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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.
ELIZABETH: It is a mouse no more. I forbid her [Mary] go, and she raises up her chin like the daughter of a prince and says to me, "I must go to Salem, Goody Proctor; I am an official of the court!"
PROCTOR: Court! What court?
ELIZABETH: Aye, it is a proper court they have now. They've sent four judges out of Boston, she says, weighty magistrates of the General Court, and at the head sits the Deputy Governor of the Province.
PROCTOR, astonished: Why, she's mad.
ELIZABETH: I would to God she were. There be fourteen people in the jail now, she says. Proctor simply looks at her, unable to grasp it. And they'll be tried, and the court have power to hang them too, she says.
PROCTOR, scoffing, but without conviction: Ah, they'd never hang-
ELIZABETH: They'll hang if they'll not confess, John. The town's gone wild, I think. She speak of Abigail, and I thought she were a saint, to hear her. Abigail brings the other girls into the court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel. And folks are brought before them, and if they scream and howl and fall to the floor-the person's clapped in the jail for bewitchin' them.
PROCTOR, wide-eyed: Oh, it is a black mischief.
ELIZABETH: I think you must go to Salem, John. (He turns to her.) I think so. You must tell them it is a fraud. (II.46-54)
Justice in the witchcraft trials means confessing or dying – so even if you’re not guilty, you must confess to avoid death. But both Elizabeth and Proctor know it’s a fraud because of their earlier association with Abigail.
PROCTOR, with solemn warning: You will not judge me more, Elizabeth. I have good reason to think before I charge fraud on Abigail, and I will think on it. Let you look to your own improvement before you go to judge your husband any more. I have forgot Abigail, and-
ELIZABETH: And I.
PROCTOR: Spare me! You forget nothin' and forgive nothin'. Learn charity, woman. I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven month since she is gone. I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart. I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judged for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house!
ELIZABETH: John, you are not open with me. You saw her with a crowd, you said. Now you-
PROCTOR: I'll plead my honesty no more, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH-(now she would justify herself): John, I am only-
PROCTOR: No more! I should have roared you down when first you told me your suspicion. But I wilted, and, like a Christian, I confessed. Confessed! Some dream I had must have mistaken you for God that day. But you're not, you're not, and let you remember it! Let you look sometimes for the goodness in me, and judge me not.
ELIZABETH: I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you. I never thought you but a good man, John-with a smile -only somewhat bewildered.
PROCTOR, laughing bitterly: Oh, Elizabeth, your justice would freeze beer! (II.65-87)
Elizabeth is a good and just woman, but forgiveness is difficult under any circumstances – and as a result, her husband feels judged every day of their marriage. The situation is a difficult one. It’s impossible for Elizabeth to know whether her husband was dishonest because he still desires Abigail or if is simply too scared of Elizabeth’s suspicions to be honest. They both leap to assume the worst about the other person.