What are some adjectives that describe these characters in The Crucible: Abigail, Reverend Parris, Tituba, Proctor, Putnam, Goody Nurse, Mary Warren, and Reverend Hale?

Adjectives that describe Abigail in The Crucible are cunning, manipulative, and selfish. Adjectives that describe Reverend Parris are paranoid, avaricious, and vengeful. Adjectives that describe Tituba are powerless, sympathetic, and timid.

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Here are two adjectives for each character, with brief explanations.

Abigail is guileful and underhand.

Abigail is not a likeable character, but she is the product of childhood trauma, followed by living as a poor relation in the house of Reverend Parris. These misfortunes, together with the repressive atmosphere of Salem, have led her to develop habits of concealment and dishonesty.

Reverend Parris is paranoid and avaricious.

The Reverend Parris is constantly worrying about his unpopularity in the parish and trying to improve his status and salary.

Tituba is deracinated and powerless.

Tituba has been taken out of a society that makes sense to her and placed in one where her only function is to serve others. She has no independent existence and is only addressed at all about her relations with Betty, Abigail or the Reverend Parris (or, of course, the Devil).

Proctor is independent and impetuous.

Proctor develops throughout the play and there are adjectives that would only apply to him at certain points. He always follows his own course, though, and his quick, impetuous temper remains constant.

Putnam is purse-proud and litigious.

Purse-proud is an uncommon word now (Merriam-Webster gives its first use as 1681, so it would have been a brand new word to the people of Salem). However, its meaning, "looking down on others less wealthy than oneself," perfectly captures Putnam's attitude. He is also nearly as addicted to court actions as Giles Corey.

Goody Nurse is pious and altruistic.

Rebecca is one of the few Puritans who gives the impression of genuinely believing in God and caring about her fellow people.

Mary Warren is subservient and arrogant.

I have tried to find a word which means "subservient when weak but arrogant once in a position of strength." In the absence of such a term, however, I have used both terms for Mary Warren, a weak character who becomes self-important when the court gives her a little power.

Reverend Hale is learned and thoughtful.

Even more than Mary Warren, the Reverend Hale is a dynamic character. Unlike the other educated characters however (Parris, Danforth and Hathorne, for instance), he thinks for himself and changes his mind based on reasoning.

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The main characters in The Crucible present alternative sides of the powerful and the weak during the witch trials in Salem. One reason that may explain why the girls allowed this extravagant lie to go on for as long as they did is that they are seen as relatively insignificant in the daily dynamics of the town. When the witch trials begin, it empowers those who did not have much power before. Some adjectives that can describe these characters are: 

  • Abigail -- aggressive, bossy, cowardly, manipulative, cunning, selfish, vengeful, cruel
  • Reverend Parris -- aggressive, careless, greedy, vengeful, ambitious, 
  • Tituba -- sympathetic, changeable, timid, weak
  • Proctor -- impulsive, regretful, frustrated, courageous, determined, dynamic, brave
  • Putnam -- dishonest, deceitful, greedy
  • Goody Nurse -- faithful, honest, powerful, decisive, rational, and determined
  • Mary Warren -- gullible, timid, afraid, obedient weak
  • Reverend Hale -- enthusiastic, intelligent, diplomatic, determined, 
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Throughout the entire play, the real image of who these characters are, start to develop. You can see that most of them have both good and bad areas of their character.

Abigail is a beautiful girl of sixteen. She has a brief affair with John Proctor. She is the one who starts the whole mess about witchcraft. She is described as vengeful, selfish, very manipulative, smart, and an extremely good liar. She is the niece of Rev. Parris, which sets up a whole other dimension to her.

Rev. Parris is a paranoid, selfish and power hungry preacher. He preaches on sin and hell and damnation all of the time. Many of the people of Salem don't like him.

Tituba is from Barbados. She is a servant and she is the one who introduces Abigail to the dark arts. She practices voodoo.

John Proctor is a proud, strong, stern and harsh tongued man. He hate hypocrisy, which is interesting, because he did have an affair with Abigail. He knows that she is faking, but is too afraid to say so, because it will come out what happened between them.

Thomas Putnam is a rich, vindictive, ruthless and cruel man. He is from one of the richest families in Salem. He is powerful and has a lot of pull over people.

Goody Nurse is a selfless, honest yet assertive woman. She has the biggest heart of anyone in the town.

Mary Warren is one of Abigail's friends. She is timid and easily influenced. She is a weak girl. She is going to tell everyone that they faked the whole thing, but Abigail intimidates and bullies her into not saying anything.

Rev. Hale is a young intelligent man. He is open minded. He is an expert on witchcraft. He is the one who comes to set up the trial. Eventually he sees the truth and tries to save those who have been accused. 

All of these characters are flawed. There is some goodness in them, yet for so many of them, they keep it hidden. The longer the play goes on, the more we get to see who the real person is, which has been hidden. 

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As these characters are rather fully formed and fleshed out in the play, assigning adjectives to them is not especially difficult. To do this, we can simply characterize the various behaviors the characters present in the play.

  • Abigail is deceitful, dishonest, savvy, subtle, adept, manipulative, and bold.
  • Reverend Parris is selfish, fearful, aggressive, petty, and tyrannical. 
  • Tituba is foreign, fearful, desperate, hysterical, and agreeable. 
  • John Proctor is proud, honest, direct, strong, impatient, and hot-tempered. 
  • Rebecca Nurse is honest, helpful, selfless, pious, and assertive. 
  • Mary Warren is timid, willing to follow, flighty, oscillating, helpful, variable, and weak. 
  • Reverend Hale is pompous, proud, intelligent, deluded, regretful, (eventually) open-minded, dedicated and academic. 
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