Act IV, Scene 3 Summary
Judge Hathorne is relieved by John Proctor's decision to confess and runs to fetch Cheever and Reverend Parris. A verbal confession is not enough, however, and John is horrified when Cheever brings out paper and ink. He cannot understand why his confession must be written, and—even worse—posted on the church door for all to see. John is further disturbed when Rebecca Nurse is brought to witness his confession; she is a reminder to him that he is lying, and he is already struggling with that sin. Meanwhile, Danforth hopes that John's confession will lead her to confess as well.
Danforth questions John about people he saw with the devil, but John will name no names. He will not condemn anyone for a false crime; it's bad enough that he has given up his dignity just to spare his own life. Increasingly agitated, John refuses to sign the confession, reminding everyone that he has children. He cannot teach them to be good people if he sells out his friends and sullies his own name.
John acknowledges that by confessing, he is disrespecting those who have already gone to their deaths rather than lie. Overwhelmed by what he is being asked to do, he exclaims, "I have given you my soul; leave me my name!" John's outburst prompts Danforth to doubt his confession, and John takes this opportunity to tear up the document.
There is no turning back now. John is intent on dying with integrity; he will "show honor now" by telling the truth and denying any trafficking with the devil. He will stand up for what is right and for his friends who have been hanged already and, by doing so, will teach his children to hold their heads up and speak the truth. Therefore, he will hang. Despite Hale and Parris's pleas for Elizabeth to stop him, she refuses to intervene: "He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!"