English - Character development
Although Elizabeth is mentioned in Act One, it is here in Act Two where
the audience first meets her. She is a pale and sickly woman, thin and
withdrawn. She does her best to be a good mother and housewife, as is seen
when she chastises herself for forgetting to give her husband some cider
with her dinner. Yet, she is cold. There are no flowers in the house and
she does not return her husband's kisses. Proctor accuses her of having "AN
EVERLASTING FUNERAL" march around her heart and labels her as unforgiving.
Elizabeth has a strong sense of ethics and is a good Christian woman. She
is loathe to anger her husband, who she knows suffers guilt and shame at
his affair with Abigail, however feels it is her duty to persuade him to
overcome this and go to town and expose Abigail for the liar that she is.
When things become heated between Elizabeth and John, Elizabeth remains
strong and firm, pushing him toward the right course of action.
In this Act a more personal and intimate side of Proctor is revealed. In
the presence of his wife Proctor's guilt is more obvious as he goes out of
his way to please her. The anger he expresses towards Elizabeth, "YOU
FORGET NOTHIN' AND FORGIVE NOTHIN'" stems from his own anger. His internal
struggle is evident in his actions and in his dialogue. The extent of his
anger is seen at the end of this Act when he rips up the warrant for
Elizabeth's arrest. Here Proctor is without doubt that the witch-hunt in
Salem is directly related to his private sin, "NOW HELL AND HEAVEN GRAPPLE
ON OUR BACKS AND ALL OUR OLD PRETENCE IS RIPPED AWAY".
With eight days having passed since the events of Act One, and many women
charged and sentenced for allegedly being witches, Hale is already
beginning to question his work. Matters have progressed out of his hands
and into the courts, his influence is now limited. Hale's doubts about what
is happening are strengthened when good women such as Rebecca Nurse are
mentioned in court, " God forbid such a one be charged". His internal
struggle is emphasised by his faltering when Proctor suggest that the
accused women only confess so that they may live. Miller's narration at
this time says, "IT IS HIS OWN SUSPICION, BUT HE RESISTS IT".
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