by Arthur Miller
John Proctor Timeline and Summary
- John Proctor enters Betty Parris’s bedroom and asks what mischief Abigail is up to. Abigail admits to him that they were just frightened because they were caught by the minister dancing in the forest the night before, and Betty will recover soon enough.
- Abigail flirts with him. He tells her they’re through, and she should forget that he ever touched her, but he still clearly has some feelings for her.
- It becomes clear that Proctor is no fan of the Reverend Parris. He mentions that Parris is the first minister who ever wanted to own his house, indicating that he thinks Parris is greedy.
- When Proctor suggests that the witchcraft accusations are absurd, Parris accuses Proctor of leading factions against him.
- A week later, Proctor and his wife Elizabeth discuss the goings-on about the town. Proctor has been pretty ignorant about what’s happening, and he soon learns that things are crazy with all of the witchcraft accusations being made.
- He wants Elizabeth’s forgiveness, but she says he is the only one judging himself. He says and does things that indicate he is tiptoeing around the house, trying to please his wife.
- He gets angry when Elizabeth urges him to tell everybody what Abigail told him. He gets angry when Elizabeth says he made a “physical” promise to Abigail that he needs to break. But he knows deep down that Elizabeth is right.
- When Hale comes around, he defends himself and his wife as good Christians. The defense is pointless because his wife is arrested shortly thereafter.
- After his wife leaves with Cheever and Herrick, he tells Mary Warren that she will tell the truth about what’s going on – about the poppet that she made, about the pretense that’s going on. Mary Warren lets him know that Abigail has told her about their relationship, which he realizes gives him the freedom to open up his own mouth. He will not, he says, let his wife, a good woman, die for him.
- Proctor brings Mary Warren to the court. He has brought a deposition, signed by her, that she lied about seeing spirits.
- When Abigail manages to turn the tables on Proctor, and Mary Warren starts to backtrack on the truth about the girls, Proctor confesses his sin of adultery to the court and both ministers.
- Proctor says his wife cannot lie, so Danforth sends for Elizabeth to see the truth of this. Unfortunately, this is the one moment when Elizabeth decides to lie, to protect her husband.
- Reverend Hale defends Proctor against Abigail’s lies. Abigail begins to fly into hysteria, pretending that spirits are about.
- Mary Warren breaks down and accuses Proctor of bewitching her, of making her sign her name in the Devil’s book.
- Proctor is arrested as a witch.
- The day he is supposed to hang, Proctor gets a chance to see his wife Elizabeth.
- Heavy with emotion, they discuss whether he should confess or not. He says he’s not a good man, and it would be a lie to go to the gallows with a good name; so he thinks he should confess.
- When Elizabeth lets him know that she believes she’s at fault for his adultery, and that she knows he is a good man, he decides that he does, indeed, want to live. So he will confess.
- However, at the last minute, though he will verbally confess, he doesn’t want to sign his name to a written confession. Why? Because it will mean he sold his friends out, lying about them as well as himself. And so he refuses to confess and goes to his hanging, a free man finally, having found “his goodness” again (as his wife puts it in the last line of the play).