Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
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...
(The entire section is 488 words.)
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Cheever is a tailor and a clerk of the court who places great importance in his job, which he sees as a holy one. He is at once fearful, embarrassed, apologetic, and a little officious. He discovers the doll that Mary knitted for Elizabeth Proctor. Discovering a needle in the doll's stomach, he believes that Elizabeth is practicing some kind of witchcraft that has affected Abigail.
An old man, Giles Corey is "knotted with muscle, canny, inquisitive, and still powerful. . . . He didn' t give a hoot for public opinion, and only in his last years did he bother much with the church. He was a crank and a nuisance, but withal a deeply innocent and brave man." Corey refuses to answer the charges levied against him and is crushed to death beneath heavy stones that are placed upon his chest by the inquisitors, who are attempting to torture a confession out of him. Because he neither admitted the charge nor denied it and risked being hanged, his property passed to his sons instead of the town. His refusal to cooperate and his disdain for the trials is illustrated in his last words before he dies beneath the stones: "More weight."
Deputy Governor Danforth
Danforth is described as a "grave man of some humor and sophistication that does not, however, interfere with an exact loyalty to his position and his cause." Contrary to the strong and proficient appearance...
(The entire section is 1874 words.)