Summary and Analysis
Act II: Scene 1
Act II begins in the house of John Proctor eight days after Abigail and Betty began accusing individuals of witchcraft. Proctor returns late after working in the fields and eats dinner with his wife Elizabeth. Proctor tells Elizabeth that he is striving to make her happy.
Elizabeth questions Proctor to find out if he was late for dinner because he had gone to Salem. She tells Proctor that their servant, Mary Warren, has been in Salem all day. Proctor becomes angry because he told Mary Warren not to go to Salem. Elizabeth tells Proctor that Mary Warren has been named an official of the court. Proctor learns that four magistrates have been named to the General Court and the Deputy Governor of the Province is serving as the judge. The court has jailed fourteen people for witchcraft.
Elizabeth tells Proctor that he must go to Salem and reveal that Abigail is a fake. Proctor hesitates and then reveals that he cannot prove what Abigail said because they were alone when they talked. Elizabeth becomes upset with Proctor because he did not tell her he spent time alone with Abigail. Proctor and Elizabeth argue. Proctor is angry because he believes Elizabeth is accusing him of dishonesty and is suspicious that he has resumed his affair with Abigail. Elizabeth is angry because she does not believe Proctor is completely honest with her.
Act II, Scene 1 provides the audience with the first glimpse of Elizabeth and John Proctor together. Up until this point, the audience has only heard about Elizabeth through Abigail and Proctor. Abigail has described Elizabeth as a cold "sniveling" woman who cannot possibly satisfy Proctor or make him happy. Proctor has vehemently defended Elizabeth.
From outward appearances, the Proctor household seems to be the typical Puritan home. As Proctor and Elizabeth eat dinner they discuss the farm, crops, and domestic issues; however, tension exists in the house. Elizabeth knows about Proctor's affair. She tells Proctor that she forgives him, but a lingering distrust plagues her. Even though Proctor has remained faithful for the past seven months and is truly sorry for his affair, Elizabeth faces difficulty moving beyond the past. As a result, Proctor feels that Elizabeth continually scrutinizes his actions, which frustrates and angers him.
Tension and mutual frustration define their relationship. Elizabeth is frustrated with Proctor because of his initial infidelity and because she believes he still has feelings for Abigail. She is also frustrated with herself. She wants to forgive Proctor and begin reestablishing their relationship, but she cannot forget what he has done. Elizabeth tries to demonstrate her faith in Proctor when she asks him to go to Salem even though she does not want him anywhere near Abigail. However, the fact that he spent time alone with Abigail shatters Elizabeth's confidence in him. Elizabeth automatically suspects Proctor of wrongdoing.
Proctor, however, regrets his affair with Abigail. His own guilt, coupled with Elizabeth's subtle recrimination, wearies him. He too would like to move beyond the past and strengthen their marriage, but he does not know how to deal with Elizabeth's feelings or the distance between them. During the past seven months, Proctor has tried to please Elizabeth to gain her forgiveness and affection, but nothing seems to work. The current argument over Abigail is yet another example of their strained relationship. He is irritated with himself because he did not tell Elizabeth he was alone with Abigail in the first place. Now, Elizabeth is angry, not just because he was alone with Abigail, but because he did not tell her from the beginning.
clapped put, moved, set swiftly ( clapped into jail).
your justice would freeze beer said here to a person who forgives another for an injustice, but still harbors resentment for the deed and makes the other person feel guilty.