What is the significance of the scene between Elizabeth and John Proctor in Act II of The Crucible?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The beginning of this Act clearly shows that John and Elizabeth's marriage is under significant strain. The scene at the beginning, before Elizabeth enters, shows John tasting the food that Elizabeth has prepared for him and obviously being displeased. He then however goes on to praise Elizabeth for her cooking, saying it is "well seasoned." John is careful to make sure that anything he says cannot be interpreted as a rebuke, even when Elizabeth has forgotten to offer him cider. Later on in the scene, of course, the true situation of their relationship is revealed as John Proctor finally responds to his wife's silent accusations:

Spare me! You forget nothin' and forgive nothin'. Learn charity, woman. I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven month since she is gone. I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart.

The marriage of John and Elizabeth is thus fraught with suspicion and doubts. Elizabeth doubts her husband after finding out about his infidelity with Abigail, and as a result he has been doing everything he can to please her, but with no success. Their marriage is thus presented as being on very shaky foundations at this point in the play.

cav13976 | Student

Firstly, we learn that their relationship isn't perfect, 'It is the low, dark and rather long living room of the time' already sets the idea of there relationship. The conversation between them is awkward and uncomfortable 'A sense of their seperation arises' and we discover that one of the main reasons for this is Proctor's affair with Abigail. Elizabeth finds out that he spoke to Abigail alone and she is very suspicious. Proctor tries to defend his actions but is also guilty for the affair in the first place. Elizabeth is a woman of principles who loves Proctor but still wants to make sure he stays away from Abigail. Elizabeth is still suspicious and asks him to tell Abigail it is over and report her fraud to the high court. They may be married, but Proctor's affair causes a lot of friction between them and between Elizabethand Abigail. The conservation heats up and gets worse when Mary arrives.

But we know that there is love between them when Proctor tastes the rabbit Elizabeth cooked and adds salt just so he can compliment her for the seasoning of it. This shows that Proctor wants their marriage to work and Elizabeth to be happy and also that Proctor is a good man at heart. Proctor's anguish and anger at Elizabeth's arrest 'Damn the Deputy Governor! Out of my house!' 'I will fall like an ocean on that court!' then shows how much they really mean to each other.


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The Crucible

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