witchcraft. His deception has caused Elizabeth to feel that she had to lie in court to cover for him.

At this point in the play, with his reputation ruined and his wife guilty of a sin and a crime, John feels that he has little left to lose. He verbally attacks the judge. He accuses Danforth of knowing that the charges of witchcraft against many of Salem's most pious and powerful are false. Moreover, John means to say that Danforth is as guilty as he himself is of promoting a deception. John believes that Danforth's sin is as great as—or greater than—his own because it will mean the death of innocent people. John also believes that Danforth is only continuing with the trials to preserve the power of the theocracy. With no separation of church and state, if the theocracy is found to be fallible, the very social fabric of Salem and other Puritan communities could collapse. John means for Danforth and others to know that a sin as great as executing innocent people will damn the judges, executioners, and bystanders.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At the end of act 3, Danforth has John Proctor arrested for colluding with the devil, and Proctor announces that God is dead. He is completely overwhelmed and furious with the proceedings. Proctor then displays his complex, guilty conscience by lumping himself in with Deputy Governor Danforth and saying that they share the same filthy face as Lucifer.

He goes on to mention that he has cringed out of fear and shame in the same way that Danforth quails because he knows in his black heart that the girls are frauds. He then says that God damns their kind and believes that they will surely burn together in hell. Even though Proctor is clearly a more morally-upright man than Danforth and has sinned to a lesser degree, he insists that his sins are equal to Danforth and compares his guilty conscience to Danforth's tainted soul.

Proctor believes that Danforth knows in his heart that the girls are frauds and secretly quails when he thinks about the destruction he has caused. Proctor's comments that he and Danforth both share the devil's features is also significant and suggests that every individual has a capacity for evil. John has also reached a tipping point, where he fully accepts responsibility for his sins and is willing to embrace the consequences. He is also adamant to expose Danforth as well by revealing that he has quailed over the course of the proceedings.

Overall, John Proctor's comment reflects his guilty conscience and awareness that Danforth is also a sinner who quails when he thinks about his sins but remains resolute in public to save face. Proctor also believes that his sin of adultery will result in an eternity in hell, which is the same punishment Danforth will receive.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Proctor's maniacal outburst at the end of act 3 is a tipping point in the play. From this moment on, he will deliberately rage against the forces responsible for the terrible witch-craze that has gripped Salem. Clearly, Proctor has decided that if he's going to go down in any case, he might as well go down fighting, and if he is to be confined to the flames of Hell for his sins, he's determined to make sure that the sins of others, such as Danforth, are exposed. He may well be destined for Hell, but he's sure that the likes of Danforth and Parris will be coming with him, for their sins are, if anything, far more grievous than those committed by Proctor.

Proctor's defiance is desperate and ultimately unsuccessful. In standing up to the witch-craze, he's showing the audience that, even in the most hopeless of situations, it's necessary to do the right thing. We can be sure that this lesson wasn't lost on the play's original audience, who will have understood The Crucible as an allegory for the McCarthyite witch-hunts.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Proctor's closing to Act III says a couple of things to the audience. The first and most essential is that Proctor is reaching a point where his statement of dissent cannot be quelled.  For a period of time, Proctor was quite content with not saying anything and allowing what was going on to continue without spoken opposition.  Given the hypocrisy he saw in the courtroom and the fact that innocent people were being railroaded by a system that professes truth but actually operates in opposite, Proctor cannot be silent.  Another element that is coming forth to the audience is the idea that Proctor is now actively embracing self- destruction.  Proctor tried for a period to try to keep some level of protection regarding his interests.  However, as the net of inclusion in the accusations was widened, Proctor found it more difficult to remain distinct.  He protests in the courtroom, stands against Parris, confesses to lechery, nearly chokes the life out of Abigail, and then the declaration that "God damns our kind."  There is a gradual progression of self- destruction, uncontrollable in its timbre and reflective to the audience that Proctor is enduring something awful, where death is going to be present itself.  Finally, I think that Proctor's statement about religion cannot avoided.  Proctor has no problem indicting the institution of religion that is being practiced in Salem.  In the implication that hypocrisy will end up being punished, Proctor makes a statement that the nature of organized religion and the legal system in Salem is one where there is hypocrisy, something that Proctor is convinced will be brought up and will be proven in some form.  Regardless of the damage it does to Proctor, it is going to be demonstrated and this is something that the audience is told through his closing.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team