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ELIZABETH: John, with so many in jail, more than Cheever’s help is needed now, I think. Would you favor me with this? Go to Abigail.
PROCTOR, his soul hardening as he senses..: What have I to say to Abigail?
ELIZABETH, delicately: John-grant me this. You have a faulty understanding of young girls. There is a promise made in any bed-
PROCTOR, striving against his anger: What promise!
ELIZABETH: Spoke or silent, a promise is surely made. And she may dote on it now-I am sure she does-and thinks to kill me, then to take my place.
Proctor's anger is rising; he cannot speak.
ELIZABETH: It is her dearest hope, 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. (II.162-168)
Elizabeth points out that Abigail’s behavior, and her sudden accusation of Elizabeth, is motivated by jealousy and the possible benefit she might gain if Elizabeth dies. Proctor has a hard time coming around to see the truth of this point.
HALE, quietly-it has impressed him: Proctor, let you open with me now, for I have a rumor that troubles me. It's said you hold no belief that there may even be witches in the world. Is that true, sir?
PROCTOR- he knows this is critical, and is striving against his disgust with Hale and with himself for even answering : I know not what I have said, I may have said it. I have wondered if there be witches in the world-although I cannot believe they come among us now.
HALE: Then you do not believe –
PROCTOR: I have no knowledge of it; the Bible speaks of witches, and I will not deny them.
HALE: And you, woman?
ELIZABETH: I-I cannot believe it.
HALE, shocked: You cannot!
PROCTOR: Elizabeth, you bewilder him!
ELIZABETH, to Hale: I cannot think the Devil may own a woman's soul, Mr. Hale, when she keeps an upright way, as I have. I am a good woman, I know it; and if you believe I may do only good work in the world, and yet be secretly bound to Satan, then I must tell you, sir, I do not believe it.
HALE: But, woman, you do believe there are witches in-
ELIZABETH: If you think that I am one, then I say there are none.
HALE: You surely do not fly against the Gospel, the Gospel-
PROCTOR: She believe in the Gospel, every word!
ELIZABETH: Question Abigail Williams about the Gospel, not myself!
Hale stares at her.
PROCTOR: She do not mean to doubt the Gospel, sir, you cannot think it. This be a Christian house, sir, a Christian house.
HALE: God keep you both; let the third child be quickly baptized, and go you without fail each Sunday in to Sabbath prayer; and keep a solemn, quiet way among you. (II.277-292)
For their own safety, the Reverend Hale urges Elizabeth and John Proctor to adhere to the external rituals of religion. He hopes to prevent an outcome that by now is pretty much inevitable, an accusation of witchcraft.
HALE: Mr. Proctor, your house is not a church; your theology must tell you that.
PROCTOR: It does, sir, it does; and it tells me that a minister may pray to God without he have golden candlesticks upon the altar.
HALE: What golden candlesticks?
PROCTOR: Since we built the church there were pewter candlesticks upon the altar; Francis Nurse made them, y’know, and a sweeter hand never touched the metal. But Parris came, and for twenty week he preach nothin' but golden candlesticks until he had them. I labor the earth from dawn of day to blink of night, and I tell you true, when I look to heaven and see my money glaring at his elbows-it hurt my prayer, sir, it hurt my prayer. I think, sometimes, the man dreams cathedrals, not clapboard meetin' houses.
HALE, thinks, then: And yet, Mister, a Christian on Sabbath Day must be in church. Pause. Tell me-you have three children?
PROCTOR: Aye. Boys.
HALE: How comes it that only two are baptized?
PROCTOR, starts to speak, then stops, then, as though unable to restrain this: 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.
HALE: I must say it, Mr. Proctor; that is not for you to decide. The man's ordained, therefore the light of God is in him.
PROCTOR, flushed with resentment but trying to smile: What's your suspicion, Mr. Hale?
HALE: No, no, I have no –
Proctor: I nailed the roof upon the church, I hung the door-
HALE: Oh, did you! That's a good sign, then.
PROCTOR: It may be I have been too quick to bring the man to book, but you cannot think we ever desired the destruction of religion. I think that's in your mind, is it not? (II.219-232)
Instead of conforming to the outward signs of religion, Proctor can’t stand greed and hypocrisy of the Reverend Parris – and so he stays home. Does the play suggest that characters can get along better without religion?