In The Crucible, what does Parris mean when he tells Danforth, "You cannot hang this sort"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This very revealing quote appears in Act 4 of the play, and of course, this is when the madness that has swept through Salem is beginning to break up - Parris relates to Danforth how Abigail has ran off with all the money in Parris's safe and it is clear that there is great public discontent with what is happening. Parris relates how only thirty people came to chapel to witness the excommunication of John Proctor, and then, in the face of Danforth's insistence that there will be no postponement in the hangings, he reveals an incident that has caused him to fear for his life:

Tonight, when I open my door to leave my house - a dagger clattered to the ground. Silence. Danforth absorbs this. Now Parris cried out: You cannot hang this sort. There is danger for me. I dare not step outside at night!

On the morn of the hanging of Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor, Parris is beginning to see that this might have all been a created hysteria which they have been taken in by. And what is more, Parris is now afraid for his own life because of his participation in the Salem Witch Trials. Thus his statement reflects his own doubts about what the girls have claimed and his belief in the goodness of characters such as Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor.

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