I wrote the following piece as a facebook post when a question regarding Elizabeth Proctor’s love for her husband was asked.
The performance I’m referring to is by Richard Armitage and Anna Madeley, at the Old Vic, London in 2014. Although I saw it in the cinema in December 2014. It is now available through
It is one of the most powerful plays I have seen.
I saw this play years ago in my 20s and wondered why Elizabeth did not ‘save’ her husband. With this performance, by Anna Madeley, I knew why. I hope I can explain my perspective here. We came into the play with everyone coping with the aftermath of John and Abigail’s brief liaison. We know the Proctors have been married a few years, they have children and she has been ill; she is a good woman. If we look back into the past we also know that John would have vowed, before God, ‘to honour her…, look after her in sickness & health …forsaking all others … till death,’ he would also have given her his name. His betrayal of those vows would have rocked her world, and not only has he betrayed her, but God. With his repetition of ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ acknowledges his awareness of his sin, he doesn’t know how to repair the damage to his marriage. With Elizabeth I am reminded of a 20th wronged woman that Emma Thompson portrayed in Love Actually who’s response on confirming her husband’s adultery is ‘You have made me look foolish and the life I lead foolish too.’ Likewise John’s adultery has undermined Elizabeth’s whole world and he has lost her respect and love. When he kisses her she does not refuse him, but stiffens like a board as she really does not want this slimeball to touch her.
Skipping to her lying for him. By this stage she is starting to see again the man she married and she is willing to perjure herself if it will protect him, unfortunately she has misread the situation.
At the end she is told she can get him to sign paper and save himself. However, she sees that he needs to hold onto his name, which is also the name he gave her when they married. She now loves and respects him, to ask him to give up that name is to ask him to betray himself and she cannot do that to him. She understands him and she loves him, when he kisses her his passion is now met by hers and they are equal.
And now I am getting emotional, because their performance is now playing in my head and the raw emotion of this couple was so vivid.