'The Crucible' Quotes

These quotes, selected from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, highlight the psychology of protagonist John Proctor and his two antagonists, Abigail Williams and Judge Danforth. We see Abigail’s art of manipulation, Danforth’s black-and-white worldview, and Proctor losing his initial restraint and admitting to what he did.

Abigail's Character

ABIGAIL, holding Mercy back: No, he’ll be comin’ up. Listen, now; if they be questioning us, tell them we danced—I told him as much already.
MERCY: Aye. And what more?
ABIGAIL: He knows Tituba conjured Ruth’s sisters to come out of the grave.
MERCY: And what more?
ABIGAIL: He saw you naked.
MERCY, clapping her hands together with a frightened laugh: Oh, Jesus!

This dialogue between Abigail and Mercy Lewis in Act I, next to a non-responsive Betty Parris, showcases the lack of straightforwardness in Abigail. She provides information in bits and pieces, which Mercy has to cajole with her interjection “Aye. And what more?”

Once Betty wakes up and says that Abigail drank blood to kill Beth Proctor, John Proctor’s wife, her tone drastically changes, and she makes direct threats to the other girls:

Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all. (...) And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down.

Abigail Williams' Relationship With John Proctor

I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart! I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men! And now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes? I will not, I cannot! You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!

Abigail Williams utters these words in an Act I conversation with John Proctor, and this is how the audience learns of her past affair with him. Proctor might still have feelings of attraction for her—earlier in the dialogue, he says “ I may think of you softly from time to time”— but nothing more than that and would rather move on. Abigail, by contrast, begs him to come back to her, in a display of anger that showcases the roots of the chaos she would wreak through Salem. In fact, not only is she jealous of Elizabeth Proctor—thinking that, if she could only dispose of Elizabeth, John would be hers—, more importantly, she openly expresses her spite for the whole town “I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons.”

 Salem's Puritanical Society

You must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between. This is a sharp time, now, a precise time—we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world. Now, by God’s grace, the shining sun is up, and them that fear not light will surely praise it.

This statement, given by Judge Danforth in Act III, aptly sums up the puritanical attitude in Salem. Danforth deems himself an honorable man, but, much like his peers, he thinks in black and white and, unlike Hale, he does not have a change of heart. In a world where everything and everyone belongs to either God or the Devil, the court and government of Massachusetts, being divinely sanctioned, necessarily belong to God. And, given that God is infallible, anyone opposing the court’s activities cannot have honest disagreements. As a consequence, anyone who questions the trials, such as Proctor or Giles Corey, is the court’s enemy, and, since the court is sanctioned by God, any opponent can’t be anything but a servant of the Devil. 

John Proctor's Character

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. 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.

In the climax of Act III, Proctor's noble character appears in that he is willing accept blame for his own actions. In these lines from Act III, he employs nearly the same language his wife used with him in Act II, where she had advised him to understand that Abigail might have read more into their affair than he did—"There is a promise made in any bed—Spoke or silent, a promise is surely made. And she may dote on it now—I am sure she does, and thinks to kill me, then to take my place” and “I think she sees another meaning in that blush.”

The usage of his wife's reasoning shows that Proctor seems closer to her and understanding of her position. We should note, though, that while he repeatedly describes Abigail as "whore," he never uses similar language on himself.

A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud—God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!” 

In Act III, after Elizabeth Proctor unwittingly botched his confession and after Mary Warren betrayed him, Proctor loses any remnant of composure, declaring that God is dead, and then utters these lines. This pronouncement is striking for a number of reasons. He realizes that he and others are doomed, but his emphasis is on his own guilt, which had nearly destroyed him. He speaks of this even before he lashes out at Danforth, even though Danforth is grossly more guilty. In his tirade, he puts both himself and Danforth in the same category. An idealistic character, Proctor has high standards for himself, which can also be a flaw, in that he sees his mistake as comparable to that of Danforth, who is responsible for numerous condemnations and deaths. 

"Leave Me My Name!"

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!

Proctor utters these lines at the end of the play, in Act IV, when he is debating about whether to confess to witchcraft to have his own life spared. While the judges and Hale convincingly push him in that direction, he wavers when he has to provide a signature to his confession. He cannot bring himself to do that, in part, because he does not want to dishonor fellow prisoners who died without giving in to false confessions.

In these lines, his obsession with his good name shines fully: in a society such as Salem, where public and private morality are one and the same, reputation is of utmost importance. It was this same reasoning that kept him from testifying against Abigail early in the play. After the trials unfold, however, he came to the understanding that he can preserve a good reputation by telling the truth, rather than preserving a façade of puritanical integrity, where confessing to serving the devil meant automatic redemption from guilt. By refusing to sign with his name, he can die a good man.

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Frey, Angelica. "'The Crucible' Quotes." ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2021, thoughtco.com/the-crucible-quotes-4586391. Frey, Angelica. (2021, February 11). 'The Crucible' Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-crucible-quotes-4586391 Frey, Angelica. "'The Crucible' Quotes." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-crucible-quotes-4586391 (accessed March 21, 2023).