How does John Proctor's character change from the beginning of the play to the end of "The Crucible"? Think specifically about his interactions with Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor. 

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litlady33 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Proctor's character changes drastically from the beginning of the play to the end, and is perhaps the most important element of the play. He  goes from a hot-headed adulterer to someone who truly wants redemption and make things right by his wife whom he has wronged.

When the audience is first introduced to Proctor in Act I, he has a conversation with Abigail. This scene reveals to the audience that they had been together before and that Proctor has committed adultery with Abigail.

In the next Act, Proctor finds out that his wife has been accused of witchcraft, and Abigail is the one who has made the accusation. On some level, Proctor knows that it is his fault that the accusation was made. He decounces Abigail and vows to make it right. "My wife will never die for me..." he cries, "....that goodness will not die for me." Proctor knows now that he must do anything he can to save his wife. She is a good person, and he knows he must make things right.

As the play goes on, Proctor tries to convince the court that he is telling the truth; that the girls are lying and Elizabeth is innocent. He even goes as far as to admit that he has slept with Abigail because he believes this admission will make the court see that Abigail is a liar. Still, the court sides with the girls and refuses to see the truth.

Proctor is eventually convinced to make a confession of his own. By now, he has given up every shred of dignity he has. He confesses verbally, but when he is asked to sign a paper that will be hung for all of Salem to see, he recants, exclaiming

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!

Though Proctor has committed one of the worst kinds of sins by committing adultery against his wife, he is perhaps one of the most upstanding men of Salem. He is willing to shed his dignity in order to save his wife. He is one of the few who sees the truth of the events. Though he, in the end, dies for his pride, he at least dies with the truth.


gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Proctor's attitude and perspective change drastically throughout the play The Crucible. At the beginning of the play, Proctor is curious about the rumors of witchcraft in Salem, but refuses to participate in the hysteria. When he meets alone with Abigail, their affair is revealed, and she tells him that the girls were simply messing around in the woods. In Act Two, John's cold relationship with his wife is portrayed, and Proctor becomes angry after speaking with Mary Warren about the court. When Elizabeth is taken away, John vows to return to Salem to save his wife's life. Proctor is now directly involved in the witch trials and argues on behalf of his wife. Proctor even displays his love for his wife by tarnishing his good name after he admits that he had an affair with Abigail. Unfortunately, Proctor is arrested and also put on trial for witchcraft after Elizabeth lies to court officials in order to protect her husband's reputation. While in prison, Proctor initially decides to save his life by giving a false confession. However, Proctor has a change of heart and courageously rips his confession papers, which will likely incite the citizens of Salem to riot against the court once he is hanged. Proctor goes from being a non-involved citizen, with a heavy conscience, to a redeemed, noble man at the center of the conflict. John Proctor begins the play as a broken sinner but atones for his sins by refusing to capitulate to the corrupt court.  

Read the study guide:
The Crucible

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