Danforth Character in a Play The Crucible
It was such acts of frivolity which led to the mass hysteria and innocent killings in “The Crucible”: A group of girls, consisting of Abigail who goes on to become a key player in the eventual witch trials, Mary Warren who plays a pivotal role in the fate of John Proctor and Betty Parris the daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris amongst other girls, were caught dancing in the woods, with West Indian slave Tituba. After being caught by Reverend Parris, the girls claim Tituba had bewitched them and led them into the forest.
After seeing Tituba arrested on no more than their allegations of witchery, a whole series of accusations led by Abigail begin to bring the town of Salem into turmoil.
John Proctor, a local farmer, is dragged into proceedings as Abigail, his former maid (and during the course of Abigail providing her services, Proctor and Abigail had an affair), accused Proctor’s wife of witchery. Proctor however, sees through the faï¿½ade of Abigail and hysteria surrounding the witch trials, and attempts to uncover the truth finds himself in the courts attempting to save his wife from being hung; with the help of his new servant Mary Warren, who is also the friend of Abigail, and has agreed to confess and reveal the true nature of the allegations and the backing of the influential “witch expert” Hale.
I have chosen to focus on Danforth, who is the Deputy-Governor and commands authority this shown through the stage directions when he is introduced, Miller states in the stage directions “Enter Deputy-Governor Danforth and behind him Ezekiel Cheever and Parris. On his appearance, silence falls. Danforth is a grave man in his sixties, of some humour and sophistication that does not, however, interfere with an exact loyalty to his position and his cause. He comes down to Giles who awaits his wrath.” This gives the audience an immediate sense of his power and ruthless nature.
At the start the start of this scene Danforth is presented as nervous, however he masks his nerves by trying to discredit the opposing arguments however he only seems to further reveal the ridiculous nature of the allegations. Miller shows this through the interaction between both Danforth and Hale. Danforth says “Mr Hale, believe me; for a man of such terrible learning you are most bewildered – I hope you will forgive me… (To Proctor and the others.) And I bid you all do like wise. In an ordinary crime, how does one defend the accused? One calls up witnesses to prove his innocence. But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other. Now we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself; granted?
Therefore, we must rely upon her victims – and they do testify, the children certainly do testify. As for the witches, none will deny that we are most eager for all their confessions. Therefore, what is left for a lawyer to bring out? I think I have made my point have I not.” Miller incorporates the use of dramatic irony within this quote, to show how Danforth discredits both the opposing argument, along with his own, when Danforth says “In an ordinary crime, how does one defend the accused? One calls up witnesses to prove his innocence. But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it?”
By calling witchcraft an invisible crime and comparing it to a normal crime Danforth contradicts himself and appears to say there is no evidence and an absence of witnesses in the case of witchcraft and as a result an inability to prove the crime happened. Danforth appears to be saying in the context of the play that the only evidence is the testimony of the victim but by comparing it to a normal crime the audience sees there is a lack of evidence and no way to prove the existence of witchcraft.
This quote shows the manipulative nature of the judge; Danforth, by this point has deduced that the accusations being made are in fact false however having at first believed and convicted many people based upon these false allegations feels that in order to maintain his image he must be steadfast in his approach and preserve his immediate response to the previous accusations; He does this by using the unmitigated belief in the Bible along with the mass hysteria around witchcraft shown by the inhabitants of Salem at the time and his own image of a respectable, educated and highly esteemed member of society, to manoeuvre the direction of the trial in order to find the accused guilty.
Further to this, the manner in which the trial was conducted draws many parallels with the McCarthy trial in the “House Committee on Un-American Activities”; those in positions of authority amongst the “House Committee on Un-American Activities”, were able to draw upon the mass hysteria surrounding the communist threat and as a result, knowingly wrongly accuse any person causing a threat to their attempts to further escalate the fear and hysteria amongst the public or their own along with their and position amongst society and peers.
Miller having himself been accused of being a communist felt compelled to write “The Crucible”. The fact that Danforth is nervous at the start of the scene, immediately builds tension; as the audience can see that there are flaws in his argument, and that he is already trying to cover these up, by using his position of power to direct the early course of the case in his favour.
As the scene progresses Danforth grows frustrated, as the case begins to be continually complicated. This is shown as Danforth aggressively asks leading questions, in a desperate attempt to manipulate proceedings in his favour; this is shown as Danforth says, “(Pounding it into her): You have seen the Devil, you have made compact with Lucifer, have you not?” The use of the leading question highlights Danforth’s desperation; the leading question places the answer in the mouth of the person answering, placing the person answering under immense pressure, to answer in the manner the person who is asking the question desires. The stage directions, “(Pounding it into her) are key in this quote, showing Danforth frustration. The word pounding has connotations of relentlessness, aggression and intensity.
The stage directions show Danforth’s frustration, and as a reader, you can imagine how this line could be performed, with Danforth, standing up, shouting at Mary, and pounding the table he stands behind, with clenched fists. Danforth’s relentless manipulation of the case reflects the McCarthy trials. The mass hysteria surrounding the trials, placed the judge, who could see through the mass hysteria, under immense pressure to maintain the hysteria, as this would give them the ability to remove those in opposition to their cause; the hysteria causing the public to be easily led astray, being carried blindly by the hysteria, thus giving power to the person in the position of power, to manipulate the public into believing, and gather against the common enemy.
The common enemy during the McCarthy era being communists, and anyone who was seen to be in support of the communists, and their values, accused of being a communist or communist sympathiser. In the case of “The Crucible” the enemy being those accused of witchery and anyone who was in support of the accused ‘witch’ was accused of witchery. This builds tension as the audience can see through the mass hysteria; the audience can see Danforth’s self-driven motivation, trying his utmost to maintain his position and respectable reputation. The audience therefore side with the accused, and are therefore anxious to see how the remainder of the trial will play out.
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