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

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Deputy Governor Danforth has great influence over the proceedings in court in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible . He is a man who truly believes in the court system that he has been a part of for thirty-two years. However, he is blinded by his own arrogance, and his intimidating...

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Deputy Governor Danforth has great influence over the proceedings in court in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. He is a man who truly believes in the court system that he has been a part of for thirty-two years. However, he is blinded by his own arrogance, and his intimidating attitude helps to sway the proceedings in the wrong direction.

Danforth claims that the court will find the truth. “We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment.” In his eyes, the innocent need not worry because the truth will protect them. So great is his belief in the court system as an agent of God to reveal truth that Danforth never considers the possibility that the system is failing. He says, “No uncorrupted man may fear this court.” Yet, his intimidating and forceful tone is feared.

He believes that there is something going on, and he’s determined to find what it is. Danforth tells Hale that “there is a prodigious guilt in the country” and reminds the court that the Bible prohibits witchcraft. He feels it is his duty to uphold the law of the government and of God.

Danforth’s arrogance, however, gets in the way of justice. He feels the weight of authority on his shoulders and knows that people’s lives depend on his judgement. Therefore, he makes a point of reminding everyone that he has signed more than 400 people into jail and 72 death warrants.

It becomes clear that part of the reason Danforth does not want to consider that the girls are lying is because it would make him part of the problem. If he finds that the witchcraft accusations are a hoax, that would mean he has murdered 72 people already, and in the future, he will kill over 400 more. He becomes quite indignant when he feels his authority is being questioned.

In addition, Danforth’s blindness also prevents justice and moves the court proceedings in the wrong direction. He is blinded to Abigail’s true character. He calls her a child, which indicates that he thinks she is not capable of deceit. Although several people testify against her, Danforth stubbornly will not change his mind. He believes non-evidence over real stories. He tells the court that witchcraft is “an invisible crime” so there is no way to actually prove it with evidence; therefore, they must rely on victims’ testimonies. Danforth is stubborn and blinded to truth.

There was never a possibility that the trial would expose the true villains because Danforth is not really open to truth and considers his own reputation. He never backs down, even later when Hale begs him to reconsider his ruling. Danforth reminds Hale that he has already hanged people and to change his mind “speaks a floundering on my part.” He also states that he would kill ten thousand more people if they broke the law. Ironically, Danforth, the man who is entrusted with upholding the law, thwarts every possible attempt to bring truth to light.

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Danforth believes that the Court is the supreme authority, and anyone challenging it must be wrong. Because of his religious philosophy, he believed that he was essentially ordained to act as God's instrument on Earth in this court. His attitude was that all who opposed the court were liars or fools, and so he had no rational opposition to challenge him because he would simply dismiss any opposing arguments.

This led Danforth to become a fearsome and powerful individual with essentially ultimate power. Danforth was able to capture, convict, and kill anyone he saw fit simply because he had the power to do so. If Danforth had the slightest reason to convict an individual, even if it was simply a personal issue, he had the authority to do so and have them killed. He saw no leniency in any of these issues.

Because of his decisive viewpoints, there was no room for interpretation of events or an explanation that was contrary to his assumption or opinion. Essentially, and quite literally, Danforth made himself "Judge, jury, and executioner." His lust for power led him to convict and execute numerous people in the society. It all stemmed from his assumption that he had God-ordained authority to do as he wished.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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