Which characters in The Crucible are good or bad?

In The Crucible, Reverend Samuel Parris, Abigail Williams, Deputy Governor Danforth, Judge Hathorne, and the Putnams are considered "bad" characters because they are selfish, manipulative, and corrupt. They are cruel to others, use the witch trials to increase their power, and harm innocent civilians. John Proctor, Elizabeth, Giles, Rebecca, Martha, and Reverend Hale are considered "good" characters, who champion the truth, make significant sacrifices, and attempt to undermine and expose Salem's corrupt court.

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The characters in the play are somewhat complex and have been significantly influenced by the overwhelming hysteria that has consumed the small town, which motivates their decisions and actions. Although no specific character can fairly be described as completely "good" or "bad," certain characters act more selfish, cruel, and malicious than others. Thomas Putnam and his wife would fall into the "bad" category and propagate the witchcraft hysteria. Thomas Putnam displays his greedy personality by instructing his daughter to falsely accuse citizens of witchcraft and uses the witch trials as a land grab. Reverend Samuel Parris and his niece Abigail Williams also would fall into the "bad" category because they are selfishly motivated and are primarily responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians. Reverend Parris is more concerned with remaining in a position of power than he is with exposing the truth, while Abigail cruelly wields her newfound authority by falsely accusing innocent citizens of witchcraft. She also intimidates the other girls, tries to murder Elizabeth Proctor, and pretends that she is being attacked by evil spirits during the trials. She is the main antagonist of the play, and Salem's court is founded on her false accusations.

Despite his many flaws, John Proctor is portrayed as a "good" character, who challenges Salem's corrupt court and sacrifices his life to save his innocent neighbors. Elizabeth Proctor is also depicted as a "good" character and transforms into an understanding, loyal wife. Elizabeth even lies on John's behalf, forgives him for his infidelity, and apologizes for acting cold. Giles Corey is another "good" character, who supports John Proctor when he challenges Salem's court and dies a martyr by refusing to offer a false confession. Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey are also "good" characters, who are willing to sacrifice their lives in order to put an end to the devastating witch trials. Another "good" character is Reverend John Hale. Although Reverend Hale is significantly influenced by the witchcraft hysteria, he continues to search for truth and supports the innocent citizens against Salem's corrupt authority figures.

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While it would be unfair to categorize each character as either "good" or "bad," one could fairly discuss whether each character had positive or negative intentions throughout the play.

Reverend Parris: He is depicted as a selfish, greedy man who perpetuates the witchcraft hysteria while ignoring the truth in order to solidify his important position in the community. He encourages Deputy Governor Danforth and Judge Hathorne to disregard John Proctor's testimony and arrest him for contempt of court. He also shows no remorse or concern for anyone else's well-being besides his own throughout the play.

Abigail Williams: While one could argue that her actions are a result of growing up in an austere, oppressed society with a selfish uncle, she is portrayed as a malevolent character throughout the play. She publicly accuses innocent people of witchcraft and attempts to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor. She also threatens the other girls and robs her uncle before she flees Salem.

John Proctor: While John makes several questionable decisions that are rather selfish throughout the play, he ultimately reveals his integrity and morally upright character by becoming a martyr at the end of the play. John refuses to sell out his friends and makes the difficult decision to tear up his false confession knowing that he will die.

Deputy Governor Danforth: He is portrayed as a callous, controlling man who dismisses the truth in order to protect his position of authority.

Reverend Hale: While Hale initially supports Salem's court, he experiences an inner change after realizing that it is corrupt. Hale feels extremely guilty for his part in sentencing innocent citizens and quits the court. By the end of the play, Hale tries his best to convince the incarcerated citizens to confess in order to save their lives.

Elizabeth Proctor: While Elizabeth is initially portrayed as a callous, cold wife, she ends up revealing her compassionate nature by supporting her husband's difficult decision towards the end of the play.

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While I agree, on some level, with the other commenter, I do think there are characters who are so at fault and so conscious of what they are doing during this hysteria that they can be described as evil.

The Reverend Samuel Parris, for example, seems to care more about his authority and power than he does about his daughter, Betty. Then he withholds evidence from the court in order to protect himself; he never tells anyone what Mrs. Putnam said to him about sending her daughter to Tituba to conjure the spirits of her dead babies. He only tells Danforth about the girls dancing in the woods when John Proctor mentions it first.  Clearly, Parris is pretty slimy.

Mr. Putnam, likewise, is fairly evil too. A friend of Giles Corey's overheard Putnam say that his daughter gave him a "fair gift of land" when his daughter accused George Jacobs of witchcraft. We might infer that he, in fact, influenced his daughter to make this accusation so that Jacobs would be convicted and his property would go up for public auction, where Putnam could then purchase it. If he has done this, then he is a murderer. At best, he is totally dishonest and is taking some pleasure in the fact that innocent people will die.

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I think that with any human being (or character based on a human being) that no one is all good or all evil. The same holds true in The Crucible.

It's easy to say that Abigail is evil, as she is the one who set the whole frenzied witch hunt in motion after being spurned by her lover, John Proctor. However, remember that she was a young girl who entered into an affair with a married man who threw her over when he decided to go back to his wife...so in a way she was betrayed as well.

John Proctor was a good man...choosing in the end to do the right thing, but he did break his marriage vows...so he too could be seen as evil by some.

Tituba could be seen as evil, as she conjured up magic spells and encouraged the young girls of the town to prance naked around the cauldron in the forrest.

Mary Warren lied and accused Proctor of making her sign the Devil's book when she can't handle the other girls' accusations any more. That was an evil deed, but did that make her an evil person?

How about Judge Hathorne (FYI- a distant relative of Nathaniel Hawthorne) who sentenced women to their death on the scant evidence of the accusation of a few wild girls.

But I think that's one of the  points of the play...that the lines between good and evil are blurred...that life is not black and white...but subtle shades of gray.

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