The color-coded boxes under "Analysis & Themes" below (which look like this: ) make it easy to track the themes throughout the work. Each color corresponds to one of the themes explained in the Themes section of this LitChart.
Analysis & Themes
In a cell in the Salem prison a few months later, Sarah Good and Tituba think that the devil has come to take them to Barbados. But it's just Marshal Herrick, come to move them to a different cell.
Hathorne and Danforth enter. They wonder where Parris is and are troubled to learn from Herrick that he's with Hale, visiting those condemned to hang that morning, including Proctor and Rebecca Nurse.
Parris enters. To Danforth and Hathorne's questions about Hale, he answers that Hale has returned to try to convince those convicted of witchcraft to confess their crimes and save their lives. Danforth is surprised and pleased.
After a moment's indecision, Parris reveals that Abigail robbed him of thirty-one pounds and then ran off with Mercy Lewis. He thinks they left after hearing about a revolt against the witch trials in the nearby town of Andover. Parris fears a similar riot in Salem now that people with social influence, like Rebecca and Proctor, are scheduled to hang. He begs to postpone the hangings.
Danforth refuses to postpone the executions. He does say, however, that he's willing to work until dawn to convince one of the convicted to confess, since a confession would make those who don't confess look like liars.
Danforth's position doesn't satisfy Parris. He's received threats regarding his part in the trials and fears for his safety.
Hale enters, demanding pardons for the convicted. Danforth says 12 others have already been hanged for the same charge; pardons for the remaining convicts would therefore be unjust and crack the voice of God's law with "whimpering." Hale says a week's postponement would seem like mercy to the public, not weakness. Danforth doesn't listen.
Danforth does wonder, however, if they might be able to get Proctor to confess, since Elizabeth is now well along in her pregnancy. As Marshal Herrick goes to get Elizabeth, Danforth asks Hale why he returned to Salem. Hale replies bitterly that he came to convince Christians to lie and confess to crimes they did not commit in order to save their lives.
Elizabeth enters. Hale tells her he will consider himself Proctor's murderer if Proctor is hanged. Hale begs Elizabeth to convince Proctor to lie, to give a false confession, in order to save himself. He says that life is God's great gift, and no belief or religion should be followed if it harms life. Danforth and Hathorne disagree. Hale shouts that the confession must be a lie since Proctor is innocent. Elizabeth agrees to speak with Proctor.
Proctor is brought from his cell and the others leave so he can spend some time alone with Elizabeth. She tells him that hundreds have confessed, though Rebecca has not. She also adds that Corey refused to speak at all, in accordance with a legal loophole that ensured his farm would pass to his sons if he remained silent. Corey died while being pressed—stone after stone was laid on him to make him speak, but all he said was, "More weight."
Proctor asks what Elizabeth would think if he confessed. Unlike Rebecca and Martha Corey, who refuse to lie and damn themselves, Proctor considers himself a liar already because of his affair with Abigail. So what's one more lie to save his life? Elizabeth says she can't judge him. She says that regardless of what he does, he'll be a good man. She adds that she has sins of her own: her coldness drove him to adultery. She tells Proctor to forgive himself.
Proctor decides to confess, though he knows he shouldn't. When they learn the news, Danforth, Hathorne, and Parris are overjoyed. They ask Ezekiel Cheever to write down Proctor's confession. Proctor asks why it must be written down. To post on the church door, they tell him. They ask Proctor if he's seen the devil. He says yes.
They bring in Rebecca in hopes that Proctor's confession will sway her. She says a confession would be a lie, and prays for Proctor's soul.
Danforth asks Proctor if he's seen Rebecca with the devil. Proctor says he hasn't. Danforth then asks if he's seen anyone with the devil. Proctor again says no. Hale and Parris convince Danforth to accept Proctor's confession anyway. Under pressure from Danforth, Proctor signs the confession. Yet when Danforth reaches for the confession, Proctor grabs it and refuses to hand it over.
Danforth says the village must have proof. Proctor shouts that God has the proof, and that's enough. When Danforth persists, Proctor shouts that he cannot bear to sign his name to lies, or through his confession to soil the good names of his friends who refused to lie in order to save themselves.
Danforth says if the confession is a lie, then it is no confession at all. Proctor rips the confession to pieces. Danforth orders Herrick to take Proctor to the gallows. Parris and Hale beg Elizabeth to speak to Proctor. But she says Proctor has his goodness back now, and refuses.
More help on this section...
• See quotes from Act 4