The Crucible Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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In The Crucible, is Elizabeth Proctor a good wife or not? 

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Elizabeth is a good wife by almost any standard.  She loves her husband despite his flaws, and she forgives him the worst and most painful of sins for any woman--adultery.  She lies to save his life, at great personal cost, though to no avail.  She loves her children and her Lord, and she sincerely wants to please her husband.  She does have her flaws, of course, as do we all.  She is understandably insecure, though she takes responsibility for her part in John's affair.  Finally, Elizabeth allows her husband to make peace with God, even when it means she will lose him. 

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brettd eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I guess it depends on what your criteria would be for her to be considered a "good" wife, but in my opinion, there is ample evidence of her goodness as a person and a spouse.  She forgives John for lechery, and refuses to speak of it publicly or in the court.  She is a good mother for his children and tries to prompt John to do the right thing.  He gives her a hard time for not being warmer to him or for keeping a warmer home, but it is hard to blame her for these things.

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Edith Sykes eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The Proctors, like many 17th century married couples depended on each other for basic survival.  Marriage throughout history has not only been a union based on love, but more a requirement for security, protection, and partnership.  Couples, like the Proctors, work together to make a home and family so that they can endure against the wildness of the environment.  

Women needed husbands for security and protection, men needed a helper to keep house and to manage their farms.  So generally speaking, Elizabeth Proctor meets these requirements and that makes her a good wife according to the Puritan idea of marriage.  

"Elizabeth is gentle and devoted to her family. Her goodness and dignity are evident in the way that she argues calmly against Hale and Danforth's accusations. Her loyalty to John is most clearly demonstrated when, thinking to protect him, she denies that he has committed adultery."  

Elizabeth was an obedient wife, she took care of her home,prepared meals, did her chores, she was respectful of her marriage vows, had children and cared for them.

If anything can be said about Elizabeth, it is that she was devoted to her family, but that after her husband's adultery grew more distant from him, causing emotional distance in the marriage that grew worse with time.

Elizabeth becomes less guarded of her emotions after she is imprisoned and her life with John is hanging in the balance. She has had sufficient time to think about whether she really loves John Proctor or just respects him as her husband.  

She decides that she both loves and respects him.  Her respectfullness is illustrated by her willingness to lie to cover up his infidelity. When the court asks her to verify the facts that John has provided regarding his affair with Abigail, Elizabeth chooses to protect his good name and reputation.

"Elizabeth: Your Honor my husband is a good and righteous man.  He is never drunk as some are, nor wastin' his time at the shovelboard, but always at this work." (Miller)

Even though Proctor has publicly shamed her by having an affair with a young servant girl, she cannot denounce him in the court, she lies to protect him because she really does love him.  But Elizabeth is a faithful Puritan woman and a devout Christian, so John's immortal soul is more important to her than his earthly life.  As a good wife, she stands by her husband at the end of the play, not willing to go against his decision to die an honest man.


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McKinstry Rose eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Overall, Miller presents Elizabeth Proctor as a good wife and woman.  The only negative characteristics Miller attributes to Elizabeth are that she can be somewhat self-righteous, and she is insecure.  In Act 2, when John returns to the house, Elizabeth greets him with suspicion.  Her first words in the play are:

"What keeps you so late? It's almost dark" (Act 2, lines 1-2).

Elizabeth's insecurity stems from her lack of confidence in her appearance and personality.  Her husband John is a domineering individual who commands others' attention.  In Act 4, as Elizabeth and John discuss his decision, Elizabeth apologizes to John for her quick willingness to suspect him of wrongdoing.  She confesses,

"John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did. . . . It were a cold house I kept!" (Act 4)

Other than these two "flaws," Elizabeth is a faithful, protective wife and woman.  Miller illustrates this truth through the following examples.

1. She motivates John to do what is right.  In Act 2, she knows that if John tells the judges and ministers that Abigail was simply sporting that that might cause embarrassment for her family, but it is the right thing to do and will save lives.

2.  She lies for her husband.  In one of the most significant scenes of the play (Act 3), Elizabeth tells the judges that she did not fire Abigail for harlotry.  While the audience knows that Elizabeth needs to tell the truth to prove her husband's confession and stop the witch trials, Elizabeth does not have the benefit of that knowledge.  In lying for John, she risks all.  First, she has a chance to get revenge and identify him as an adulterer to the whole town, but she does not. Secondly, as a Puritan, Elizabeth realizes that if she lies, she might not be a "covenanted woman" (meaning that she is not one who will go to Heaven).  The Puritans believed in a works based religion and taught that lying was a damnable offense.  By lying for John, Elizabeth takes the risk of damning herself to hell.

3.  Finally, in the end, Elizabeth makes what must be the most difficult choice a wife or husband could make.  While she would love for John to confess and save his life, she acknowledges that she cannot ask her husband to do so. This is significant because she was willing to lie herself to save John, but she selflessly cannot ask him to do the same.  It is no coincidence that Miller chooses Elizabeth to deliver the play's last lines.  At the end of Act 4, Elizabeth tells a disillusioned Rev. Hale,

"He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!"

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Elizabeth Proctor was a good woman and a good wife to John Proctor. She loved him and stood by him through his imprisonment and execution. The thought of John's death filled her with pain and torment, but she loved him too much to ask him to lie in order to save himself. She loved him too much to take his "goodness" from him. Elizabeth's personal sacrifice at the play's conclusion is evidence of her own goodness.

However, Elizabeth believed that she had failed John earlier in their marriage, and before he died, she took responsibility for her part in their alienation. She blamed herself for John's infidelity with Abigail, explaining that her own insecurities kept her from believing in his love. According to Elizabeth, she kept "a cold house." After discovering John's affair, Elizabeth was filled with fear and suspicion. She no longer trusted him, making John feel punished unfairly every day for his past unfaithfulness. John rejected Elizabeth's self-criticism, and their final moments together were filled with tenderness. 

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Wiggin42 | Student

Elizabeth is supposed to be the good wife. 

Elizabeth Proctor, John’s estranged and unforgiving wife. Although her husband has admitted his lapse into sin and is thereafter faithful to his wife, his relationship with Abigail always stands between them. As husband and wife, however, they maintain their integrity and refuse to confess to the false accusation of witchcraft, even though their protestations of innocence result in a death sentence.

She stays with him until the very end, assume partial guilt for John's affair (whether that is right or not), and is in every aspect the good wife that her society expects her to be. 

laurto | Student

Elizabeth Proctor was a good wife to John Proctor. She could have said something about him and Abigail but instead chose to help John keep his good name. 

amyb2439 | Student

I always had a soft spot for Elizabeth, I'm not sure if she was a good wife or not but after John was hanged, Elizabeth had to take care of his son from a previous marriage, their own son and daughter and then another son that was born while she was kept in prison. Elizabeth named her prison baby John so to me that shows she cared for her husband. I had doubts on whether or not she was truly the good wife when I found out she asked the gov. back for her dowry and remarried. It's believed when John was writing his will he presumed Elizabeth would die alongside him but she did not. All the property and money was given to their heirs but wouldn't they let their mother stay with them? So why was she in need for her dowry? Another thing I could never do would be remarrying if I truly loved my husband.

Elizabeth was obedient and she did care for her family but I doubt if she loved her husband like she should have.

dope101 | Student

Despite her being a good wife and forgiving John for such a immoral sin, don't you think it was a bit anti-feminist that she said she was partly to blame for Proctor's affair; in a nutshell, because she was 'cold' Proctor turned to Abigail to satisfy himself? He should have known not to do that in the first place anyways, right?

epollock | Student

She loved and supported her husband.  I thought it would be crystal clear.

lollex | Student

she is a good wife believe me i know SHE IS !!! =D =D