Why hasn't John told the court what he knows, and what does Elizabeth attribute his not telling to?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Towards the beginning of act two, John Proctor is astonished to learn that Mary Warren is a revered official in Salem's court and there have already been fourteen arrests. Elizabeth also tells John that the judges hold Abigail Williams in high regard and he responds by calling the trials "black mischief." When Elizabeth encourages her husband to travel into Salem and testify that Abigail told him they were simply pretending, John hesitates and says that he will think on it. Elizabeth then gets up from the table and John says,

"I am only wondering how I may prove what she told me, Elizabeth. If the girl’s a saint now, I think it is not easy to prove she’s fraud, and the town gone so silly. She told it to me in a room alone - I have no proof for it" (Miller, 53).

Essentially, Abigail told John in private that she and the other girls were pretending while no one else was in the room to act as a second witness. John worries that his word will not hold up against Abigail's word in Salem's court because of her revered status. Given John's history with Abigail, Elizabeth immediately takes offense to the fact that he was alone in a room with her. Elizabeth attributes John's affection for Abigail as the reason why he refuses to tell the truth to Salem's judges when she asks her husband,

"John, if it were not Abigail that you must go to hurt, would you falter now? I think not" (Miller, 54).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John is reluctant to tell the court what he knows, that Abigail is a fraud. He does not want his indiscretions with her revealed.

Elizabeth pleads with him: "The Deputy Governor promise hangin' if they'll not confess, John. The town's gone wild, I think. She (Mary Warren) speak of Abigail, and I though she were a saint, to hear her. Abigail brings the other girls into the court, where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel. And folks are brough before them, and if they scream and howl and fall on the floor, the person's clapped in the jail for bewtichin' them.

Proctor (wide-eyed): Oh, it is black mischief.

Elizabeth: I think you must go to Salem, John. (He turns to her). I think so. You must tell thm it is a fraud.

John is none to quick to do the right thing. His response to Elizabeth is, "I'll think on it."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team