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Although John and Elizabeth are a well respected couple among the Puritan community, their interpersonal relationship is strained when we are first introduced to them in the play. There is a separation displayed between the small talk in which they engage in Act II. There are several references to their strained marriage such as Elizabeth receiving and not returning a kiss from her husband. Also, John remarks about the lack of flowers in the house by saying that "it's winter in here yet, Elizabeth."
It is clear that the issue of guilt is between the two of them for most of the play. John's guilt stems from his infidelity with Abigail. Elizabeth's judgement of him makes him search his soul for the "goodness" once present in it. Elizabeth's guilt stems from her inadequacies of satisfying her husband. In Act IV, after being separated for over three months from her husband, Elizabeth's tenderness is demonstrated when she finally stops judging John for his infidelity and takes the blame on her shoulders. She says
"...it takes a cold wife to prompt lechery."
By admitting her part in the infidelity, Elizabeth realizes that she loves her husband dearly and remains silent when John asks her what he should do about signing the confession. She knows that John must search deep into his soul to come up with the answers. Her tender words
“whatever you will do, it is a good man does it”
is proof positive of the change in their relationship from the harshness in Act II to the tenderness in Act IV.
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