How is Danforth presented to the audience, and why? How are the proceedings in the court presented?
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Danforth appears in Acts 3 and 4, in connection with the court. He is the deputy-governor of the province and therefore a figure of authority. When first introduced and described, early in Act III, he comes across as quite an impressive character.
Danforth is a grave man in his sixties, of some
humor and sophistication that does not, however, interfere with an exact loyalty
to his position and his cause.
Danforth initially shows some willingness to listen to Proctor, Giles and Francis who are trying to disprove the witchcraft allegations. Therefore, he does show a desire to be genuinely fair, unlike his colleague, the abrasive Judge Hathorne. Yet, for all this, he proves himself to be as misguided as the rest of the court. As Francis remarks:
I never thought to say it to such a weighty judge, but you are deceived.(Act III)
Danforth is 'deceived' by the witchcraft accusers and completely taken in by the hysteria that Abigail whips up against Mary Warren, when Mary appears on the verge of exposing the girls' claims of witchcraft as mere pretence. Danforth prefers to believe the tenuous evidence put forth by the accusers, rather than looking in depth at more practical issues, like Thomas Putnam's attempts to gain his neighbours' land. In short, Danforth, like the rest of the court, reveals himself to be essentially prejudiced and superstitious, and not really worthy of his high position. Miller thus shows how the witchcraft hysteria influences even authoritative, intelligent, and well-balanced individuals.
The court does not appear as an impartial place of justice at all. This is underlined in the beginning of Act III, when we hear the proceedings from outside, with Martha Corey being ruthlessly cross-examined and the forcible ejection of her husband who protests her innocence. We also learn from Francis that he, Proctor and Giles have been coming to the court for the past three days and have not yet been given the chance to present their evidence. This shows how the court is really not prepared to grant a hearing to anyone who dares to speak out against the witchcraft accusations.
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