Explain how Danforth decides to test John's accusation of Abigail in The Crucible and discuss the irony of what happens.

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In act three, John Proctor sacrifices his good name in an attempt to undermine Abigail's authority and revered position in Salem's court. After confessing to adultery, he informs Danforth that Elizabeth is aware of his affair, which is why she removed Abigail from their home. To test Proctor's confession, Danforth makes John and Abigail turn around as he summons Elizabeth. Danforth then asks Elizabeth why she removed Abigail from her home, and she struggles to respond. Danforth then directly asks Elizabeth if John Proctor committed adultery, and she attempts to save her husband's reputation by saying, "No, sir" (Miller, 113). Ironically, Elizabeth dooms herself and her husband by attempting to save John's reputation when she lies to Danforth. She is unaware that John has already confessed to adultery and sacrificed his positive reputation. Elizabeth does not realize that telling the truth will save herself and John while simultaneously undermining Abigail's authority. Instead of saving her husband, Elizabeth ironically dooms him by lying to Danforth.

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Danforth does not immediately believe that John Proctor's confession of infidelity is honest and true. He suspects that Proctor is attacking Abigail's credibility in order help Elizebeth Proctor avoid the charges of witchcraft. 

To test the truth of Proctor's confession and his claims against Abigail, Danforth tells both Abigail and Proctor to turn around. He calls in Elizabeth and asks her whether or not the confession is true. Elizabeth attempts to defend her husband by denying the truth of the confession. 

This denial is ironic because John Proctor had already sacrificed his good name, his honor and his pride, by confessing to his affair with Abigail. He made this sacrifice in order to save his wife Elizabeth. 

When Elizabeth denies the truth of Proctor's confession to save Proctor's good name, she effectively condemns herself to death, undoing Proctor's work to prove her innocence and by proving his own guilt. 

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