Discuss the importance of the character of Elizabeth and consider how Miller makes us respond to her throughout the play (30 marks) Throughout the Crucible Miller uses Elizabeth, who is a pious character, as a judge of character. Through her eyes we learn who is innately good such as Rebecca Nurse, we learn that John Proctor is a tragic hero whose fatal flaw is that he is “somewhat bewildered” and that Abigail truly is “a whore” with an “endless capacity for dissembling”. The audience trusts her because when Hale asks her if she knows her commandments she says, “I surely do, there be no mark of blame upon my life Mr Hale. She has been unfairly wronged by her husband and as a result counts herself “so plain, so poorly made” which prompts the audience to feel sorry for her and consequently trust her judgement. Elizabeth educates the other characters. In Act Two she explains to her husband that “there is a promise made in any bed” and although Proctor blushes with embarrassment in Church, Abigail “sees another meaning in that blush” which is why the accusation is made against Elizabeth of witchcraft.
She knows that “she thinks to dance with you on my grave” which is why she is desperate for her husband to no longer “keep that from the court”. She makes a mockery of the witch hunt as when Goody Good is accused she reasons “mumbled! She may mumble if she’s hungry! ”, informing Mary Warren that what the girls are doing is preposterous – a fact which the audience agrees with as more and more people are called in for questioning as a result of the mass hysteria. Miller uses Elizabeth in order to convey to the audience the importance of honesty.
She is a woman with good morals as she is “a covenanted Christian woman”. The accusations are an accumulation of lies and the airing of petty grievances; so when Proctor explains “in all her life, sir, she have never lie” Elizabeth stands out as an honest character – one who’s word is final. Proctor’s faith, and in turn the faith of the audience in Elizabeth’s compulsion to tell the truth is the crux upon which the whole play pivots. When asked “Is your husband a lecher? ” in order to validate Proctor’s claim that “you are pulling down heaven and raising up a whore! she responds “no sir”; ultimately condemning John in her attempts to protect him and the family name. This shows that although her justice “would freeze beer” she does truly love him. The effect of one lie can be the difference between life and death which is shown by Elizabeth’s deviation from her honest nature, making her an important character. At first, the audience believes that Elizabeth is a weak character; as in Act 2 “it hurt [her] heart to strip her, poor rabbit” and Mary Warren manages to “frighten all [her] strength away”.
The audience soon changes their perception of Elizabeth – in the same way that they do for other characters such as John and Reverend Hale – as when she is called in for questioning she becomes a pillar of strength. She says “”I will fear nothing” as she resolves to be brave, despite having ‘great fear’, and demands that Proctor tells the children “I have gone to visit someone sick” because talk of witchcraft will ‘frighten them’.
Towards the end of the play when asked to “contend with him [Proctor]” for a confession she demands “let me speak with him” whilst she “promise[s] nothing” which shows the authority she has and how she remains calm even when her husband’s life is at stake. This arguably makes her seem uncaring – Danforth questions “are you stone? ” – yet on the contrary her level-head and believe that she “cannot judge” John are the reason that by the end of the play, Proctor makes his own decision to hang, and Elizabeth proclaims “he has his goodness now.
God forbid I take that from him! ” The audience is forced to re-evaluate their perception of the other characters as a consequence of their misjudgement of Elizabeth, ad in this way Miller uses her as a thought-provoking tool. Ultimately, the character of Elizabeth is the embodiment of ‘The Crucible’. Initially, she is scorned by her husband’s lechery and as a result he resolves to “please her” which shows repentance for his actions, his ‘sin’ and his desire to not wrong his wife in such a way again.
Her perseverance causes Proctor to confess to Hale that “the children’s sickness had nought to do with witchcraft” which leads to his admission “I have known her” [Abigail]. He publicises his wrong-doing in an attempt to make amends for his mistakes and earn the forgiveness of Elizabeth. He initially says “I have been thinking I would confess to them” before realising this is wrong – he says in Act 2 “your spirit twists around the single error of my life and I will never tear it free” and yet as he comes to terms with the fact he is “no good man” and refuses to give a false confession in order to save his neck he earns his “goodness”.
By the end of the Crucible he has been purged from his wrong doing, and in turn his wife Elizabeth has been purged of her cold nature and inability to forgive John for this “single error”. Although their marriage has been through hell and back, Elizabeth and John are consoled as the play concludes and the audience believes that wrongs have been set right.