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English Literature

Character

There is a wide range of characters in The Crucible. They can be grouped into three types: authority figures, townspeople and girls. What happens between them drives the action of the play.

The authority figures

Reverend Parris

Judge Hathorne and Governor Danforth question the girls

At first the authority figures in Salem believe the accusations of witchcraft

  • He is the local clergyman of Salem and the father of Betty, who is unconscious at the beginning of the play.
  • He has discovered the girls dancing in the forest with Tituba.
  • From the beginning of the play he is paranoid about having enemies.
  • He is the most dislikable character in the play. Although an adult and a clergyman, he seems to be more worried about his own reputation than about the well-being of the children and of the townspeople.
  • His self-centredness is also evident when he shows how concerned he is about his income and how little he is paid, and this is at a time when he should be concerned about his daughter and his parishioners.
  • In Act 4, at a time when all of Salem is in disarray and his parishioners are being accused, tried and hanged, he is upset by dispute over the ownership of wandering cows and by the money that he has been robbed of by his niece, Abigail.

Deputy-Governor Danforth

  • He is portrayed as a powerful authority figure who has little tendency toward mercy. He wants the witches caught and punished. He wants to restore law and order.
  • His conduct of the trial in Act 3, however, shows him to be a strong character who deals fairly according to his values. His cross examination of the girls, in particular, shows a man who is not completely lacking in sensitivity.
  • As the chaos and hysteria increase, however, he is caught in a dilemma. He is motivated by the desire to govern and to keep order. But which is worse? The chaos of witchcraft or the chaos of threatened uprisings against the executions? There are rumours of an uprising in the neighbouring town.
  • He looks for a way to avoid punishing John Proctor only because he wants to avoid such a rebellion.
  • But, in the end, he is more inclined to punish than to free John Proctor. He will not allow him just any loophole. Danforth is presented as a stern, inflexible, authority figure. But he is broadly sincere in what he believes.

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