In Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible," John Proctor seeks to discredit Abigail Williams' claims of witchcraft by publicly confessing his adulterous affair with her. It was out of jealousy that Abigail accused Proctor's wife, Elizabeth, of being a witch. John Proctor believed that if he could convince the townspeople of this motivation, he could clear his wife's name and end the hysteria.
This admission of sin did not come naturally to the proud John Proctor. By the time he summoned the courage to do so in court, really as a last ditch attempt to discredit the increasingly influential Williams, he discovered that he waited too long. His wife was cross-examined on the affair and, not knowing about Proctor's confession, denied that it happened. In any case, the witch-hunting hysteria that swept through Salem took on a life of its own and could not be stopped so easily.
Instead of curbing the hysteria, Proctor's confession and subsequent charge from Williams of being "the Devil's man" resulted in his own incarceration and condemnation. In an attempt to escape execution, Proctor signed a written confession of guilt to witchcraft charges. However, he later destroys this document in a final display of honor and solidarity with the other condemned prisoners.