In a sense, the play, ‘The Crucible’, has the structure of a classical tragedy with John Proctor being the protagonist of the play and its tragic hero. As there is a saying “To err is human…” John Proctor likewise was led to his grave due to a fatal flaw he possessed. Proctor, in his first appearance in the play, is presented as a quick-witted, sharp-tongued man with a keen sense of pride and a streak of confidence. He was a symbol of justice and righteousness. His secret affair with Abigail, before Elizabeth Proctor fired her, seemed to end since John no more harboured feelings for Abigail.
Abigail Give me a word, John, A soft word. Proctor No, no, Abby. That’s done with. However, upon learning the truth… Abigail, I have a sense for heat, John, and yours has drawn me to my window, and I have seen you looking up, burning in your loneliness. Do you tell me you’ve never looked up at my window? This suggests that what Abigail had been saying to John was the truth too that he still had kind feelings for her, and created Abigail’s jealousy of his wife, Elizabeth, which sets the entire witch hysteria in motion. His wisdom, sharpness and his independence are traits that would make a suitable person question the motives of those who cry witchcraft. However, his guilt over his affair with Abigail makes his situation much more problematic because he is very guilty in the hypocrisy he detested to see in others.
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Secondly, John does not seem to be favouring the authority Parris possess that he blatantly said right in front of Parris that he would join the faction which was “against him and all authority”. Once the trials begin, Proctor realizes that he can stop Abigail’s rampage through Salem but only if he confesses to his adultery. Such an admission would ruin his good name, and Proctor is, above all, a proud man who places great emphasis on his reputation. Proctor is quite a brave, honest and honourable man, confessing his sin of adultery to the court in a bid to stop the agitation present in Salem by tarnishing the now saintly name of Abigail Williams so that the townsfolk would stop listening to her false accusations. He eventually makes an attempt, through Mary Warren’s testimony, to name Abigail as fraud without revealing the crucial information.
Proctor Then her saintliness is done with. We will slide together into our pit; you will tell the court what you know. When this attempt fails, he finally bursts out with a confession, calling Abigail a “whore” and proclaiming his guilt publicly. Proctor A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this is a fraud- God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together! Proctor, You are pulling Heaven down and raising up a whore! These quotes suggest that the Proctor who used to believe in God’s word is no longer devoted to Him anymore due to the injustice and evil around him. It’s as if he has become an atheist- God is dead!
Only then does he realize that it is too late, that matters have gone too far, and that not even the truth can break the powerful frenzy that he has allowed Abigail to whip up. Proctor’s confession succeeds only in leading to his arrest and conviction as a witch, and though he lambastes the court and its proceedings, he is also aware of his terrible role in allowing this fervour to grow unchecked. Proctor is also a man who thinks of others. He stands up for the other townsfolk, refusing to give the names of innocent citizens. “I have no knowledge in that line. But it’s hard to think so pious a woman is secretly a Devil’s bitch after seventy years of such good prayer.” He saved others while preserving his own honour. (I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another.)
Offered the opportunity to make a public confession of his guilt and life, he almost succumbs, even signing a written confession. His immense pride and fear of public opinion compelled him to withhold his adultery from the court, but by the end of the play, he is more concerned with his personal integrity than his public reputation. He still wants to save his name, but for personal and religious, rather than public, reasons. (I have given you my soul; leave me my name!-Proctor) Proctor’s refusal to provide a false confession is a true religious and personal stand. Such a confession would dishonour his fellow prisoners, who are brave enough to die as a testimony to the truth. Perhaps more relevantly, a false admission would also dishonour him, staining not just his public reputation, but also his soul. By refusing to give up his personal integrity Proctor implicitly proclaims his conviction that such integrity will bring him to heaven.
He goes to the gallows redeemed for his earlier sins. As Elizabeth says to end the play, responding to Hale’s plea that she convince Proctor to publicly confess: “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!” Proctor dies as a man of integrity who never sold his soul and stained his name upon confessing to what God knows and speaks of as heathen. He lived up to be a man who ought to be given the utmost respect, by his wife and by his fellow Salemites. Nearing the end of the play, Proctor redeems himself and provides a final denunciation of the witch trials in his final act. Elizabeth who respects Proctor deeply and is proud that he doesn’t confess suggests that she too loves him dearly. Even Mr Hale was not able to instigate Proctor in confessing a false crime and succumb to the false crime of witchcraft.
Hale Woman, plead with him! Woman! It is pride, it is vanity. Be his helper! – What profits him to bleed? Shall the dust praise him? Shall the worms declare his truth? Go to him, take his shame away! Elizabeth He has his goodness now. God, I forbid I take it from him! Abigail Williams. An antagonist of the play, she beats Parris and Danforth with all the villainy she possessed. In contrast to her beautiful looks, she is characterless and baseless as bastardy has ever stooped to be that low. Being a blatant liar, she is able to twist the situation so well that even the whole of Salem was sent to its doom due to her hysteria. Her pretty looks can be as deceiving as her character. Abigail, it was a sport, uncle! … (innocently) A dress? … No one was naked! You mistake yourself, uncle! … Why, I am sure it is, sir. There be no blush about my name.
These blatant lies that came about one after another suggest that Abigail is not only lying but also disrespectful to those who take care of her by making them believe whatever she says. In this manner, Parris was half convinced and had the courage to run the trials and commence a witch-hunt upon Abigail’s words. Abigail has a large role in the play as the villain of the play, instigating the downfall of many innocent townsfolk. While working in Proctor’s house as a servant, she had an affair with John Proctor, which led to her being dismissed by the latter’s wife, Elizabeth Proctor. This suggests that she was not only ungrateful but also in a way trying to seduce Proctor lest he bends toward Elizabeth. This leads to Abigail directing hate towards her and targeting her later in the play.
Betty, You drank blood, Abby! You didn’t tell him that!….. You did, you did! You drank a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor! Throughout the hysteria, Abigail’s motivations never seem more complex than simple jealousy and a desire to have revenge on Elizabeth Proctor. The language of the play is almost Biblical, and Abigail seems like a Biblical character-a Jezebel figure, driven only by sexual desire and a lust for power. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out a few background details that, though they don’t mitigate Abigail’s guilt, make her actions more understandable. Abigail was a symbol of defiance. Although she knew that Salem was an entirely religion-based community, she chose to rebel against the somewhat restrictive customs and sinned again and again. From giving in to lust and sexual desires to adultery and finally, to lying and murder in a sense, her deeds went against the very code of religion.
A mere accusation from one of Abigail’s troop is enough to incarcerate and convict even the most well-respected inhabitant of Salem. Whereas others once reproached her for her adultery, she now has the opportunity to accuse them of the worst sin of all: devil-worship. Abigail was also manipulative as she was able to take advantage of her friends, Reverend Parris and the judges to make them believe her so that she was able to attain freedom and have Proctor to herself after getting rid of Elizabeth. She only did this for her personal vengeance and benefit. Abigail could be even merciless if she had the choice, by sending nineteen innocent people to the gallows for crimes they did not commit. She was a shrewd mastermind who was opportunities, for her benefits. Although she is strong and determined, this does not make her a good person. She used her intelligence in a shrewd yet cruel manner.
She was thoughtless of the lives that were taken away, all due to her. She was the root of all evil. Having Proctor was her only ambition. And when she learns that Proctor, too, is dead when he was sent to the gallows, her utmost motive in recovering Proctor, her love, was gone. Her will to struggle was no longer present. So, she too left and never looked to turn back to Salem. Reverend Samuel Parris Basically, Reverend Samuel Parris is a paranoid, power-hungry, yet oddly self-pitying figure. Parris presents himself as a father who cares and worries for his daughter, Betty, who had been supposedly witched. Trying to hide the fact, he does not believe it. Parris No-no. There be no unnatural cause here. Tell him I have sent for Reverend Hale of Beverly and Mr Hale will surely confirm that. Let him look to medicine and put out all thought of unnatural causes here. There be none.
Upon deeper analysis, Parris does not actually care for Betty and her friends but is ardent in saving his reputation. Parris Now look you, child, your punishment will come in its time. But if you trafficked with spirits in the forest I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it. Parris is so blinded by lies that he would not be able to distinguish between truth or lie. He is so gullible by allowing himself to be convinced by Abigail’s words that he was reluctant in listening to the townsfolk and get their opinion. Although he questioned Abigail repeatedly, he never had the idea (till the end) that Abigail could be using him for her personal benefits. But this didn’t mind Parris as he was just a coward because he guessed that the faction would grab this opportunity and ruin him with it. By blaming that all abominations began here, in the Minister’s house. And that would be the base of witchcraft and Lucifer’s den.
Parris is full of greed. This can be proved due to the fact that although he earned sixty-six pounds (which was a lot at that time), he was not happy with it and wanted more. In addition, he could not bear the uprising faction which was against him and his authority. Parris is dogmatic in his opinions, intolerant of opposition, and suspicious of those whom he does not like. Parris has grown a grudge against Proctor after learning that Proctor was not hesitant in joining the faction that was against Parris and his authority. (Why then I must find it and join it!) His belief in witches and his desire to punish his enemies set in motion the chain of events that leads to the hysteria in Salem. In my opinion, he is an incapable minister who is not able to take things in his stride but who listens to others. This suggests that he is more of a follower than a leader, although he has the full right to make his own decisions.
Proctor, You cannot command Mr Parris. We vote by name in this society, not by acreage./ During the witch trials, he pressures Danforth, the chief judge, to punish those who, in his opinion, are possessed or in league with the Devil. Mr Hale. Mr Hale is nearly 40, tight-skinned, eager-eyed intellectual. A young minister reputed to be an expert on witchcraft. Mr Hale is called to Salem to examine Parris’s daughter Betty. His intimate liking toward Proctor actually stuns us, as readers, that a third party could be so understanding and is able to try and console those in need. In this case, Hale actually proves to be an upright citizen who tries to save Proctor from the noose by advising him to succumb to a false crime. His intentions were good like a committed Christian and hater of witchcraft. It is his assurance that ‘we cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise’. His critical mind and intelligence save him from falling into blind fervour. His arrival sets the hysteria in motion, although he later regrets his actions and attempts to save the lives of those accused.
Elizabeth Proctor. Elizabeth does not appear until the beginning of Act Two. She is referred to beforehand, notably in a scathing comment by Abigail. When we first hear her, though, she is singing lullabies to her children, giving us the impression of a homely woman. The atmosphere in the Proctor household tells us that she has had difficulty in coming to terms with her husband’s brief adultery. She is accused by both Proctor and Abigail of being cold and she confirms this opinion of herself in the last act. But she is no fool and understands well Abigail’s intentions, well before Proctor himself does. Her love and understanding of John is crystal clear in the last act when she leaves him to make his own decision over whether to confess. She undoubtedly recognizes that he will not be able to live with a decision to confess, but she allows him to come to his own realisation of this.
Danforth. Deputy Governor Danforth represents both the authority of the Law and the Church within this community. He takes his position seriously and seizes every opportunity to impress the importance of his work upon others. This is reflected in some of the long, serious speeches he gives in Act Three. His determination to enforce the Law is unrelenting. He is not interested in the individual and will not allow the work of the court to be questioned. His manner is inflexible and unemotional. It is impossible to tell why he does not accept the horror of the situation. Does he actually believe all that the girls allege? Or does he think that events have gone too far, but to stop the process would undermine his authority? Proctor has no doubt that Danforth is allowing himself to be fooled, and that he will be damned because of it
Giles Corley. An elderly but feisty farmer in Salem, famous for his tendency to file lawsuits. Giles’s wife, Martha, is accused of witchcraft, and he himself is eventually held in contempt of court and pressed to death with large stones. At the start of the play, Corey is something of a comic character and Proctor deals with his argumentative tendency in a good-natured way. He unwittingly implicates his wife in witchcraft, and whilst protesting to the court refuses to name an informant, and so is arrested himself. The grim manner of his death – being pressed by great weights to try to force an answer – is poignantly revealed to Proctor in jail.
The Putnam. A bitter couple, who between them represent the worst aspects of Salem society such as jealously, small-mindedness and greed, it was Ann Putnam that sent her daughter to conjure spirits in the first place and Thomas Putnam sought to gain from the tragedy of others. Thomas Putnam – A wealthy, influential citizen of Salem, Putnam holds a grudge against Francis Nurse for preventing Putnam’s brother-in-law from being elected to the office of minister. He uses the witch trials to increase his own wealth by accusing people of witchcraft and then buying up their land. Ann Putnam – Thomas Putnam’s wife. Ann Putnam has given birth to eight children, but only Ruth Putnam survived. The other seven died before they were a day old, and Ann is convinced that they were murdered by supernatural means. Ruth Putnam – The Putnam’s lone surviving child out of eight. Like Betty Parris, Ruth falls into a strange stupor after Reverend Parris catches her and the other girls dancing in the woods at night.
Rebecca Nurse. Francis nurse’s wife, the elderly and respected Rebecca is a wise, sensible, and upright woman, held in tremendous regard by most of the Salem community, and one of the voices of good sense in the play. Hale has already heard of her good reputation before meeting her. However, she falls victim to hysteria when the Putnams accuse her of witchcraft and she refuses to confess. The conviction of Rebecca reveals how low the community at Salem has fallen. She goes to her death with dignity and acceptance Francis Nurse – A wealthy, influential man in Salem. The nurse is well respected by most people in Salem but is an enemy of Thomas Putnam and his wife.
Mary Warren. Mary is the Proctors’ servant. She is weak and easily influenced, so it is ominous that Proctor’s evidence rests on Mary’s confession. She can barely speak in the courtroom and it’s relatively simple for Abigail to ‘turn’ her. This is devastating for Proctor as Mary then testifies against him. Tituba – Reverend Parris’s black slave from Barbados. Tituba agrees to perform voodoo at Abigail’s request Betty Parris – Reverend Parris’s ten-year-old daughter. Betty falls into a strange stupor after Parris catches her and the other girls dancing in the forest with Tituba. Her illness and that of Ruth Putnam fuel the first rumours of witchcraft. Martha Corey – Giles Corey’s third wife. Martha’s reading habits lead to her arrest and conviction for witchcraft.
Ezekiel Cheever – A man from Salem who acts as clerk of the court during the witch trials. He is upright and determined to do his duty for justice. Judge Hathorne – A judge who presides, along with Danforth, over the witch trials. Herrick – The marshal of Salem. Mercy Lewis Servant to the Putnam household. She is a merciless girl who seems to delight in the girls’ activities. The threats Abigail uses on the other girls are unnecessary for Mercy. When Abigail eventually leaves town, Mercy goes with her.