John Proctor, from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and Macbeth, from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, are two main characters that show obvious similarities with each other. Both characters show the negative impact of witchcraft in their lives, the reputation they have within the community, and their tragic flaws. While the similarities may be true, they contrast and show evident differences.
To begin with, John Proctor and Macbeth are both highly impacted by witchcraft. John’s home town is rumored to be bewitched and people are constantly being accused of being witches. John’s wife, Elizabeth Proctor is accused of being a witch and that, quickly, makes John’s life chaotic.“The town [is] mumbling witchcraft”(Miller 21). The rumor of the witchcraft quickly spreads amongst Salem and no one has time to mentally prepare themselves. The witch trials really impact John’s life by ruining his relationships with people in the community. Macbeth’s life is also impacted by witchcraft. In the beginning of Macbeth, three witches tell him that he could become king. Later in the play, the witches decide to fool Macbeth again by giving him more predictions, purposely making his life more chaotic. Macbeth travels to speak to the witches for the second time, “Even till destruction sicken-answer me/ To what I ask you. Speak. Demand. We’ll answer” (Shakespeare 4.1.60-61). The witchcraft has a big impact on Macbeth’s life because they ruin the relationships he once had with the people in his community. Although they both have similar actions to witchcraft, they have different outlooks. John Proctor despises the witchcraft because most of his friends are falsely accused of witchcraft. One of John’s friends is killed by being pressed to death and Elizabeth tells John about the horrible death of his friend, Giles Corey, “He were not hanged. He would not answer aye or nay to his indictment…[g]reat stones they lay upon his chest…[a]nd [Giles] died”(Miller 135). The witchcraft leaves a very negative impact on his life because people he was once friends with were murdered. Macbeth on the other hand, likes witchcraft. He realises the witches help him become more powerful. “ Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more” (Shakespeare 1.3.70). In this quote, Macbeth is told he will become the Thane of Cawdor and become King. He asks for more predictions so he can become more powerful.
John Proctor and Macbeth’s second similarity is their positive reputation in the beginning of the plays. John Proctor’s name is highly respected in Salem Massachusetts because he speaks his mind and always conveys the truth. “What ever you will do, it is a good man does it” (Miller 109). Elizabeth reassures John that he is a good man and doing the best he can by trying to help the community discussing the truth with his friends. Macbeth is also very liked in the beginning of his play. He starts as the Thane of Glamis and quickly becomes the Thane of Cawdor. He is recognized for his bravery for Norway’s defeat and how much he has participated in the war. Later, the King expresses his appreciation for Macbeth and the King sends a messenger that tells him “He bade me, from him, call thee Thane of Cawdor:/ In which addition, hail, most worthy Thane!” (Shakespeare 1.3.105-106) The difference between John Proctor and Macbeth is John gains more positive reputation whereas Macbeth becomes extremely disliked. John gains more positive reputation because the people of Salem look to him for guidance. People wish for John to the sign the confession paper so his great reputation can influence the people of Salem to lie so everyone can avoid death. He is even given a second chance to sign when John says he will not sign the paper. “As you will, I would have it. I want you living, John. That [is] sure (Miller 136). Everyone asks John to reconsider and confess to being bewitched. On the other hand, the reputation that Macbeth gains is negative. Once Macbeth becomes king, he greatly abuses his power and shows Scotland that he is a horrible leader. Malcolm and Macduff discuss the suffering of Scotland, “Weep our sad bosoms empty. Let us rather/ Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men/ Bestride our down-fall’n birthdom (Shakespeare 4.3.3-4). He is unliked by all because he shows he is very selfish and unable to be a great King.
Finally, Macbeth and John Proctor both convey a tragic flaw. John Proctor is very proud in his name. John is a troubled sinner who has had an affair with a Abigail Williams the young girl that accuses his wife of being seen with the devil. John procrastinates to tell the court his sin for a very long time which ultimately ruins his chances of possibly saving Salem from chaos. John says during court, “ [a] man will not cast away his good name…” (Miller 110). This means he has tried to hold off his confession so he does not tamper with his good name. However, Macbeth has too much pride once he becomes King. Throughout the play of Macbeth, he progressively becomes greedy. He sends murderers to kill innocent people because he worries people will remove him from his place in the throne. “The mind I sway by, and the heart I bear/shall never sag with doubt nor shake with fear” (Shakespeare 5.3.9-10). Macbeth is hopeful and dependant on the witches prophecies and thinks of himself as indestructible. Macbeth and John Proctor both have tragic flaws but they are different from each other. John Proctor’s tragic flaw is overcome so he would not ruin his reputation and disgrace the generations that came before him. ‘I-I have once or twice plowed on Sunday. I have three children, sir, and until last year my land give little’ (Miller 91). John excuses himself from his tragic flaw and attempts to remind people he is still a good Christian. Macbeth’s tragic flaw on the other hand, is based on selfishness. “By the worst means, the worst. For mine own good” (Shakespeare 3.4.135). Macbeth really demonstrates that everything he does, is just for himself.
In conclusion, John proctor, from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and Macbeth, from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, share noticeable similarities yet, they also show they are evidently different from each other. John hates the witchcraft whereas Macbeth likes it, John Proctor gains positive reputation and Macbeth gains negative reputation and lastly, John Proctor has a tragic flaw but does not want to disappoint anyone whereas Macbeth’s tragic flaw is only selfish reasons.