ACT 4 – Scene 4
Proctor hopes that if he makes an oral confession in Court, that will be
sufficient for his Judges, but they require it in writing and it will be posted on the Church door. He cannot face this and, therefore, retracts his confession. He would rather die, and preserve his good
He asks himself, “God in heaven, what is John Proctor, what is John Proctor?”
He is lead out and hanged.
Proctor is also in a dilemma over his confession, but the Court want their
pound of flesh and his confession must be in the form of a signed written testimony that will be hung on the Church door.
What undermines Proctor’s position is the fact that Rebecca Nurse will not
confess, and she is shocked when Proctor does.
Also, Elizabeth has not confessed either although she has a year to live and time is not so important. There is no doubt that if need be she would probably confess at the last minute if her husband is still alive. She holds out with the hope that the Trials will end as they have in Andover, and she will be released without making a confession.
Proctor has already performed one great lie in his life, that being his
affair with Abigail. He does not wish to make another lie. A small one he could have lived with, but the fact that a large written lie in plain view of everyone was required, is unthinkable.
The crux of the matter, therefore, is that if his written confession were to
appear on the Church door, he would be betraying all those who have refused to confess. There would be no honour in this and he would end up a broken man with no name.