In The Crucible, Act IV, why does Elizabeth say her husband has "his goodness" as he is about to be hanged?

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thetall's profile pic

thetall | (Level 3) Educator

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John Proctor was condemned to hang on charges of witchcraft. He tried to exonerate his wife through Mary’s deposition. However, Mary was overwhelmed by Abigail’s theatrics and falsely accused John. John tried to convince Danforth and the court with regards to the girls’ false accusation. John confessed about his relationship with Abigail and stated that it was the reason that Elizabeth fired Abigail after she found out. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was unable to confirm her husband’s statement, thinking that she was saving her husband.

When his execution date approached, John considered confessing to the charge of witchcraft as his conscience weighed heavily on him. Although, the charge of witchcraft was false, the issue of infidelity was true and he blamed himself for what was happening. John wrote a confession which he refused to sign and eventually, destroyed the confession because he rejected the idea of confessing to falsehood. His name was already tainted by the infidelity and this made it impossible for him to come to terms with further degradation of his name and personality, by being connected to witchcraft.

Proctor, with a cry of his whole soul: Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!

Proctor, his eyes fully of tears: I can. And there’s your first marvel that I can. You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. Elizabeth, in a burst of terror, rushes to him and weeps against his hand. Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it! 

The officials asked Elizabeth to intervene and convince her husband to confess. However, she knew her husband had decided to pay the price for his dignity through the execution and he was willing to die. She complied with her husband's wishes to die with dignity and thus, rejected attempts to have her intervene in the matter.

Hale: Woman, plead with him! He starts to rush out the door, and then goes back to her. Woman! It is pride, it is vanity. She avoids his eyes, and moves to the window. He drops to his knees. Be his helper! - What profit him to bleed? Shall the dust praise him?Shall the worms declare his truth? Go to him, take his shame away!

Elizabeth, supporting herself against collapse, grips the bars of the window, and with a cry: He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!

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dneshan's profile pic

dneshan | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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In Act VI, Danforth and Rev. Hale decide that the best way to get John Proctor to confess would be to get Elizabeth to talk to him and convince him that a confession would be the best thing for him.  Through this conversation between Elizabeth and John, it is evident that John feels that he is less than everyone else because he committed such a horrendous sin – that of adultery.  Elizabeth realizes that John will forever live with this on his conscience.  When he decides that he is not going to confess and goes to be hanged, Elizabeth states, “He have his goodness now.”  She means that in his mind he has made up for his sin by doing what is right this time around and finally thinks himself to be a good man.

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