Abigail Williams, a strikingly beautiful seventeen-year-old. She is willful and a flirt. Her rebellion against society is expressed in her wayward behavior, which she transforms into a witch scare by going into fits and stimulating and coercing her girlfriends to do likewise. Abigail senses that the community of Salem, Massachusetts, is uneasy, that it suffers from societal tensions, and that it is prepared to believe that its internal divisions are the result of witchcraft. Abigail and her minions charge many of the most prominent people in Salem with practicing witchcraft.
Tituba, a black servant from Barbados who introduces Abigail and her friends to certain superstitious practices. It is her confession that leads to the witchcraft scare.
The Reverend Samuel Parris
The Reverend Samuel Parris, a stiff, intolerant man who is at first nonplussed by the eccentric behavior of the girls. Soon, however, he turns their antics into an indictment of the community. Interpreting their hysterical fits as sure signs of witchcraft, he exploits them to whip his congregation into line. Finding the witches becomes a way for this pious and credulous man to assert his authority.
John Proctor, a man who had a brief affair with Abigail. He does not believe that her fits are caused by the devil. Although he is estranged from his wife, who knows of his liaison with Abigail, Proctor resists Abigail’s advances, knowing that the consequence will be that he and his wife will stand accused of witchcraft.
Elizabeth Proctor, John’s estranged and unforgiving wife. Although her husband has admitted his lapse into sin and is thereafter faithful to his wife, his relationship with Abigail always stands between them. As husband and wife, however, they maintain their integrity and refuse to confess to the false accusation of witchcraft, even though their protestations of innocence result in a death sentence.
Giles Corey, one of Salem’s prominent citizens who opposes the charges of witchcraft and then is accused himself. Rather than admitting to a false accusation, he endures the torture of being crushed to death.
The Reverend John Hale
The Reverend John Hale, an expert in matters of witchcraft. He comes to Salem to set up the trials.
Thomas Putnam, a prominent Salem citizen and an argumentative man who turns his quarrels with his neighbors into a hunt for witches.
Mary Warren, one of Abigail’s friends. She tries to tell the truth, that the girls were only feigning possession by witches, but she loses courage when Abigail intimidates her.
Rebecca Nurse, one of the most devout residents of Salem. Despite her piousness, she is accused of witchcraft. Her conviction illustrates how widespread the hysteria and paranoia of the community have become.
Judge Hathorne, the hanging judge of the Salem witchcraft trials. Hathorne has little sympathy for the accused and takes his responsibility quite seriously.