What is Danforth's basic attitude toward the proceedings of the trials, and how does his philosophy influence the trials?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Deputy Governor Danforth is a strict, austere man, who fully believes in the authority of the court and is willing to preserve its position of power at all costs. During the proceedings, Deputy Governor Danforth dismisses citizens with arguments against the court and continues to arrest and hang innocent individuals to save face. Danforth's philosophy towards the proceedings are summarized in a comment he makes to John Proctor in act 3, when he says,

"But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between." (94)

Essentially, Deputy Governor Danforth sees issues as black and white. Citizens either comply with the court's decisions, or they are considered criminals and arrested. Danforth believes that God has ordained the court with His authority, which is why Danforth is unwilling to sympathize with any disgruntled citizens. His narrow perspective, authoritative demeanor, and callous nature only exacerbate the issues in Salem. When John Proctor, Mary Warren, Giles Corey, and Francis Nurse attempt to reason with Danforth by informing him that Abigail and the others are lying, he responds by arresting John and Giles.

In act 4 when Reverend Hale begs Danforth to postpone the trial, Danforth replies by saying,

"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." (129)

Clearly, Deputy Governor Danforth feels justified in murdering whoever he wants simply because he is in charge of the court. Overall, Deputy Governor Danforth believes that he has ultimate authority, which is ordained by God, to pass judgement however he chooses. 

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Danforth came off as an arrogant individual based on some of his personal remarks. He was proud of the number of people he had convicted and condemned to death. According to him, the number of condemnations made was a sign of prestige, and the Salem witch trials offered him an opportunity to add to his list. The proceedings were an opportunity for him to continue asserting his authority as an official of the court, and also to protect the reputation of the institution he represented. He was only concerned with the court's superiority over the community and his own standing as a renowned judge. His bias forced him to only believe the girls, and even when it emerged that they had lied to the court, his pride stood in the way of him making the right decision. Parris informed Danforth that Abigail had stolen some money from him and that she and Mercy Lewis had left town. However, Danforth still went ahead and hanged Rebecca Nurse and John, among others.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my opinion, Danforth's basic attitude is that he cares more about how the court and government will end up looking than about anything else.  He does not really care about justice or about witches, he cares about making himself look good.

This influences the trials because it influences him to make decisions based only on the image of the court.  So he ignores the fact that the girls seem to be lying.  Once he has believed them, he has to keep on believing them so that he does not end up looking bad.