How does Elizabeth Proctor affect the outcome of The Crucible?

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After being falsely accused of attempting to murder Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Proctor is arrested, and her husband attempts to save her life by challenging the corrupt court in act three. John ends up confessing to adultery in an attempt to expose Abigail as a ruthless sinner and put an end to the witch trials. Unfortunately, Danforth questions Elizabeth regarding her husband's infidelity, and she lies on his behalf in an attempt to protect his reputation. Tragically, John Proctor is arrested and accused of colluding with the devil. If Elizabeth would have told Danforth the truth and confirmed John's affair, Abigail Williams would have been arrested and the witch trials would more than likely come to an end.

In act four, Elizabeth visits her husband in jail and listens as he contemplates whether or not to offer the court officials a false confession. Elizabeth apologizes for her cold demeanor and asks John for forgiveness. Elizabeth also tells John that she will not judge him and supports any decision he makes. Initially, John signs the confession to save his life but discovers that Danforth plans to use his name to support the corrupt proceedings. John then reveals his integrity by tearing his confession and chooses to die a martyr. When Reverend Hale and Reverend Parris beg Elizabeth to intervene, she responds by saying,

He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him! (147)

Overall, Elizabeth affected the outcome of the play by lying on her husband's behalf, which ironically doomed him. John's arrest is primarily a result of Elizabeth's attempt to protect his reputation. Elizabeth also refuses to intervene in John's decision to become a martyr and supports his decision. Instead of intervening and attempting to save his life, Elizabeth passively stands by as John is led to the gallows.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 15, 2020
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