In the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller, John Proctor is seen as a tragic hero because he is able to overcome his tragic flaw of hubris, but still the circumstances led to his death.
A tragic hero is a person who has sacrificed their lives for a principle. It is shown in the play that ordinary people can be tragic heroes. They believed so passionately in an idea that they were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, for it. There are four main aspects that represent a tragic hero. They are hubris, hamartia, catharsis and lastly catastrophe. Hubris is the excess, usually of pride, or overwhelming self confidence. Hamartia is the weakness, usually an error in judgement. Also, known as a tragic flaw. Catharsis is the tragic representations of suffering and defeat. Generally leaves an audience feeling, not depressed but relieved or even exalted. Catastrophe is the occurrence of a sudden reversal of the hero's fortunes from happiness to disaster.
Hamartia John Proctor's tragic flaw or hamartia is his commitment to honesty. Honesty is defined as not given to lying, cheating, or stealing etc. It is not characterized to falsehood or intent to mislead. John Proctor has a high sense of integrity and does not abandon his friends even though his wife is safe from accusations of witchcraft. When Judge Danforth asks Proctor if he will drop his accusations against the court, he says, "I "" I think I cannot . . . These are my friends. Their wives are also accused."Ã¯Â¿Â½(92) Although he is somewhat reluctant, he stands up for the truth even at the risk of exposing his affair with Abigail. This is shown in Act Three when John Proctor can no longer take the lying and denial of his affair with Abigail Williams and confesses to the court room of his sins. He tells Danforth, "I have known her, sir. I have known her."Ã¯Â¿Â½(110) This meaning that John has had an affair with Abigail even though he is married to Elizabeth. John Proctor goes on to describe his error in judgement and describes how he dishonored his name. He says to Danforth, "I have made a bell of my honor! I have rung the doom of my good name "" you will believe me."Ã¯Â¿Â½(111) By this attempt to expose Abigail as a fraud, he risks his reputation and is shamed before the town when his lechery is revealed. He also risks making himself a target for accusations of witchcraft. After telling his confession to the court, townsfolk now look to him as an easy scapegoat. In Act Four, John Proctor signs the confession to being a witch and then realizes that honesty is more important to him. He grabs the confession and tears it to pieces in front of Danforth"Ã¯Â¿Â½his breast heaving ,his eyes staring ,Proctor tears the paper and crumples it ,and he is weeping in furry , but erect. (144)"Ã¯Â¿Â½ This is a great act of courage shown by Proctor because he knows he must die as an honest man.
Hubris Hubris is the most important aspect to show that John Proctor is a tragic hero. John Proctor is, at first, willing to offer up a false confession that his life may be spared. He says, "I want my life . . . I will have my life."Ã¯Â¿Â½(137) When he does , the court is overjoyed and they prepare to hang the confession on the court doors .They felt if proud Proctor could confess, then everyone else would be able to confess as well. He possesses the fateful attribute know to fall fatal to many human beings, pride. While he has, indeed, been ashamed of his many sins throughout his life, Proctors's soul still clings to his pride and good name. Proctor's excessive pride hindered him from reality. He felt that Salem witch trials would and could not affect him. Proctor realizes that one more sin in his life would make little difference in the end. He tells Elizabeth, "I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. I am not that man. My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no-good man. Nothing's spoiled by giving them this lies that were not rotten long before."Ã¯Â¿Â½(136) However this pride, which he is trying to control, gets hold of him as he is told that his confession will be posted in the church, signed for all to see. Having made an oral confession before the judges, Proctor finds no purpose in signing and posting the document in the church. He says, "I have confessed myself! Is there no good penitence but it be public? God does not need my name nailed upon the church! God sees my name; God knows how black my sins are! It is enough!"Ã¯Â¿Â½(142) He does not want to sign his name to his confession because it will be definite public proof that he was a coward and a liar. More importantly, he will lose any goodness he has left if he agrees to sign a lie. He will lose his faith in him self as a good man and always regret his decision. He looked to Rebecca Nurse, Giles and Martha Cory, and Elizabeth for guidance. They are his moral extent and they have perhaps confessed then he will fell the right to confess also. He knows in his heart, that the right decision to make is to stand up to the truth. He is aware that because he has committed one sin there is no excuse to commit more. If Proctor had continued with his earlier confession, he would of most likely of accepted humiliation along with every thing else. He then proudly refuses to sign his confession and wants to protect his name . He says , "Because it is my name . Because I cannot have another in my life . Because I, lie and sign myself to lies . Because im not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang . How my I live without my name ? I have given you my soul , give me my name ."Ã¯Â¿Â½(143).
Just ask yourselves that if Proctor confesses how important will his name be to his wife and children? He explains this when he says, "I have three children "" how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends?"Ã¯Â¿Â½(142) How important, even to a Puritan, is his good name when his wife will be left with nothing? John Proctor makes the decision to turn from the wisdom of saving his life and heads down the path of his own destruction. He begins to convince himself now that his pride is more important than his life; his life is worth nothing without a certain amount of pride and dignity. He says, "You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs!"Ã¯Â¿Â½(144) Reverend Hale recognizes what Proctor is doing, he pleas to Elizabeth to make some attempt to sway her husbands decision, "Woman plead with him! Woman! It is pride, it is vanity. Be his helper! "" What profit him to bleed? Shall the dust praise him? Shall the worms declare his truth? Go to him, take his shame away?"Ã¯Â¿Â½(145) Hale can see what Proctor's pride has set him to, that this death will not accomplish anything great as Proctor hopes.
Catastrophe/Catharsis Proctors suffering and defeat (or catharsis) is linked to his catastrophe. Procter is a simple man in the mists of the Salem witch trials . He is an honest law abiding citizen, who never provokes trouble throughout Salem besides the fact that he had an affair with Abigail, witch will later help in his own demise .When his wife becomes accused of witch craft , he has the tough decision to profess that he had an affair with Abigail , or to watch his own wife hang for witchcraft . John eventually breaks down and testifies that he did have an affair with Abigail . But Elizabeth Procter lied and said that her husband was faithful "My husband is a goodly man , sir"Ã¯Â¿Â½ and Danforth asks "Is you're husband a lecture ?"Ã¯Â¿Â½ and Elizabeth replies " no sir " (113) Due to this fact , the town now sees John as a liar and find him guilty of being a witch "What are you ? You are combined with the anti-Christ , are you not ? I have seen you're power ;you will not deny it ! What say you mister."Ã¯Â¿Â½(119) Danforth tries to get John to confess but John has far to much pride and willingly accepts his execution , claiming that he has to honor himself and those who died before him.
Video William Wallace, the Scottish patriot who led a rebellion against King Edward the first of England, would not repent even as he was professionally tortured, but he instead cried out for freedom for the Scots. For William Wallace, as with John Proctor in The Crucible, a choice was made. Both men had an opportunity to save themselves, but chose instead to dies for their beliefs. John Proctor and William Wallace are not classic tragic heroes. Neither man was of noble birth; they were not saintly men, and both committed their share of sins but both had strong beliefs and were willingly to sacrifice their lives. As with John Proctor, William Wallace dies for pride.
John Proctor represents both the cowardice and courage that Arthur Miller sees in everyone in the play caught in dangers beyond their control. His initial reaction is to protect himself only. With time he believes that he needs to protect others, not only himself. But in the end he comes to realize that all he can do and must do is to protect the truth, even at the cost of his own life. By doing so he finally saves his own name, his truth, and his life.