“”The scene in Act Four of The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, defines thecharacterization, themes, and conflicts of the play. The scene takes place in acourt dungeon where John Proctor, is confronted by his wife Elizabeth for thefirst time in many months. The couple is imprisoned on having been falselyconvicted of practicing witchcraft. While Elizabeth has been held with therest of the members of the community, John has been isolated in a dark,dingy, dungeon. He is to be hung for his “crimes” the very next morning. Thecourt officials send Elizabeth in to convince John to confess in writing thatthe accusations against him are true and that the verdict is just.
The conversation that takes place between Proctor and Elizabeth is”above sorrow, beyond it.” They are bewildered by the hatred against them.They know they have done nothing, and are falsely accused. Yet, even withthe glum atmosphere created by the conversation, the reader detects aglimmer of optimism, determination, and hope in Proctor’s voice. The readerfeels that he will fight till the end.
“It is hard to give a lie to dogs.”, he says.Proctor continually wavers in his decision whether to confess to thisoutright lie, or to spite the evil and be hung in martyrdom. Up to this point intime, the court officials have no definitive proof that any witchcraft hasactually been practiced. Innocent people are being hung only on account ofthe testimony given by one young girl. Proctor realizes that by confessing, hewill mar the memory of the many who have thus far been killed withoutconfirming the false accusations. These dead would not sign their namesfalsely just to spare their own life. How could Proctor disrespect the causethat these dead gave their lives for, just to spare himself?Throughout the scene, Elizabeth struggles to let John be the one todecide whether he should spite the court or save his own life.
She neverprovides a definite answer and seems to be in turmoil. Elizabeth states, “Iwant you living, John. That’s sure.
” Yet, when John asks her whether heshould confess so that his life will be saved, she responds, “Do what you will. But let none be your judge. There be nohigher judge under Heaven than Proctor is! Forgive me, forgiveme, John–I never knew such goodness in the world!”In this scene Elizabeth tells John the story of Giles’ death. Giles wouldnot answer aye or nay to his indictment so that the court would not beallowed to auction off his property. This allows his sons to inherit hisproperty upon his death. The court pressed large stones onto his body toforce a confession, yet he would not answer and was killed by the weight ofthe stones.
This shows that we can not submit to the injustice that can bebrought about in American society. It also portrays that these people whowere wrongly put to death, unselfishly never thought of themselves, only ofothers. Giles chose a torturous, painful death rather than a sudden, strugglefree death so that his family could be well.
This scene epitomizes the messages and ideas that Miller tries toportray in his writing of the play. The conversation between John Proctor andElizabeth exhibits the confusion, suffering, despair, determination, and hopeof the victims convicted in this terrible tragedy. Also, the story of Gilesportrays the goodness and selflessness of these martyrs. It is for these reasonsthat this scene is the most compelling and instrumental to the plot, themes,and characters.————————————————————–