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In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Salem has changed in the three months since John Proctor was arrested and placed in the jail’s dungeon. The purpose of their meeting in Act IV relates to Proctor's death sentence. This is how the purpose is played out:
Reverend Parris has been threatened by one of the citizens of Salem throwing a dagger at him in his home. He is frightened of everything and everyone. He wants the entire situation to go away. He also is penniless. Abigail Williams has stolen Parris’s money and run away from Salem.
There have been twelve people hanged for Witchcraft. Many people have signed confessions that they are witches and saved themselves from being executed. Giles Cory has been pressed to death. He refused to speak and his last words were "more weight."
Danforth and Reverend Hale have returned to Salem with different purposes. Danforth has refused to relent and let the ones that are the jail go. He is concerned about how it would make the court look if he relented and let these last accused go free.
On this morning, Hale hopes to convince these last seven who are to be executed to confess and save their lives. In particular, the two that are most important are Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor. Nurse has already refused to confess to the lie that she is a witch. Now Parris and Hale hope to convince Proctor to confess and save his life.
Danforth sends for both Elizabeth and John to hear how they stand on the subject. Except for Danforth, everyone hopes that John will confess once he has seen and talked to his wife.
The Proctors have not seen each other in three months. Both have had time to ponder over everything that has happened to them. Surprisingly, Elizabeth's pregnancy seems to be going along fine. She is now four months pregnant.
Elizabeth comes in first, and Hale requests that she ask John to confess so that he will be saved. Danforth and Hale implore her to ask John to sign his confession and go free.
Danforth tells Elizabeth that he thinks that she is stone. She shows no emotion. He tells her that they if were still looking for the witches, her lack of tears would be a sign that she had given her soul to the devil. He tells the jailer to take her away.
Danforth: Goody Proctor, you are not summoned here for disputation—be there no wifely tenderness within you? He will die with the sunrise. Your husband. Do you understand it? What say you? Will you contend with him? Are you stone? …Take her out—it profit nothing she should speak to him!
Elizabeth: Let me speak with him, Excellency.
Elizabeth is moved to speak to John. She tells them that she can promise nothing about what will come from John and their meeting.
When the two of them are alone, John and Elizabeth clasp hands, and yet both show restraint in their reactions to each other. She tells John all of the things that have happened. Through their discussion, Elizabeth’s remorse for being cold toward John overwhelms her, and she forgives John for his actions. He tells her that he will confess because he wants to live.
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