The Crucible

describe elizabeths attitude toward her husband provide textual support for your view

elizabeth knows her husband cheated on her with abigal

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by Dr Ronnie Bai

Created on: July 08, 2011

The Character Development of Elizabeth Procter in The Crucible

In the play The Crucible written by Arthur Miller, there are many interesting characters contributing significantly to the thematic concerns of the play. One of them is Elizabeth Procter, cold and unforgiving to her husband after he committed adultery. Despite her coldness, she is a very faithful woman with an honest personality, which is compromised by her deeply felt love for her husband. The presentation of such complex personality reflects the ideas of love and forgiveness in the play.

The first impression about Elizabeth we have is that of a cold woman. As is put by Abigail Williams, a teenage girl who Elizabeth’s husband John Procter had an affair with, “she is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her!” This impression is soon proven by John Procter himself when he gets home from Parris’ house. “Learn charity, woman,” he says to his wife. He is annoyed with the open display of unhappiness from Elizabeth who suspects that her husband has resumed the relationship with Abigail Williams.

The couple’s conflict is first shown in the stifling atmosphere at home when they are talking after John comes back from Parris’ house. Even at the beginning of their conversation we can feel the uneasy feeling and discomfort of the couples, as shown by the stage directions, Procter “gets up, goes to her, kisses her”, an action showing his love and effort to please Elizabeth. But instead, “with a certain disappointment, he returns to the table.” This feeling of frustration is carried on as Elizabeth only gives a short and callous answer, “Aye, it is,” to Procter’s very enthusiastic request “we’ll walk the farm together…Massachusetts is a beauty in spring!” Not only does Elizabeth’s lack of enthusiasm show her unforgiving attitude towards Procter, her actions are discouraging as well. As is shown by the stage direction again, “her back is turned to him. He turns to her…” creating an extremely awkward atmosphere.

Despite her unforgiving personality and coldness, she shows none of this to any outsiders. When Reverend John Hale comes by, they can suddenly settle their argument and look very united in front of John Hale. This is proven through their conversation when Elizabeth rushes to John’s rescue upon seeing John having trouble of the “Ten Commandments”-“You see, sir between the two of us we do know them all.” She does all this because she still has love towards her husband, despite of his hurtful action of adultery.

Elizabeth’s confidence in front of Reverend John Hale reflects her honesty. There is no denying that she is faithful about her religious duties and that she has been living her life accordingly to her religious beliefs. When asked by Hale, “Do you know your Commandments, Elizabeth?” she answers “[without hesitation, even eagerly] I surely do”, which proves the fact that she is honest and confident about her Christian belief.

After having assisted her husband answering the same question from Hale, Elizabeth impresses us the audience as a person of bravery and dignity when she is arrested, on the false account of Witchery. She is honest about Mary’s doll and stands up bravely to be arrested - “John, I think I must go with them.” She then organizes everything calmly and goes with the men who came to take her, leaving John angered and worried.

In court, Elizabeth starts to show her genuine love towards John when she lies to protect her husband’s name. Elizabeth’s love for John is proven to be stronger than her love for truth. Not having any faintest Idea about John’s desperate attempt at saving her, she will not support the adultery story in court and destroy her husband’s reputation. Ironically, this makes her husband’s case against Abigail Williams collapse. When Elizabeth is asked, “Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher!” she answers “no, sir”. Even if the stage direction says that she does so “faintly”, she is shown to have quickly weighted the pros and cons of the situation as she struggles between her love for truth and her love for her husband. Even though she has not forgiven her husband, she is still a faithful Christian woman to her husband first weighted the pros and cons of the situation as she struggles between her love for truth and her love for her husband..

Later on we see that Elizabeth truly forgives John - “John, it come to naught that I should forgive you.” To her, John’s uncompromising dignity and integrity during the ruthless witch hunt far transcends her willingness to forgive. At the same time, she has come to realize some of her own failings as a cold wife - “it needs a cold wife to prompt lechery.” Although such forgiveness comes too little and too late, she takes great courage in refusing to influence her husband’s decision - “Do what you will. But let none be your judge.”

From Miller’s presentation of Elizabeth as a developing character, we can see that she is initially cold and unforgiving, but also predominantly a woman withholding truth and individual dignity. She turns out to be a faithful and loving woman who loves her husband more than truth, despite his lecherous actions. Her arrest on the grounds of witchery serves to expose the Puritan authority as ignorant and ruthless.


Sure, her initial attitude towards John is one of sadness and suspicion. The house is quiet and there are a lot of furtive and incriminating glares towards her husband. You could cut the tension with a knife! Here are a few quotes that are of particular note:

Elizabeth greets him with suspicion. Her first words in the play are:

"What keeps you so late? It's almost dark" (Act 2, lines 1-2).

Elizabeth confesses,

"John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did. . . . It were a cold house I kept!" (Act 4)