A crucible, as defined by the Merriam-Webester Concise Electronic Dictionary, is "the state or fact of being tested (as by suffering)", which attests to what Elizabeth Proctor is going through exactly. Elizabeth has quite a crucible to struggle through. The infidelity of her husband is a major element in her being. Her struggle includes staying true to both her husband and her God. Another is the persecution by Abigail Warren, a former employee and assistant. Elizabeth also has to suffer through the decision to reveal the unfaithfulness of John or to remain strong in her love of him. All of this is too much for Elizabeth and the burden is very heavy.
Elizabeth’s husband, John, is a religious man. He believes in God, but not the minister who preaches His word. John’s actions, though, are not so religious and devoid of sin. Abby, a young seductress, was able to gain his attention while Elizabeth was bedridden. A fiery and passionate affair scared his relationship with his wife. Elizabeth struggles with his infidelity. When Reverend Hale questions the couple on the commandments, it is evident that there is still a void between her and John. All commandments could be recited except for adultery. In the puritan culture, adultery is a grievous sin, one punishable by death. She has to live through each day knowing that John was unfaithful, and that he did not fulfill the commitment of marriage. She feels hurt and betrayed, but what Abby tries next is the most underhanded trick possible.
Abigail was placed in power due to her "ability" to spot the devil in people. She could see those who trafficked with the devil and who was in his book. This was an opportunity to settle the score for her. Goody Proctor had discharged Abby from her home, and now was Abby’s chance to get back at Elizabeth.. All she needed was an opportunity. Following the idea of spirits leaving the body of a host, she stabbed herself with a needle, and blamed it on Elizabeth’s familiar spirit. Elizabeth had to fight the accusations and the suspicions about her and her bad intentions. She was backed in a corner and there was nowhere to go. If she confessed to being a witch, she would spend her days in jail, and her name would be forever tarnished. If she did not confess at all, she would be hanged for being a witch. It was trying not only on her, but on her faith. Another factor, though, would impact her emotional problems.
In an attempt to prove that Abby was just condemning people out of vengeance, John Proctor asked the court to allow Elizabeth to reveal the real reason that Abby was discharged from their home. His favor was granted, with the understanding that neither John nor Abby could face or gesture to Elizabeth. She was asked why she discharged Abby, and then if she believed that there was an affair between John and Abby. She denied an affair, and in that way condemned John as a liar and as one trying to overthrow the court. He was arrested and was indicted in the matter of trafficking with the devil. Throughout the time that the Salem trials took place, John believed that they were a farce. Now, with Elizabeth present, he was given a choice. He could sign a confession and indict other people. He asked Elizabeth if she wanted him to live, and she said yes. He made the decision to not confess, though, and she had the choice of stopping him. She could if she wanted to, but she made the decision to let John be at peace with God. She allowed him to leave without confessing, and he was hanged.
The Crucible was not just about one town experiencing a trial that would forever change it. It was about individual people experiencing events that would destroy lives, reputations, and families. Elizabeth was one of those individuals who would go through the hardest trials and tribulations. She had three crucibles to bear, each of equal strength. Standing by her husband, who was unfaithful, was the first in the chain. Being attacked by the girl that caused her husband to be unfaithful was the second, and deciding to let her husband be at peace or to be with her was the third. She was faced with three hard decisions that would change everything that she knew. The Crucible used these characters to amplify the inner lives of those caught up in a hunt for the unseen, and to show that there was more than one conflict involved. Elizabeth showed strength through her trials, and defined the meaning of crucible.