by Arthur Miller
The Crucible Respect and Reputation Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Line) Every time a character talks counts as one line, even if what they say turns into a long monologue.
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. Then again, there are really two ways of having a reputation. The first is to follow the rules, which is what Proctor gives up by admitting he committed adultery. The second is to have integrity. Proctor preserves his integrity by being honest.
DANFORTH: Your husband—did he indeed turn from you?
ELIZABETH, in agony: My husband—is a goodly man, sir.
DANFORTH: Then he did not turn from you.
ELIZABETH, starting to glance at Proctor: He—
DANFORTH, reaches out and holds her face, then: Look at me! To your own knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery? (In a crisis of indecision she cannot speak.) Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher!
ELIZABETH, faintly: No, sir.
DANFORTH: Remove her!
PROCTOR: Elizabeth, tell the truth!
DANFORTH: She has spoken. Remove her!
PROCTOR, crying out: Elizabeth, I have confessed it!
ELIZABETH: Oh, God! (The door closes behind her.)
PROCTOR: She only thought to save my name! (III.410-426)
The one moment in Elizabeth’s life when telling the truth would save her, she lies to save her husband’s reputation. Is this an act of love and courage, or has she gotten her priorities mixed up? Proctor bears some of the blame for her telling a lie. He has failed to appreciate or praise her honesty in the past, so it’s easy to understand why she would cave at this moment, dealing with a personal subject in front of so many people.
PROCTOR: I have three children—how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends?
DANFORTH: You have not sold your friends—
PROCTOR: Beguile me not! I blacken all of them when this is nailed to the church the very day they hang for silence!
DANFORTH: Mr. Proctor, I must have good and legal proof that you—
PROCTOR: You are the high court, your word is good enough! Tell them I confessed myself; say Proctor broke his knees and wept like a woman; say what you will, but my name cannot—
DANFORTH, with suspicion: It is the same, is it not? If I report it or you sign to it?
PROCTOR, he knows it is insane: No, it is not the same! What others say and what I sign to is not the same!
DANFORTH: Why? Do you mean to deny this confession when you are free?
PROCTOR: I mean to deny nothing!
DANFORTH: Then explain to me, Mr. Proctor, why you will not let—
PROCTOR, with a cry of his whole soul: Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!
DANFORTH, pointing at the confession in Proctor's hand: Is that document a lie? If it is a lie I will not accept it! What say you? I will not deal in lies, Mister! (Proctor is motionless.) You will give me your honest confession in my hand, or I cannot keep you from the rope. Proctor does not reply. Which way do you go, Mister?
His breast heaving, his eyes staring, Proctor tears the paper and crumples it. (IV.284-294)
Proctor is unwilling to blacken his friends’ reputations—and he clings to his own reputation of loyalty and integrity. So he throws his confession away.