How are the characters in The Crucible responsible for the witch hysteria?

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Almost everyone in Salem is responsible for the witch hysteria in one way or another. Characters such as Abigail Williams and Thomas Putnam are motivated by selfish and cynical ends—Abigail by revenge and self-aggrandizement, Putnam by greed—and may be regarded as the most morally depraved. There is no indication that either of them believes in witches at all, but the witch-hunt serves their ends.

Ann Putnam, in contrast, has been so deranged by the deaths of her children that she is desperately looking for someone to blame and seizes fervently on the witch-hunt as a way of assuaging her grief. Mr. Parris is motivated by fear, as, in a different way, is Judge Danforth, who seems to have the intelligence to realize that the proceedings, if not a total sham, have clearly taken a wrong turn. However, he is willing to kill innocent people to protect his reputation.

One of the most culpable characters is Mr. Hale, who has dismissed a charge of witchcraft in his own parish of Beverly but...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 12, 2019