The Crucible

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Elizabeth Proctor Character Analysis

The wife of John Proctor. She fires Abigail Williams as her servant when she discovers that the girl is having an affair with Proctor. Elizabeth is a good woman known for never telling a lie. She loves her husband deeply, but seems to have the sense that she doesn't deserve him, and therefore often responds coldly to him. His affair with Abigail has both shaken the trust she had in her husband and convinced her that she was right in her assumption that she didn't deserve him.

Elizabeth Proctor Quotes in The Crucible

The The Crucible quotes below are all either spoken by Elizabeth Proctor or refer to Elizabeth Proctor. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Crucible published in 2003.
Act 2 Quotes
I'll plead no more! I see now your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), Elizabeth Proctor
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Elizabeth Proctor remains convinced that Abigail Williams intends to become John's wife and have Elizabeth condemned as a witch. Elizabeth urges John to go to Abigail and make it clear that he has no interest in continuing their affair. Elizabeth questions John's hesitation, and, in this quote, John laments that Elizabeth obsesses over his past affair with Abigail and will not yet trust him or forgive him.

John considers his personal integrity stained forever by this "single error" and Elizabeth's suspicions and judgment merely increase his powerful guilt. Earning Elizabeth's forgiveness will become his central motivation in the play, and he is unable to forgive himself until she forgives him. John's fervent wish to win back Elizabeth's respect will lead him, ultimately, to give up his life rather than falsely plead guilty and, in doing so, commit a second sin.

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I'll tell you what's walking Salem—vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! This warrant's vengeance! I'll not give my wife to vengeance!
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), Elizabeth Proctor
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

Cheever, the court clerk, arrives at the Proctor home with a a warrant for Elizabeth's arrest. He explains that Elizabeth has been accused of sending her familiar spirit to stab Abigail with a needle. John Proctor protests, tearing the warrant, and demanding to know why no one suspects Abigail of lying: "Is the accuser always holy now?"

In this speech, John stands up to the Puritan court and church, laying bare the weakness and hypocrisy that have led to the warrant for Elizabeth's arrest. The citizens of Salem have always been rather close-minded and ideologically inflexible ("We are what we always were in Salem"), but now they have given into their paranoia, manipulated by Abigail and her band of "little crazy children." John insists that Abigail's accusations—and, therefore, the trials and warrants that result from them—are driven by personal vengeance, not truth.

The stain of vengeance is evident throughout the play. Most obviously, Abigail acts against those who have sullied her reputation or whom she hates, like Elizabeth. Earlier in this scene, we learn that Walcott has accused Martha Corey of witchcraft because she refused to give him his money back for a pig that died from his poor care.

John's sorrow is also driven by his own guilt: the "vengeance" wrought by Abigail upon Elizabeth is the result of John's adulterous affair.

Act 3 Quotes
A man may think God sleeps, but God sees everything, I know it now. I beg you, sir, I beg you—see her what she is . . . She thinks to dance with me on my wife's grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore's vengeance.
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail Williams
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

John Proctor, horrified by witnessing Abigail shriek that Mary's spirit is attacking her, publicly confesses to having slept with Abigail. He explains that Elizabeth dismissed Abigail because of the affair, and, in this speech, denounces Abigail, asserting that her hope is to have Elizabeth killed and to marry John. In confessing to his sin, John chooses to sacrifice his good reputation in an attempt to save his wife and the other innocents who stand accused.

The speech returns to John's language of "vengeance" in Act 2. Then, he claimed that the court's warrant for Elizabeth's arrest was borne out of vengeance, but now he endows that claim with scandalous specificity, insisting that Abigail's accusations are nothing but "a whore's vengeance." He finally carries out Elizabeth's wish that he reclaim his personal integrity and make it clear to Abigail that he has no intention of continuing their affair—but he acts too late. By now, Abigail has done her worst and the power lies in the hands of the court.

Throughout the speech, John leans heavily on religious language, seeking salvation and forgiveness through God's grace. John has felt ashamed to sin in the sight of God; he is wracked with a personal guilt that differs sharply from the hollow repentance that the court seeks from the villagers who stand accused.

Act 4 Quotes
It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it . . ..it may well be God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride.
Related Characters: Reverend Hale (speaker), Elizabeth Proctor
Page Number: 122
Explanation and Analysis:

John Proctor has been sentenced to hang unless he confesses to his alliance with the Devil. Reverend Hale, holding himself accountable for John's sentence, pleads with Elizabeth to urge John to confess and save his life.

Reverend Hale's words to Elizabeth reveal a broken minister who has come to doubt everything that he once understood about God's grace and righteousness. He tells Elizabeth that it is better for John to live than to uphold his spiritual integrity and go to the scaffold professing his true innocence. Desperate for John to live, Reverend Hale argues that it may even be a greater sin to die for "pride" than to lie in order to live.

Reverend Hale finally sees how blind adherence to the church has led the Puritans away from God: "Cleave to no faith when faith brings blood," he tells Elizabeth. Reverend Hale asks Elizabeth to do the one thing that she (and, ultimately, John) cannot do: make two wrongs into a right.

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Elizabeth Proctor Character Timeline in The Crucible

The timeline below shows where the character Elizabeth Proctor appears in The Crucible. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Parris asks Abigail why Elizabeth Proctor dismissed her from her job as an assistant in the Proctor household six months... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
...But Betty says Abigail didn't tell that she drank blood as a charm to kill Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail smacks her across the face. She tells the other three girls that if... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
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Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...some feelings for her, but says the affair is over. Abigail, hurt and angry, insults Elizabeth, infuriating Proctor. (full context)
Act 2
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Eight days later, John Proctor returns home late from planting the fields. He and Elizabeth talk about the coming crop as he eats the dinner she prepared for him. A... (full context)
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Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Elizabeth continues: Mary Warren is in town, as an official of the court. Proctor is astonished:... (full context)
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As Elizabeth continues to push Proctor to go to the judges, it comes out that he was... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
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The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
...not to go to town that day. Mary does not resist. Instead she goes to Elizabeth and gives her a poppet (a doll) that she sewed for her during the court... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
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...town again. Mary refuses. When Proctor moves to whip her, Mary shouts that she saved Elizabeth's life: Elizabeth was accused of witchcraft, but Mary said she'd seen no sign of it... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Proctor and Elizabeth know Abigail is behind the accusation. Elizabeth says Abigail wants to replace her as Proctor's... (full context)
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The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Suddenly Hale appears at the door, startling both Elizabeth and Proctor. Hale says that without the court's authority he's visiting each of the families... (full context)
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Just as Hale is about to leave, Elizabeth persuades Proctor to speak up about Abigail. The news shakes Hale, who points out that... (full context)
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Ezekiel Cheever and Marshal Herrick appear at the Proctors' door with an arrest warrant for Elizabeth. Cheever also asks Elizabeth to hand over any poppets (dolls) in the house. Elizabeth says... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...Herrick to leave his house, but Herrick and Cheever have nine men outside and take Elizabeth. (full context)
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Hale assures Proctor that the court will recognize Elizabeth's innocence, and promises that he will testify in her favor. He insists, however, that recent... (full context)
Act 3
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After a brief conference with Hathorne, Danforth informs Proctor that Elizabeth is pregnant, and therefore can't be hanged. He asks if Proctor will now let the... (full context)
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...First, Proctor shows him a petition signed by 91 landowners declaring their good opinions of Elizabeth, Rebecca Nurse, and Martha Corey. (full context)
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...them. Furious, Proctor calls Abigail a whore. Proctor admits his affair with Abigail and says Elizabeth dismissed her because of it. Abigail denies it, but Proctor says he would not soil... (full context)
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Danforth sends for Elizabeth, whom Proctor says will never lie. While they wait, Danforth instructs everyone to remain absolutely... (full context)
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The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Hale says he believes Proctor, and that Elizabeth was just trying to protect his reputation, but Danforth will not hear it. (full context)
Act 4
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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... (full context)
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Elizabeth enters. Hale tells her he will consider himself Proctor's murderer if Proctor is hanged. Hale... (full context)
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The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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Proctor asks what Elizabeth would think if he confessed. Unlike Rebecca and Martha Corey, who refuse to lie and... (full context)
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Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...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. (full context)