Who is the tragic hero in The Crucible? What was his tragic mistake?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A tragic hero is a respected, honorable protagonist, who makes an error in judgment and suffers because of his mistake. The audience sympathizes with the tragic hero and pities their unfortunate downfall. In the play The Crucible, John Proctor would be considered the tragic hero. John Proctor is well-respected throughout the community of Salem and is a relatively genuine, moral character. Unfortunately, Proctor made the terrible mistake of having an affair with Abigail Williams, who becomes jealous of John's wife and accuses her of witchcraft. John also makes the mistake of hesitating to inform the community and court officials that Abigail and her followers are lying. By the time John addresses the court officials, numerous citizens have already been arrested, and hysteria is at an all-time high. John's third mistake is that he offers a false confession and admits to being involved in witchcraft. However, John Proctor redeems himself by tearing up his testimony and dying as a martyr. The audience sympathizes with John's downfall and respects him for making the difficult decision to lose his life for a valiant cause.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Proctor is the tragic hero.  He is a hero because in the end he stands true to his beliefs and his philosophies, but in doing so he is condemned to hang.

As far as his tragic mistake, which time?  He has an affair with the servant girl (Abigail Williams) which causes a strain on his relationship with his wife.  He waits too long to attempt to turn things around in town when the girls have begun accusing so many of witchcraft.   He confesses to seeing the Devil in order to save his life and live with his wife and children, but then goes back on it since it is a lie. 

As a long-standing and respected member of the town, John Proctor has much influence on the other citizens.  He and Rebecca Nurse hang as an example to the town--they hang on principle.  


bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say John Proctor because in the end he has to make the decision to give up his friends and his name or live. His mistake was having an affair with Abigail Williams because this influences his behavior for the rest of the play. He and Elizabeth are estranged, and John feels guilt for doing what he did. He spends the whole play feeling guilty and it's not until the end that "He have his goodness", according to Elizabeth. She won't talk him out of hanging because John has made the right decision to deny he's a witch.