How does Elizabeth Proctor change from act 1 to act 4 in The Crucible?

Elizabeth Proctor changes from an insensitive, cold woman in act 1 to a self-aware, loving wife in act 4. She manages to forgive John's transgressions, accept responsibility for her behavior, and offer her husband support when he needs it the most. By the end of the play, Elizabeth transforms into a humble, selfless woman, who wants what is best for John and makes amends with her husband before he dies a martyr.

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When we're first introduced to Elizabeth Proctor in act 1, she comes across as quite a cold, aloof figure. This is undoubtedly deliberate on Miller's part, as he wants to provide John Proctor with an obvious motivation for cheating on his wife with Abigail Williams. When Elizabeth discovers the illicit affair between John and Abigail, she becomes even colder and more aloof. For good measure, she also distances herself from her husband, as she is understandably unable to trust him after his philandering.

For quite some time, and much to John's displeasure, Elizabeth gives him quite a hard time over his cheating. However, over the course of the play, as the witch-craze gets uncomfortably close to home, Elizabeth shows how much she loves John despite everything that's happened. She does this by courageously standing up before the court and denying that there was any affair between John and Abigail. Even though this undermines the credibility of John's case, Elizabeth nonetheless thinks she's doing the right thing.

Elizabeth also develops greater self-awareness throughout the play, and in act 4 she openly admits to John that she herself has shortcomings. In fact, she unfairly blames herself for John's adultery. Whether this is the right thing for her to do, there can be no doubt that it shows a willingness on Elizabeth's part to acknowledge that she's far from perfect herself, and this is something that the Elizabeth of act 1 would never have done.

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Elizabeth Proctor experiences a dramatic transformation from act one to act four in The Crucible and develops into a sensitive, compassionate wife, who accepts responsibility for her behavior, forgives John for his transgressions, and supports the difficult decision he makes at the end of the play. When the audience first meets Elizabeth, she is portrayed as a rather cold woman, who has yet to forgive John for his infidelity but attempts to repair her damaged marriage. Elizabeth tries her best to please John and suppress her negative emotions but it is apparent that she has yet to let go of the past. Elizabeth cannot express affection towards John and her husband recognizes that an "everlasting funeral" marches around her heart.

After Elizabeth is arrested and accused of witchcraft, she begins to exercise selflessness by refusing to offer a false confession and denying her involvement in witchcraft. She is aware of the consequences but courageously decides to challenge the corrupt court. Elizabeth also sacrifices her morals in an attempt to save John's reputation by lying in court about his affair with Abigail. Elizabeth's lie demonstrates her love for John and loyalty to their marriage.

In act four, Elizabeth's transformation comes full circle when she takes responsibility for her actions and forgives John for his past sins. When Elizabeth visits John in his cell, she tells him,

I have sins of my own to count. It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery. (Miller, 139)

In addition to admitting her shortcomings and forgiving John, Elizabeth also supports any decision he makes, which allows him to maintain his goodness and die with dignity. She refuses to judge her husband and tells John,

Do what you will. But let none be your judge. There be no higher judge under Heaven than Proctor is! Forgive me, forgive me, John—I never knew such goodness in the world! (Miller, 139)

By the end of the play, Elizabeth has transformed into a self-aware, compassionate wife, who is supportive and loving. She has taken responsibility for her actions and repaired her relationship with John before he chooses to die a martyr.

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Along with Reverend Hale, Elizabeth Proctor undergoes the most significant changes in The Crucible. In keeping with the theme of personal responsibility, Elizabeth comes to accept and admit her role in the affair between John Proctor and Abigail, recognizing the fact that she has flaws like her husband. 

At the beginning of the play, Elizabeth pushes John Proctor to do his duty and to act in ways that make him uncomfortable. This is, at least in part, a way of punishing Proctor for his affair with Abigail. She is cold and distant and righteous. 

As the play moves on, Elizabeth puts aside her victimhood at the very moment she becomes a victim of the witch trials. When she is accused of witchcraft and arrested, Elizabeth is not indignant. She refuses to enter into suffering. This is the first change in her character. 

The final change in Elizabeth comes when she confesses to John Proctor that she feels she played a part in driving him to have an affair. She tells Proctor that he is good and that she is sorry to have put all the blame on him for so long. This is a final step away from the role of the innocent victim.

At this point she is no longer innocent, by her own account, and she refuses to play the part of the suffering victim. She preaches strength to her husband and displays that strength herself. 


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