The Crucible

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

John Proctor Character Analysis

A farmer, and the husband of Elizabeth. Proctor had an affair with Abigail Williams while she worked as a servant in his house. A powerful man in both build and character, Proctor refuses to follow people he considers hypocrites, including Reverend Parris. Feared and resented by the many people in Salem he has made feel foolish, Proctor has a powerful sense of personal integrity. For this reason, his affair with Abigail makes him see himself as a hypocrite.

John Proctor Quotes in The Crucible

The The Crucible quotes below are all either spoken by John Proctor or refer to John 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 1 Quotes
I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention God any more.
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), Reverend Parris
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

As the villagers wait for the Reverend Hale to arrive and offer guidance on Betty Parris' illness, Mr. Putnam accuses John Proctor of failing to attend Reverend Parris' church services. Proctor, in turn, criticizes the Reverend. Proctor feels that the Reverend's focus on "hellfire and bloody damnation" turns the parishioners away from their personal relationships with God, perverting the proper role of the Church.

Here, John Proctor presents a striking individuality at odds with the strict, communal ideology of Salem's Puritanism. Proctor challenges the church, and, thus the community, since Puritan society was based around the church. Proctor will later say of Reverend Parris, "I see no light of God in that man": Proctor is separated from his community by his determination to define his faith on his own terms, instead of the church's.

Proctor's request of Reverend Parris to "take it to heart" suggests that Proctor genuinely does want to make Salem a stronger, more genuinely faithful community. Even though he responds to his discomfort with the way that Reverend Parris runs the church by staying away as much as he can, Proctor also refuses to be silent and freely shares his views on how to improve Salem and the Puritan church (a habit that will ultimately lead to his arrest and conviction).

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Crucible quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart! I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men! And now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes? I will not, I cannot! You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!
Related Characters: Abigail Williams (speaker), John Proctor
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Left alone with John Proctor and the supposedly ailing and unconscious Betty Parris, Abigail reminds Proctor of their past adulterous relationship, insisting that Proctor still loves her. Abigail is furious at Elizabeth Proctor, John's wife, who has ruined Abigail's reputation in the village. Proctor, meanwhile, feels that his personal integrity has been destroyed because of his affair with Abigail and betrayal of Elizabeth, and he is dismissive of Abigail's pleas to return to her. Abigail places no such value on personal integrity; she is willing to make accusations of witchcraft in order to get out of trouble with Reverend Parris for dancing in the woods.

Abigail's speech also reveals that she has taken Proctor's opinions on Salem's hypocrisy and corruption to heart. From Proctor, Abigail has learned to recognize that the power of the Puritan church comes from its stifling of individual ideas that conflict with church doctrine. Abigail's understanding of the church's hypocrisy and paranoia will lead her to see how she can manipulate the church's fears in order to protect herself and to take revenge on the people she hates (like Elizabeth). In this speech, Abigail implies that the accusations of witchcraft she is going to make will be false, and are a calculated manipulation of the people of Salem.

Abigail fuses together her sexual awakening ("John Proctor that took me from my sleep") and her intellectual awakening ("and put knowledge in my heart"), using the Biblical language she is accustomed to (Adam and Eve's first sin was gaining "knowledge," and in the Bible sexual intercourse is often referred to as "knowing" one's spouse). Abigail shifts swiftly back and forth between the "light" of Proctor's love and the "light" of his teaching.


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.

I like it not that Mr. Parris should lay his hand upon my baby. I see no light of God in that man. I'll not conceal it.
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), Reverend Parris
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

Reverend Hale arrives at the Proctor home, as he has decided to visit each of the villagers who has been named in the trials. Hale questions John Proctor about the family's inconsistent attendance at church and his failure to have one of his three sons baptized. In John's response he explains that these lapses have nothing to do with an absence of personal faith but with his misgivings about the spiritual leadership of Reverend Parris.

The Puritan community believes that a minister is the instrument of God and, therefore, must be followed and recognized as sanctified. John stands up against this ideology, sure in his own faith and his own individual judgment of Reverend Parris. Unlike the rest of Salem, John is unafraid to share his opinions about the church ("I'll not conceal it") and to separate his own individual faith from the measures of observance prescribed by church leaders.

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.

A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud—God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), Deputy Governor Danforth
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

Danforth tells Mary Warren that she will be hanged unless she confesses so Mary turns on John Proctor, accusing him of having joined with the Devil. Proctor, prompted by Danforth to confess, instead declares that, "God is dead!" He then delivers this speech, in which he holds himself and all the men of the court accountable for giving into their fears, asserting that they will all burn in hell for these sins.

Proctor accuses himself of having failed to reveal the truth of Abigail's manipulations soon enough. He recognizes that Danforth and his followers know that Abigail is a fraud but that they give into hysteria, preferring to protect their reputations as interpreters of God's will rather than confess that they have erred in believing the girls' false testimonies.

Proctor, at last, locates the real "filthy face" of the Devil in Salem. It is found in all the villagers who fear to do the right thing and instead persecute and execute innocent individuals to preserve their power over the community. Danforth, of course, hears this speech as nothing but sacrilegious evidence that Proctor has indeed allied himself with the Devil.

Nowhere else in the play does the playwright's voice speak as strongly, ferociously condemning both the perpetrators of such self-serving, fear-mongering crimes and the bystanders who know the right thing to do but yet stand motionless.

Act 4 Quotes
I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker)
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

John Proctor decides to tear up his confession, and so he will be hung for his failure to admit his union with the Devil. Before he is escorted to the gallows, he delivers this final speech, declaring that he is glad not to have given into pressures to conform with Puritan tyranny, and urging his wife to stand steadfast against the court: "Give them no tear!"

John remains aware of the wrongs he has committed: his adulterous affair with Abigail and his failure to expose Abigail's treachery earlier still plague him. The goodness that he perceives within himself is only a "shred." Still, in his final moments, John chooses to reclaim his integrity, standing in the light rather than giving into the shadowy evil of the Puritan court which would have allowed him to live. At last, Elizabeth can forgive him, and John can forgive himself.

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), John Proctor
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

John Proctor gives a verbal confession and written confession but then grabs the paper back from Judge Danforth, refusing to have it made public. In this speech, he reveals that his confession is false, and he admits his tremendous guilt in going free when better souls, with greater integrity, have been killed for professing their innocence.

Proctor seeks to preserve some shred of integrity, ashamed to have given a false confession in order to save his life. He recognizes that by publicly confessing to an alliance with the Devil, he will feed Salem's fury, essentially supporting the senseless murders of his friends and neighbors by giving into the court's demands. The "soul" he has supposedly given to Danforth is his personal and spiritual integrity; in confessing, he has cast aside all of his cherished values.

Get the entire The Crucible LitChart as a printable PDF.
The crucible.pdf.medium

John Proctor Character Timeline in The Crucible

The timeline below shows where the character John 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 earlier.... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
...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 they... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
John Proctor enters. He reprimands Mary, his servant, for leaving his house when he ordered her not... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
When he's alone with Abigail, Proctor mentions the town's rumors of witchcraft. Abigail dismisses them, steps closer to Proctor, and says... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...Salem for spirits without first holding a meeting. The dispute erupts into an argument between Proctor, Putnam, Mrs. Putnam, Rebecca Nurse, and Parris about town politics and grievances. The argument covers... (full context)
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...carrying a stack of religious books about witchcraft. He seems eager to flex his authority. Proctor departs, but not before saying he's heard Hale is a sensible man and that he... (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... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Elizabeth continues: Mary Warren is in town, as an official of the court. Proctor is astonished: what court? Elizabeth explains: judges have been sent up from Boston to try... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
As Elizabeth continues to push Proctor to go to the judges, it comes out that he was alone with Abigail at... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Mary Warren enters. Proctor, already angry, threatens to whip her for disobeying his order not to go to town... (full context)
Hysteria Theme Icon
Proctor says that Sarah Good is just a "jabberer." But Mary says that Good "sent her... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
Proctor considers this weak evidence and tells Mary not to go to town again. Mary refuses.... (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... (full context)
Hysteria Theme Icon
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 "somewhat mentioned"... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Hale asks some questions about the "Christian character" of the house. He asks why the Proctors don't often go to church, and why only two of their three sons are baptized.... (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 many have... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Proctor angrily rips up the warrant and orders Cheever and Herrick to leave his house, but... (full context)
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Hale assures Proctor that the court will recognize Elizabeth's innocence, and promises that he will testify in her... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
When they're alone, Proctor tells Mary she will testify against Abigail in court tomorrow. Mary says that Abigail will... (full context)
Act 3
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Nurse says they have proof the girls are frauds. Proctor and Mary Warren come forward. Parris tells Danforth that Proctor causes "mischief," while Hale begs... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Proctor tells Danforth that Mary is prepared to testify she never saw any spirits. Parris shouts... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Danforth, shocked, considers whether to accept this testimony in court. Proctor assures him his evidence is valid, but Ezekiel Cheever mentions that Proctor earlier ripped up... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Danforth agrees to hear the evidence. First, Proctor shows him a petition signed by 91 landowners declaring their good opinions of Elizabeth, Rebecca... (full context)
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Proctor brings Mary forward. Hale says this argument is so important Danforth should let a lawyer... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...are lying. The girls are brought out to face Mary. Abigail denies the charge, but Proctor says Abigail has often laughed at prayer, and that Abigail and the other girls frequently... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...other girls follow suit. They say Mary is sending her spirit to attack them. Furious, Proctor calls Abigail a whore. Proctor admits his affair with Abigail and says Elizabeth dismissed her... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Danforth sends for Elizabeth, whom Proctor says will never lie. While they wait, Danforth instructs everyone to remain absolutely still and... (full context)
Hysteria Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Danforth demands that Proctor confess his allegiance to Hell. In response, Proctor says God is dead. Proctor then condemns... (full context)
Act 4
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
...learn from Herrick that he's with Hale, visiting those condemned to hang that morning, including Proctor and Rebecca Nurse. (full context)
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Hysteria Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Proctor is brought from his cell and the others leave so he can spend some time... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Proctor asks what Elizabeth would think if he confessed. Unlike Rebecca and Martha Corey, who refuse... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Proctor decides to confess, though he knows he shouldn't. When they learn the news, Danforth, Hathorne,... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
They bring in Rebecca in hopes that Proctor's confession will sway her. She says a confession would be a lie, and prays for... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Danforth asks Proctor if he's seen Rebecca with the devil. Proctor says he hasn't. Danforth then asks if... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Danforth says the village must have proof. Proctor shouts that God has the proof, and that's enough. When Danforth persists, Proctor shouts that... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
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... (full context)