I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you. I never thought you but a good man, John – only somewhat bewildered.
This line is one of the first things Elizabeth says in the play, in the second act during her first scene. When her husband John tries to explain why he was alone with Abigail, Elizabeth turns cold and suspicious. She has not forgiven her husband for his affair despite claiming she has. Thematically, the idea of a “good man” and what good men do and do not do is an important one in this play. By the end, John will prove that he is a good man, as Elizabeth has always believed.
It is her dearest hope, John, I know it. There be a thousand names; why does she call mine? There be a certain danger in calling such a name – I am no Goody Good that sleeps in ditches, nor Osburn, drunk and half-witted. She’d dare not call out such a farmer’s wife but there be monstrous profit in it. She thinks to take my place, John.
In this moment in Act 2, Elizabeth is quicker than John to see that Abigail has figured out that she will be able to hurt – even kill – Elizabeth, believing she can take Elizabeth’s place at John Proctor’s side. Elizabeth understands Abigail’s desires and intent much better than anyone else in the play. She sees Abigail for who she is.
Your Honor, I – in that time I were sick. And I – My husband is a good and righteous man. He is never drunk as some are, nor wastin’ his time at the shovelboard, but always at his work. But in my sickness – you see, sir, I were a long time sick after my last baby, and I thought I saw my husband somewhat turning from me. And this girl –
Elizabeth is forced in the middle of Act 3 to testify in court about her husband’s involvement with Abigail. Readers already know that John has confessed his adultery, but Elizabeth doesn’t. This moment shows her desperately trying to be honest in explaining why Abigail hates her but also trying to be fair to her husband, who she loves. Elizabeth will ultimately lie on her husband’s behalf, condemning them both and making his earlier comment that she will never fail to tell the truth a lie.
Great stones they lay upon his chest until he plead aye or nay. They say he give them but two words. “More weight,” he says. And died… It were a fearsome man, Giles Corey.
In Act 4, Elizabeth has to tell John that their friend, Giles Corey, has been killed because he was pressed for a confession to witchcraft. This moment shows Elizabeth’s admiration for Giles’ moral strength, which may end up inspiring John.
It is not my soul, John, it is yours. Only be sure of this, for I know it no Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it. I have read my own heart this three month, John. I have sins of my own to count. It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery… I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love.
As John struggles with whether to falsely confess to witchcraft in Act 4, Elizabeth makes a confession of her own, telling him that she knows she is at least a little to blame for his affair with Abigail, which has brought ruin on them both. In Act 2, John told her that her mercy could freeze beer. Here, she returns to the idea of “a cold wife” to agree with him.
He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him.
At the end of the play, John is taken to be hanged, along with Rebecca Nurse and other innocent Salem residents. Although Rev. Hale begs Elizabeth to go after John and get him to resign the confession, Elizabeth declines, acknowledging that John is, at last, what they both wanted him to be: a good man.
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