Use quotes to discuss how Abigail, Danforth, and John Proctor use their power and authority in The Crucible.
At the end of Act One, Abigail sees her opportunity to manipulate the fear of those around her and gain power by "confessing" to witchcraft herself and accusing others. Tituba has already named Goody Osborne and Goody Good—and has been believed, without question—so Abigail picks up on this thread, accusing those same women and one other: Bridget Bishop. She says,
I want to open myself. I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osborne with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!
And so, with one short speech, Abigail goes from a powerless girl to a powerful accuser. She uses her words to align herself with God, acquiring some measure of divine authority in the eyes of her hearers.
During the trials, Danforth tells Francis Nurse, in a show of his own power and authority,
. . . a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between. This is a sharp time, now, a precise time—we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world. Now, by God's grace, the shining sun is up, and them that fear not light will surely praise it.
Danforth has just ordered that all ninety-one people who signed a testament to the good character of Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey be arrested and questioned. His power to convict and execute is virtually unlimited, and his authority in the court cannot be questioned. He considers himself to be an expert in legal matters, and he behaves as such.
Moreover, in Act Four, in response to Reverend Parris's request that he postpone the hangings scheduled for that day, Danforth says,
Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now. While I speak God's law, I will not crack its voice with whimpering. If retaliation is your fear, know this—I should hang ten thousand that dared to rise against the law, and an ocean of salt tears could not melt the resolution of the statutes.
He will retain his authority, no matter the cost—even if that cost the lives of innocent people. He believes that he "speak[s] God's law," and he will do nothing that will make either himself or this law appear weak or uncertain. He would rather hang multitudes than accept any opposition to his authority.
In Act Four, we see Reverend Parris's acknowledgement that John Proctor's power lies in his reputation as a good and upright man. He says, "John Proctor is not Isaac Ward that drank his family to ruin." He means that Proctor's execution will not be easily accepted by the townsfolk because John is known to be a good man, not an irresponsible or nasty one. Further, he points out that when he "summoned the congregation for John Proctor's excommunication there were hardly thirty people come to hear it." In other words, Proctor is popular, and thus powerful, and so his conviction is unpopular. Finally, after Proctor confesses, Parris begs Danforth to hurry the process along because John's is "a weighty name"— a description that, again, speaks to John's authority in the town as a result of his nearly spotless reputation.
Deputy Governor Danforth speaks with imperious authority. To demonstrate his power, he asserts rhetorically,
"Near to four hundred are in the jails from Marblehead to Lynn, and upon my signature...and seventy-two condemned to hang by that signature" (Act III).
Danforth tolerates no opposition in his courtroom, making this completely clear to Giles in admonishing,
"Now sit you down and take counsel with yourself, or you will be set in the jail until you decide to answer all questions...this is a court of law...I'll have no effrontery here!" (Act III).
Abigail's influence stems from her skill in manipulation and emotionalism. She defies Danforth, threatening,
"Let you beware, Mr. Danforth. Think you to be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits?" (Act III).
Later, after a theatrical demonstration feigning the vision of Mary Warren's evil spirit in the form of a bird, Abigail shows her power with a dramatically contrived action which speaks louder than any words could,
Abigail, out of her infinite charity, reaches out and draws the sobbing Mary to her" (Act III).
John Proctor's authority is shown most clearly in the moment before his death. Having nearly consented to lie to save his life, he remains steadfast in truth. His final words ring with power and integrity, as he urges Elizabeth to
"Give them no tear...show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!" (Act IV).