Describe the character of Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible.

Expert Answers

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

Elizabeth Proctor is depicted as a morally upright woman, who is somewhat dull and callous, particularly towards the beginning of the play. When the audience is introduced to Elizabeth Proctor in Act Two, she is presented as a cold, suspicious wife who has not forgiven her husband for having an affair with Abigail Williams.

Despite being ill and unforgiving, Elizabeth is depicted as an insightful Christian woman. She immediately suspects that Abigail will accuse her next and encourages her husband to travel to Salem. Elizabeth realizes the consequences attached to allowing Abigail and the others to falsely accuse citizens and urges her husband to reveal the truth. After Ezekiel Cheever arrives with a warrant for Elizabeth's arrest, she demonstrates her bravery and composure by calmly submitting to the authorities.

In Act Three, Elizabeth's loyalty and sympathy are portrayed when she attempts to save her husband's reputation by lying about his affair. Unfortunately, Elizabeth does not realize that her lie will doom John.

In Act Four, Elizabeth's transformation from callous, suspicious wife to loyal, compassionate, and understanding partner is complete. When she visits John in prison to convince him to confess in order to save his life, John asks Elizabeth what she wants him to do. Elizabeth illustrates her support for John by telling him, "I cannot judge you, John" (Miller, 136). Elizabeth then takes responsibility for her actions by telling her husband,

"John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept!" (137)

Elizabeth's confession of her own sins as well as her unquestionable support for John demonstrate her loving and compassionate nature. By the end of the play, Elizabeth Proctor is portrayed as a courageous, loving wife.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Videos

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

Elizabeth is a strong character whose strengths are perhaps not too apparent at first. Initially she appears as little more than a once-betrayed and now perpetually-suspicious wife, questioning her husband's every move. She also forms a contrast with the fiery, feisty Abigail in that she is dutiful, morally scrupulous, and maybe, just a little dull.

Elizabeth grows in stature as the play wears on, however. She shows a considerable measure of courage when she is arrested by the court; in her own quiet way she faces up to its inquisition. She also proves her loyalty to Proctor, telling a lie to try and protect him, although this sadly makes things worse for him.

It is only in Act IV, though, that we really see her depth of character, in her private poignant moments with her husband in prison. She confesses her own sense of inadequacy which she believes drove him to adultery: 'It takes a cold wife to prompt lechery.' This shows that that she does not just blame him for their marriage going wrong as she seemed to do earlier - she is also capable of self-criticism. Her loyalty and real love for him are nowhere more evident than in this scene. She wants his life to be spared but she understands why he feels he cannot tell a lie to save himself.

Finally, just before Proctor is about to be hanged, Elizabeth gives way to emotion and rushes to him, while he 'kisses her with great passion'. At this climactical moment of the play, they are as one, united both in love and in defiance of the court. Elizabeth shows tremendous integrity, bravery and loyalty over the course of the play.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial