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Rebecca Nurse is a well respected woman in the town. Her good works are even known to Rev. Hale, who is brought in from another town to try to discern the truth. She is a mother of 11 children and 26 grandchildren and when the hysteria begins, she wisely says it will end when the girls "tire of it." Unfortunately, she and her husband are in a land dispute with Thomas Putnam and the witchcraft trials give Putnam a chance to accuse Goody Nurse of witchcraft in order to get his hands on the land she and her husband have. She refuses to sign a confession and is instrumental in having John Proctor deny his guilt. At the end of the play, they are led out together to be hanged.
Rebecca is an intelligent and compassionate mother and grandmother. She is one of the first people to speak out against the witchcraft theory, claiming as Proctor does, that the girls might simply be acting. Although she disagrees with Hale, he respects her. He has heard of her charitable deeds and knows that she is well-read.
However, all of these positive traits are what get her into trouble. Many in the town resent her, particularly the women. Not only has she been able to have so many children (11) - while other women have had miscarriages - she is good at everything she does. She is even able to calm Betty down where everyone else has failed. Humans are jealous creatures, and when given the chance to strike, the townspeople strike against Rebecca.
Rebecca helps to serve as Proctor's backbone. Having been established as such a respected character, he is influenced by her presence in the last act. Knowing that she would rather die than to falsely admit to witchcraft is one of the factors that helps to influence John to stand up for his own reputation:
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