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Free Study Guide-The Crucible by Arthur Miller-Free Booknotes Summary
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ACT IV

Summary (continued)

Proctor asks his wife whether he should confess. Elizabeth admits that she would like to see him living. He says that it would be fraud for him to go to the gallows like a saint, for he has already "broken" the commandments by his adultery. He pleads with her that she should forgive him if he gives a false confession. She says that if he cannot forgive himself, it does not matter at all whether she forgives him. Elizabeth says that she has realized that he would not have committed adultery had she not been cold to him.

Hathorne arrives and Elizabeth tells Proctor that he should do what he likes. He tells Hathorne that he wants to live and will confess. Hathorne runs out shouting the news. Proctor then asks Elizabeth whether she would have confessed in his circumstances, but she refuses to answer.

Hathorne brings in Danforth, Hale, Parris, and Cheever. In reply to questions from Danforth, Proctor says that he has seen the Devil and has bound himself to work for him. At this point, Rebecca Nurse is brought in by Herrick and greets Proctor warmly. On being told that he is confessing, she is shocked, but refuses to confess herself.


Proctor refuses to say that he has ever seen Rebecca or anyone else with the Devil. Even under threats from Danforth, he refuses to name anybody else. He is asked to sign the written confession, which he at first declines to do. He says that it is enough that he has confessed in the presence of so many witnesses. Finally, under pressure, he signs the document, but refuses to hand it over to Danforth. When told that it is to be shown to the villagers, he asks whether the confession was meant to purge him of his sins in the eyes of God or to justify the court's actions in the eyes of the villagers. If his confession is posted, Proctor realizes that his name will be blackened forever, for he will have lied to save himself while his friends have died for their silence. Danforth says that he cannot accept the confession if it is a lie and demands that he give a clear answer. Proctor crumples the confession in his hand. Elizabeth rushes to him in tears, but he tells her not to cry, for he has found at last "some shred of goodness" in himself. Rebecca congratulates him and says that in the higher judgment of God, he stands exonerated.

Danforth, in disgust, orders the convicted to be hung and storms angrily out of the room. Herrick leads Proctor out. Parris, fearing for his life, pleads with Elizabeth to go and talk to her husband while there is still time. Hale, too, pleads with her, asking what good it will do her husband to die. She, however, asserts that he has recovered his real goodness and honesty and that she refuses to take it away from him.

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