How do the character traits of Danforth affect his relationship with other characters in The Crucible, including John Proctor, Abigail Williams, Reverend Hale, and Reverend Parris?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Danforth's rigidity and his obvious desire to retain his authority regardless of any injustice or the suffering of others certainly negatively affects his relationships with John Proctor and Reverend Hale. He seems determined to believe the girls in court, regardless of how outlandish their accusations become or the superior reputations...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Danforth's rigidity and his obvious desire to retain his authority regardless of any injustice or the suffering of others certainly negatively affects his relationships with John Proctor and Reverend Hale. He seems determined to believe the girls in court, regardless of how outlandish their accusations become or the superior reputations of the people they accuse. This leads to John Proctor's total loss of respect for Danforth and Hale's as well. Hale "quits" the court as a result of his apparent feeling that both the court and Danforth are corrupt.

Danforth's credulity means that Abigail can manipulate him more easily. He is inclined to believe the girls because, as he says, it is the opinion of the government of the colony that the "voice of Heaven is speaking through [them]." His concurrence with this estimation increases his own power and authority. When Proctor accuses Abigail, Danforth seems all too willing to believe Proctor is lying after his wife says that he was not unfaithful to her and their marriage despite Hale's claim that "it is a natural lie to tell." Once Abigail starts with her story about the "yellow bird" she talks to as if it were Mary Warren, Danforth is convinced of Abigail's truthfulness.

Danforth's desire to maintain authority also affects his relationship with Reverend Parris. Parris actively tries to manipulate Danforth—though he is less skilled at doing so than Abigail—and he is not tremendously successful.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Judge Danforth is primarily developed through indirect characterization. Unlike the characters introduced earlier in the play, we do not have the benefit of a narrator's explanation of Danforth and his behavior. Therefore, we primarily get to know Danforth by what he says and by his relationship with other characters.

Through Danforth's actions in the play, we understand him to be a very proud and stubborn man. He greatly dislikes and mistrusts Reverend Hale because he questions the proceedings. He also greatly dislikes Reverend Parris, calling him a "brainless man" (Act 4) and repeatedly telling him to be quiet (Act 3). Both of these men are challenging Danforth's authority in some way -- Hale by questioning the veracity of the girls' testimony and Parris by trying to take over the questioning of Mary Warren (see Act 3).

John and Abigail pose a different type of threat to Danforth. They question is judgment and discernment. Through these two characters we see the extent of Danforth's ego and stubbornness. The evidence against Abigail is staggering, but admitting that she was a fraud means admitting that he made a mistake in condemning supposed witches to their deaths, which Danforth cannot do. 

These traits of Danforth seal the fates of the main characters. They cause Reverend Hale to compromise his beliefs, asking the prisoners to save their lives by lying. They lead to the condemnation of John Proctor, and allow Abigail Williams to escape her deserved fate. They even cause Reverend Parris, the court's biggest supporter, to plead and pray with prisoners to save themselves. Danforth's pride is the catalyst for the climax and resolution of the play.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team