How would you describe the relationship between John and his wife; between him and Abigail? How does it contribute to what happened in Salem.

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Abigail seems to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft because she believes that, with John's wife out of the way, she and John will be free to have a relationship again. In Act One, she confronts him, saying, "I saw your face when [Elizabeth] put me out, and you loved me then and you do now!" She tells him that she has "seen [him] looking up [at her window], burning in [his] loneliness," and John cannot deny that he has looked up at her window. He even admits that he "may think of [her] softly from time to time," and so Abigail believes that he does, indeed, still think about her. If she can get his wife out of their way, why couldn't they be together?

Elizabeth, who seems to be somewhat more perceptive than her husband in regards to the girls, tells him, 

Spoke or silent, a promise is surely made [in any bed]. And [Abigail] may dote on it now—I am sure she does—and thinks to kill me, then to take my place.

Once Elizabeth learns that her name has been mentioned in the court from Mary Warren, the girl who works for them, she knows that "the noose is up!" and that Abigail wants her dead. Rather than follow his wife's advice and go immediately to tell the court officials what Abigail told him about the witchery being only "sport," John opts to remain quiet, allowing the accusations to grow in number and prominence.

In Act Three, we see that Elizabeth still does care very much for her husband, as she lies—something John has said she would never, ever do—to protect his reputation and honor. It is, sadly, this act of loyalty and love that helps to convince Danforth that Abigail is innocent of wrongdoing and that John is a liar who has bewitched Mary Warren to testify against Abigail and the other girls. In the court, John declares that "God is dead," and this is the final straw for Danforth; John tells him, "You are pulling down heaven and raising up a whore!" In this way, then, the broken affair between John and Abigail and his infidelity to his wife seem to be at the very heart of the witch trials in this text.

jilllessa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor is very strained at the beginning of the play because of John's recent infidelity with Abigail.  John complains that he has "gone tiptoe" around Elizabeth for seven months now and she has not even begun to forgive him for his actions.  At the same time, John feels a terrible guilt for what he has done.  At the beginning of the play, Elizabeth blames John for all of the problems in her marriage, but she realizes by the end of the play, that she also has a responsibility for the problems in their marriage.  Her love for her husband and her refusal to confess his sin of adultery to the court actually casts doubt on John's accusations against Abigail.

John's relationship with Abigail is a major contributor to the problems in Salem.  Abigail still wants John Proctor but she also feels used by him.  She is an orphan who has no family and noone she is close to.  She turned to John Proctor to satisfy her need for human contact, but the sexual nature of her need has pushed him away.  Proctor's guillt about his relationship with her cannot allow him to have any relationship with her.  Her anger at Proctor and her anger at his wife cause Abigail to continue her accusations against people in the town.  Abigail enjoys the power the accusations give her and she thinks that if Elizabeth is gone, she can get John.  She is wrong, but she does not see that.

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The Crucible

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