In The Crucible, why is Elizabeth frustrated with John in Act 2?

1 Answer | Add Yours

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The beginning of Act II presents us with a marriage that is, at best, under significant strain, and, at worst, on the point of collapse. Note how keen Elizabeth is to please her husband, and note also at the same time how John is trying to not criticise his wife - he eats the food even though he doesn't like it and draws his wife's attention to the fact that she has forgotten his beer in a very kind way. However, what exposes this pretence is Elizabeth's insistence that John must go to Salem to denounce Abigail, who she knows had a relationship with John whilst she was working in their house. Noe how Elizabeth presents the case to John:

The Deputy Governor promise hangin' if they'll not confess, John. The town's gone wild, I think. She speak of Abigail, and I thought she were a saint, to hear her. Abigail brings the other girls into the court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel. And folks are brought before them, and if they scream and howl and fall to the floor - the person's clapped in the jail for bewitchin' them.

Of course, Elizabeth feels that her husband is reluctant to denounce what is going on because of his relationship with Abigail. John does not help matters at all when he admits to his wife that he saw Abigail by himself. Note how she responds to her husband after finding this out, and pay particular attention to the stage directions:

ELIZABETH: quietly - she has suddenly lost all faith in him: Do as you wish, then. She starts to turn.

In response to John Proctor's anger, Elizabeth responds:

John, if it were not Abigail that you must go to hurt, would you falter now? I think not.

It is clear that Elizabeth sees John's reluctance and hesitation to go to the court and denounce what is happening as a sign of his continued affections towards Abigail.

We’ve answered 318,911 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question