The Crucible Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

The Crucible book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In Judge Danforth’s dramatic exchange with Reverend Hale, explain what erroneous idea underlies all his reasoning about the legal proceedings.

Expert Answers info

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write16,848 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Danforth's erroneous idea that underlies his reasoning about the legal proceedings is that the law has more to do with people than the truth. Danforth personalizes the court proceedings.  He wishes to make the court proceedings a referendum on individual conduct. In associating himself and others in Salem who wish to see witchcraft proven, he erroneously argues that the people who sit on the court and in power are synonymous with justice and the law. Danforth mistakenly believes that his role on the bench has to be validated by the verdict. Individuals who sit on the bench should not be rooting for a particular verdict.  Their vested interests should not be validated or invalidated by the court's actions. This is where Danforth's fundamental starting point is wrong and is revealed in his exchange with Hale.  When Danforth says, "a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between," it is a statement which reflects how Danforth has personalized the court and sought to link it with the law.  Danforth has no real interest in pursuing the truth if it does not validate his own belief system and the presuppositions of those in the position of power.  

When Danforth reprimands Hale with, " I will have nothing from you," it is a reflection of the erroneous belief that the law is meant to support individuals.  The reality is that the people should support the law and not the other way around. The law and its legal proceedings should be blind to political and social persuasion and seek to find the truth through evidence, analysis, and emotional detachment in weighing facts and arguments.  This is not Danforth's belief in his execution of the law, which uses the law more as an ultimatum for conformity and compliance than as a search for the truth.  This is why the legal system is corrupt in Salem.  The court became coopted by individuals who sought to use if for their own gain and control as opposed to it being its own entity, apart from such realms.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial