John has told the magistrates about his sexual relationship with Abigail in order to convince them that she has ulterior motives for making her accusations against his wife, Elizabeth. John tells Danforth,
She thinks to dance with me on my wife's grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore's vengeance, and you must see it . . .
When Danforth tells John that Elizabeth claims to be pregnant, John swears that Elizabeth has never told a lie in her life, that she may not even be able to do so. Now, in light of John's confession of lechery, Danforth calls Elizabeth to the court to see if her testimony regarding Abigail's dismissal from their employ matches John's. When she arrives, Danforth asks, "For what cause did you dismiss [Abigail]?" Elizabeth is torn between telling the truth, because she is an upright and truthful woman, and lying to protect her husband's reputation; she does not know that he has already confessed. When Danforth asks her, "Is your husband a lecher[?]" she replies, faintly, "No, sir." Elizabeth's desire to protect John trumps all else, and she lies to shield him, not knowing that her lie will actually damn him in the eyes of the court.