In the play The Crucible, why did Proctor come to town?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Proctor was compelled to visit the court in town and seek an audience with the judges since his wife had been arrested on a charge of witchcraft, plotted by Abigail Williams. Abigail had seen Mary Warren sewing a poppet during hearings at court and planted a needle in the doll's stomach. She had later claimed that Elizabeth had used the poppet to harm her and informed her audience that the evidence could be found in the Proctor home. Mary Warren (the Proctor's maid), had unwittingly brought the doll home and gave it to Elizabeth as a gift.

The court wished to investigate Abigail's claim and therefore instructed the sheriff to visit the Proctor home and establish whether Abigail's damning accusation was indeed true. Marshal Herrick and Ezekiel Cheever (the arresting officer) brought a warrant for Elizabeth's arrest. Cheever said:

Now believe me, Proctor, how heavy be the law, all its tonnage I do carry on my back tonight. He takes out a warrant. I have a warrant for your wife.

Elizabeth handed over the poppet and a needle was found stuck in its stomach. This was seen as damning evidence since a needle had been found in Abigail's stomach that night after she had cried out in pain.  The arresting officers ignored Mary's assurances that she had made the doll and given it to Elizabeth. Elizabeth was arrested in spite of John's violent protests and his tearing up the warrant. John deemed it imperative to address the court. He needed to prove Elizabeth's innocence and he brought Mary with him to verify his statement.

John also wanted to convince the court that Abigail's claims were vindictive and borne out of vengeance, since Elizabeth had dismissed her as their maid after discovering that John had been having an affair with her. John wanted to prove to the court that Abigail and the other girls' actions and allegations were all part of a dastardly plot. There was absolutely no truth in their claims of witchcraft. The court had been horribly deceived by a group of ne'er do wells under the leadership of Abigail Williams.

Alas! John's desire to find redemption for his sin (the affair with Abigail) and save others' lives culminated in tragic failure. Firstly, his wife lied to the court about his affair with Abigail, whilst he had guaranteed that she would never lie. Secondly, Mary Warren's testimony was completely debunked when she relented to the scheming girls' actions in court and, in order to save herself, did much the same as she had done before, by joining them and accusing John of witchcraft. More decisively, she claimed that John was an agent of Satan. This led to his arrest and resulted in a most unfortunate denouement to the play.