Throughout the course of The Crucible, does Danforth change?

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When Deputy Governor Danforth is initially portrayed in act three, he is depicted as a confident, honest judge, who genuinely believes that Abigail and her followers are telling the truth. He has complete faith that God is on his side and that the devil is attacking Salem's community. Danforth is...

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When Deputy Governor Danforth is initially portrayed in act three, he is depicted as a confident, honest judge, who genuinely believes that Abigail and her followers are telling the truth. He has complete faith that God is on his side and that the devil is attacking Salem's community. Danforth is also comfortable in his position of authority and boasts about how many witches he has sentenced to death. However, Danforth's attitude begins to change as John Proctor, Mary Warren, Giles Corey, and Francis Nurse begin to challenge the court's proceedings and defend the accused citizens. Danforth becomes less confident and anxious whenever Mary Warren testifies that the girls are lying. He also displays his controlling personality by ordering Giles Corey's arrest and is visibly shaken by the accusations that his court is corrupt. Danforth quickly loses his air of confidence and displays his vengeful personality by accusing John Proctor of witchcraft after Elizabeth lies on his behalf.

In act four, Deputy Governor Danforth is afraid and anxious about the rumors concerning rebellion. Despite his anxiety and fear, he conceals his emotions and is determined to hang the accused citizens refusing to confess. He is fully aware that the girls were lying but is resolute on exacting justice and displaying his authority. Overall, one could argue that Danforth was once a genuine, confident authority figure, who changed into a desperate, maniacal individual fighting to protect his reputation and social status.

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At the risk of giving him too much credit, I do think Danforth changes.  When the audience first meets him in Act Three, he seems to honestly believe that the girls are telling the truth when they accuse others of witchcraft.  That the Puritan religion admitted both the existence of witches as well as the possibility of the devil working constantly in their daily lives to tempt and corrupt them meant that Danforth could legitimately believe the seemingly wild stories the girls were telling him.  He says, "We burn a hot fire [in this court]; it melts down all concealment," and I think he believes that this is true because of the evidence (convincing to him and others) he's heard from both the girls and the people who confessed to witchcraft.

By Act 4, however, Danforth has changed.  I think he now recognizes that the girls were lying.  He calls Reverend Parris "a brainless man" now that Abigail and Mercy Lewis have robbed him and run off, and certainly Abigail's theft and flight make her look immoral and guilty.  Further, he seems more concerned about his and the court's authority now than he does about truth.  When Parris and Hale ask him to postpone the hangings, he refuses, saying, "Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now."  Even if all those who've been hanged were innocent, he cannot now seem to admit the possibility because it would mean that he and the other judges have been tricked.  He swears that, if the town should rebel, he would rather hang them all than appear weak.  Therefore, during the course of the play, Danforth seems to have lost sight of what is important: truth.  By the end, retaining his own reputation, authority, and appearance of righteousness trumps his concern for truth.

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