In this passage there is a sense of formality between Elizabeth and John which is reminiscent of Act Two. However, whereas that scene was based upon tension, this scene shows a struggle to hold back emotion and to present courage. We get the sense that Elizabeth and John want to appear courageous for the sake of one another; Elizabeth and John have been apart for months, and Proctor has been imprisoned with no information, so again, courage can be seen in his composure. Contrasting to earlier scenes, the court is now desperate and in danger. Many influential characters have been murdered, and the audience now learns this with John.
A well as through the characters’ dialogue, courage is presented through the use of paralinguistics (stage directions). For instance, a sound of “half laughter, half amazement” comes from John, which contrasts to how we might expect a sound of fear. This conveys courage. Moreover, we learn that Elizabeth “will not let herself be drowned in the sea that threatens her”. This metaphorical stage direction evokes a strong sense of emotion and we see she is trying to hold back her emotions and present bravery to John in order not to make him fearful.
The structure of the passage works in adjacency pairs, with John addressing Elizabeth using interrogatives, and Elizabeth answering in declaratives. These questions and answers are mostly short and abrupt, for instance, containing ellipsis such as “The child?” This suggests how John and Elizabeth are trying to compose themselves. They no doubt have a huge feeling of fear and sadness within them. Moreover, rather than asking about his own fate, to start with John asks about his children. This shows how his priority is not himself but the ones he loves, which also suggests courage. This is also reflected in the metaphor “nor keep my children out of the wind”. With archaic lexis to evoke the time the play is set (1692), Proctor shows how his decision to confess is influenced by what it means for his children.
Furthermore, John appears to be more concerned with his friends than his own life, using the matter-of-fact declarative “They come for my life now” (which indicates to the ambiguous sinister movement that could be representative of communism and how it was dealt with during McCarthyism), and quickly moving on to ask who have confessed and how many. Elizabeth emphatically repeats “There be many”, which conveys her shock. The metaphor, “she is one foot in heaven now” is symbolic of Rebecca’s courage. In addition, Giles’ courage is represented in the way he suffers a painful death, yet remains sarcastic and defiant towards Danforth with this remark “more weight”. His knowledge of the law, unlike in Act Three, ends up benefitting his family in the end.
The talk of Giles clearly causes both Elizabeth and John’s courage to waver, with Elizabeth using non-standard English, “it were a fearsome man”, and Proctor pausing when he says “Elizabeth”. Elizabeth’s courage soon returns, however, as she “shows nothing”. Proctor uses simile to say how he “cannot mount the gibbet like a saint”, and this use of synecdoche, also, informs us of the real reason John wishes to confess. This makes him seem more courageous as it is not fear of death that is stopping him, but letting his friends, wife, children, and perhaps God down. His metaphor “Spite only keeps me silent. It is hard to give a lie to dogs” shows his detestation for the court, and sibilance emphasises this strength of feeling. Courage is again emphasised in the imagery of “dogs” which could be seen as conjuring fearful images. John’s use of first person pronoun “me” emphasises again his strength of feeling, as does his choice not to use contraction rather than “it is.” Elizabeth ends the passage with “Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it”. This shows to him her love and approval. Whatever John does, she seems to have forgiven him for previous transgressions, and believes him to be courageous in her eyes.
In conclusion, this passage’s representation of courage shows the journey that Proctor has come on since Act One. Originally, his refusal to confess to adultery and to reveal what Abigail told him makes him seem weak. He has changed a lot, as has his relationship with Elizabeth. Moreover, the other characters’ courage is what eventually leads John to does for the greater cause, in an attempt to free Salem from the real evil that can be human nature.