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!
Proctor utters these lines at the end of the play, in Act IV, when he is wrestling with his conscience over whether to confess to witchcraft and thereby save himself from the gallows. The judges and Hale have almost convinced him to do so, but the last stumbling block is his signature on the confession, which he cannot bring himself to give. In part, this unwillingness reflects his desire not to dishonor his fellow prisoners: he would not be able to live with himself knowing that other innocents died while he quaked at death’s door and fled. More important, it illustrates his obsession with his good name. Reputation is tremendously important in Salem, where public and private morality are one and the same. Early in the play, Proctor’s desire to preserve his good name keeps him from testifying against Abigail. Now, however, he has come to a true understanding of what a good reputation means and what course of action it necessitates—namely, that he tell the truth, not lie to save himself. “I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” he rages; this defense of his name enables him to muster the courage to die, heroically, with his goodness intact.