The Crucible – summary
Danforth’s attitude of self-superiority is noticed here when he gets angry with Giles and asks ‘Do you take it upon yourself to determine what this court shall believe and what it shall set aside? ‘ This is ironic; Danforth is mocking Giles for thinking that one man can change what the court thinks. However, the reality is that Danforth’s opinion is the only one that matters. He also reminds Giles that ‘this is the highest court of the supreme government of this province’.
This again shows Danforth’s superior attitude, but it also begins to show the audience his love of his position.
This is backed up when he says to Francis Nurse ‘Do you know who I am, Mr. Nurse? ‘ Saying this implies that Danforth expects to be known, and also that he expects his reputation to guarantee he is not questioned. He also reminds Francis that he has imprisoned nearly 400 people and condemned 72 to death. It is frightening to the audience to hear that 72 people are dead over what are clearly absurd ‘crimes’.
This is linked to the McCarthy period, where people were punished for their political views. The next major event is when John Proctor brings Marry Warren to court to confess her lies.
Mary Warren is portrayed as weak and feeble, and Danforth plays to this. He asserts his power over her subtly. When she says ‘It were pretence, sir’ Danforth asks her to repeat herself, making her feel unsure of herself. When speaking to John Proctor, Danforth assumes a sterner tone. He questions Proctor on his Christianity, and when it is revealed that he only goes to church once a month and that he ploughed his fields on a Sunday, Hale begins to worry that these things would be used against Proctor and insists that Danforth does not judge him on such evidence.
Soon after, Danforth reveals that Elizabeth Proctor claims to be pregnant. This gives Danforth the perfect way to get rid of John Proctor. Danforth offered to keep Elizabeth alive until at least after the baby is born if he left. Proctor however rejects this deal as he realises he cannot leave his friends behind. Two interesting changes take place here. John Proctor changes from the man protecting his wife, to becoming the people’s hero. With this, the dramatic focus begins to shift from Danforth. Previously, the focus had been on Danforth, as he spoke to the various villagers.
From now, the focus begins to shift onto the villagers, as they talk to Danforth. This is not always the case, but it is increasingly so. A different important change takes place in the form of Reverend Hale. Throughout the act, we have seen his resolve waver, but now it is easy for the audience to see Hale trying to contain his frustration. Danforth calls for all the people who signed the deposition to be arrested and then questioned, and Reverend Hale shouts ‘Is every defence an attack upon the court? Can no one-‘
Danforth says two very unsettling lines in this scene. First, he says to Proctor ‘The pure in heart need no lawyers. ‘ This is uncomfortable because it is a righteous line coming from an evil man, and possibly comparisons with McCarthy could be made. The next thing he says is ‘This is a sharp time, now, a precise time – we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world. ‘ This is ironic because Danforth is so sure of himself, but the audience knows that witches and witchcraft are not real.
This is unsettling for the audience as they could compare this situation with others, the McCarthy era is one, but there are others, such as the current fear of terrorism. Although it is true that terrorism is a threat, it has caused many people in target countries such as Britain and the US to be wary of foreigners, especially people from Arab countries. New laws are in place to deal with terrorism and speeches made by world leaders all point to the same sentiment that there is a clear line between good and evil, echoes of Danforth.
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Danforth’s attitude of self-superiority is noticed here when he gets angry with Giles and asks ‘Do you take it upon yourself to determine what this court shall believe and what […]