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DANFORTH: You are in all respects a Gospel Christian?
PROCTOR: I am, sir.
PARRIS: Such a Christian that will not come to church but once in a month!
DANFORTH, restrained-he is curious: Not come to church?
PROCTOR: I-I have no love for Mr. Parris. It is no secret. But God I surely love.
CHEEVER: He plough on Sunday, sir.
DANFORTH: Plow on Sunday!
CHEEVER, apologetically: I think it be evidence, John. I am an official of the court, I cannot keep it.
PROCTOR: I-I have once or twice plowed on Sunday. I have three children, sir, and until last year my land give little.
GILES: You’ll find other Christians that do plow on Sunday if the truth be known.
HALE: Your Honor, I cannot think you may judge the man on such evidence.
DANFORTH: I judge nothing. Pause. He keeps watching Proctor, who tries to meet his gaze. I tell you straight, Mister-I have seen marvels in this court. I have seen people choked before my eyes by spirits; I have seen them stuck by pins and slashed by daggers. I have until this moment not the slightest reason to suspect that the children may be deceiving me. Do you understand my meaning?
PROCTOR: Excellency, does it not strike upon you that so many of these women have lived so long with such upright reputation, and-
PARRIS: Do you read the Gospel, Mr. Proctor?
PROCTOR: I read the Gospel.
PARRIS: I think not, or you should surely know that Cain were an upright man, and yet he did kill Abel.
PROCTOR: Aye, God tells us that. To Danforth: But who tells us Rebecca Nurse murdered seven babies by sending out her spirit on them? It is the children only, and this one will swear she lied to you. (III.116-132)
Danforth thinks that he can undermine Proctor’s honesty by showing that he isn’t a true Christian. He thinks that being a Christian means following rules, like not plowing on Sunday and knowing the Gospel by heart. On the other hand, Danforth is very trusting – too trusting – of the honesty of the young women who give the accusations. In other words, he’s totally inconsistent.
DANFORTH: Then you tell me that you sat in my court, callously lying, when you knew that people would hang by your evidence? She does not answer. Answer me!
MARY WARREN, almost inaudibly: I did, sir.
DANFORTH: How were you instructed in your life? Do you not know that God damns all liars? She cannot speak. Or is it now that you lie?
MARY WARREN: No, sir-I am with God now.
DANFORTH: You are with God now.
MARY WARREN: Aye, sir.
DANFORTH, containing himself: I will tell you this-you are either lying now, or you were lying in the court, and in either case you have committed perjury and you will go to jail for it. You cannot lightly say you lied, Mary. Do you know that?
MARY WARREN: I cannot lie no more. I am with God, I am with God.
DANFORTH: These will be sufficient. Sit you down, children. Silently they sit. Your friend, Mary Warren, has given us a deposition. In which she swears that she never saw familiar spirits, apparitions, nor any manifest of the Devil. She claims as well that none of you have not seen these things either. Slight pause. Now, children, this is a court of law. The law, based upon the Bible, and the Bible, writ by Almighty God, forbid the practice of witchcraft, and describe death as the penalty thereof. But likewise, children, the law and Bible damn all bearers of false witness. Slight pause. Now then. It does not escape me that this deposition may be devised to blind us; it may well be that Mary Warren has been conquered by Satan, who sends her here to distract our sacred purpose. If so, her neck will break for it. But if she speak true, I bid you now drop your guile and confess your pretense, for a quick confession will go easier with you. Pause. Abigail Williams, rise. Abigail slowly rises. Is there any truth in this?
ABIGAIL: No, sir.
DANFORTH, thinks, glances at Mary, then back to Abigail: Children, a very augur bit will now be turned into your souls until your honesty is proved. Will either of you change your positions now, or do you force me to hard questioning?
ABIGAIL: I have naught to change, sir. She lies. (III.256-263;266-269)
Mary asserts that she is telling the truth, but without Abigail’s confirmation, it is one person’s word versus another’s. The Court had assumed all along that the girls were telling the truth, and now it has too much invested to take only one girl’s word against all the others. Its justice rests upon the fact that Abigail and the other girls are telling the truth. It has, in effect, given over its power to Abigail.
PROCTOR, breathless and in agony: It [Abigail] is a whore!
DANFORTH, dumfounded: You charge-?
ABIGAIL: Mr. Danforth, he is lying!
PROCTOR: Mark her! Now she'll suck a scream to stab me with but-
DANFORTH: You will prove this! This will not pass!
PROCTOR, trembling, his life collapsing about him: I have known her, sir. I have known her.
DANFORTH: You-you are a lecher?
FRANCIS, horrified: John, you cannot say such a –
PROCTOR: Oh, Francis, I wish you had some evil in you that you might know me. To Danforth: A man will not cast away his good name. You surely know that.
DANFORTH, dumfounded: In-in what time? In what place?
PROCTOR, his voice about to break, and his shame great: In the proper place-where my beasts are bedded. On the last night of my joy, some eight months past. She used to serve me in my house, sir. He has to clamp his jaw to keep from weeping. A man may think God sleeps, but God sees everything, I know it now. I beg you, sir, I beg you-see her what she is. My wife, my dear good wife, took this girl soon after, sir, and put her out on the highroad. And being what she is, a lump of vanity, sir- He is being overcome. Excellency, forgive me, forgive me. Angrily against himself, he turns away from the Governor for a moment. Then, as though to cry out is his only means of speech left: She thinks to dance with me on my wife's grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore's vengeance, and you must see it now. (III.374-384)
Proctor sacrifices his reputation in order to save his wife and stop the court proceedings. He also recognizes the truth in what his wife said about the implicit promise of the act of sex, and so he stops lying to himself and admits that lust is not such a simple matter.