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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes
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ACT IV, SCENE 9

For this reason, he has Rebecca Nurse brought in to witness
Proctor's confession. Proctor has great standing among the
condemned, and if Rebecca can be persuaded to join him in
confessing, maybe the others will follow, and no one will have
to hang this morning.

It'll never work. As Elizabeth says, Rebecca has one foot in
heaven already, nothing can hurt her now. Proctor is filled with
shame under Rebecca's astonished gaze, though he tries to keep
going in the evil he's decided to do. He hits a snag when he's
asked to name others he's seen with the Devil.

NOTE: Up until now, every confession the judges received
implicated others. Naming names proved the witch was now on
God's side and wanted to do everything possible to defeat the
archenemy Satan. Inside information on the Devil's "troop
strength" was obviously the most valuable service a repentant
witch could provide.

We saw it happen at the end of Act I, when the girls, prompted
by Tituba, reeled off names in a frenzy. If every witch did the
same in her confession, it's easy to see why this madness spread
as fast as it did.

Proctor can't do it. "I speak my own sins; I cannot judge
another," he says. Hale and Parris, though for different reasons,
talk Danforth into accepting this much as sufficient.

Then Proctor has to sign it. He resists, but Danforth has bent
enough for this man. John Proctor signs his name.

What finally gets to him is that this lie, with his signature at the
bottom, will be posted on the church door for the whole world
to see. He knows it doesn't make sense, but that's where the line
is for him-he just can't cross it:



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!

This is a stirring speech. If you've ever been in a situation where
you've reached your limit and can't stand any more, you'll
recognize the feeling John Proctor is expressing.

NOTE: But what does he mean, "I have given you my soul;
leave me my name"? Surely his soul is more important than two
words on a piece of paper.

It used to be that a man's "name" meant his reputation. The
name of Rebecca Nurse, for example, was synonymous with
goodness, kindness, common sense, and peacemaking. The
name of John Proctor, before the disaster of his trial, meant
strength, honesty, and fair dealing. Is this what Proctor is trying
to protect?

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