Which male characters filll the roles of protagonist and antagonist and what are their divergent characteristics?
In one sense, the entire town is an antagonist because they allow the witch hunt and executions to occur. More specifically, antagonists would be the characters who do the most to instigate or promote the witch hunt. Abigail, Parris, Hathorne and Danforth are clearly three of the most prominent antagonists because they are most responsible, in their own ways, for starting and sustaining the hysteria. Danforth, more than anyone, has the power to stop everything, but, even when presented with the evidence, he won’t because he doesn’t want the court to look bad. Parris is more concerned with his status and conforming to public opinion than he is with rational morality. Putnam is an antagonist because he supports the witch hunt since he knows that the convicted will lose their land. Overall, these antagonists are not driven by moral integrity. They are driven by greed, vanity and fear of not conforming to majority opinion.
Protagonists would be John and Elizabeth Proctor. John was wrong in his adultery, but he, Hale, Elizabeth and Giles Cory are the voices of reason and justice. Hale is objective, but like John, he is flawed because he doesn’t support John at the end. So, Hale is definitely an example of a split protagonist/antagonist. Giles might be the most admirable male character in the play. Torture cannot even break him down or corrupt him.