The Changing Temper of John Proctor in The Crucible, a Play by Arthur Miller
“Never do anything when you are in a temper, for you will do everything wrong.” -Baltasar Gracian. Anger is one of the strongest feelings and can cause one to do and say things drastically out of character. The events that take place in The Crucible by Arthur Miller are fueled with fear and temper. After lying about what happened in the forest at the beginning of the book, Abigail threatens to kill the other girls if they tell what truly happened. Later, John Proctor’s temper compels him to assault Mary Warren and there are many more instances of what temper does to the people of Salem throughout the play. In The Crucible, as the early events of the Salem Witch Trials take place, John proctors character changes from calm, to frustrated, to angry, and lastly to violent.
To begin with in Act II of The Crucible, John Proctor’s attitude is seemingly irritable and slightly frustrated. At the very beginning of the Act Proctor becomes frustrated when his wife, Elizabeth, tells him that their house servant has gone into Salem, against their wishes. “It is a fault, it is a fault, Elizabeth – you’re the mistress here, not Mary Warren.” – John Proctor. In this scene Miller describes him as trying not to harshly condemn his wife for allowing Mary Warren to leave. Shortly after, John proctor is again frustrated as his wife questions him about Abigail and tries to get him to speak out against her. Throughout this conversation, Miller notes how Proctor’s anger and frustration is rising despite his attempts to conceal these emotions. Certainty, however, anger is impossible to hide forever.
Furthermore, John Proctor’s temper continues to be tested when Reverend Hale stops by his house to talk to him and Elizabeth. After Reverend Hale questions John and Elizabeth on whether or not he believes witches are real Elizabeth begins to get defensive, as does Hale and John is unable to control the situation. His temper is further provoked as Giles Corey and Francis Nurse enter and tell him Rebecca Nurse was arrested for using witchcraft to murder Goody Putnam’s children. “How may such a woman murder children?”- John Proctor angry with disbelief. Finally, his temper comes to a head when Cheever enters and announces that he has an arrest warrant for his wife. He becomes instantly indignant and rips the arrest warrant, defying the court. He then refuses to let them take him wife, at one point even pushing Cheever’s arm. Eventually, Goody Proctor is taken, everyone else leaves the house, and John is left with his children and Mary Warren.
Consequently, after Abigail yet again lies, Goody Proctor is arrested on suspicious of witchcraft. Abigail claims that Elizabeth used witchcraft to stab her through a doll she sewed. When Cheever finds the doll in the Proctor house, he also discovers there is a needle in it exactly where Abigail was stabbed. Mary Warren enters and tells everyone in the house that she sewed the doll that day in court and that it was her needle not Elizabeth’s; however Elizabeth is still taken to jail. Once, alone Mary Warren explains to John that Abigail wants his wife dead in revenge which is why she accused her. She also claims that she cannot tell the court this out of fear of what Abigail will do to her. “She’ll kill me for sayin’ that! Proctor continues toward her. Abby’ll charge lechery on you, Mr. Proctor!” – Mary Warren. At this point, John is so angry and distraught that he violently attacks Mary Warren and chokes her hopping to make her agree to tell the truth. In the end Mary Warren still stands firm that she cannot tell and John throws her to the floor and angrily leaves the room.
In short, in Act II of The Crucible, John Proctor’s temper get the best of him and causes him to act irrationally. Act I of the play portrayed John as a quiet man firm in his beliefs. He refused to let Parris or Abigail sway him from what he wanted or what he thought was true. In contrast Act II portrays John as a secretive man, whose temper is easily provoked. It can be easily assumed that John will suffer from the repercussions of his actions in Act III. Temper is a powerful thing, when controlled it can be a strength but when uncontrolled it is a weakness. In John’s case his temper is not only his weakness but a part of his downfall.
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