Who is to blame for the tragic events in The Crucible?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The blame for the events of the story has to be assigned to more than a single individual. Abigail Williams and her friends certainly deserve a portion of the blame. Judge Danforth, Reverend Parris and Reverend Hale also share responsibility for the numerous deaths resulting from the witchtrials. 

The trouble in Salem begins when Abigail convinces her friends (and Tituba) to divert attention from their own midnight actions in the woods. To do this, accusations of witchcraft are made against others.

These accusations are fabricated for the most part - simply made up. The responsibility for the lies rests with Abigail and her cohort. However, it is at this point in the story that the responsibility shifts to the adults in the Salem community.

Instead of actually assessing the claims made by frightened girls (who happen to be facing quite a serious punishment for witchcraft of their own), Hale and Parris decide the stories are true. Believing the girls' lies without skepticism is the fault of these adults and community leaders.   

Furthermore, it is the official court that hands down the verdicts and sentences citizens to death. This court, represented in large part by Danforth, is responsible for the tragedy of wrongful death meted out in punishment for crimes that were never committed. 

Seen in this way, we can say that the girls' accusations tip the first proverbial dominoes leading to tragedy, but they are far from alone in the final blame. 

...the community's reaction to these accusations, he shows how easily stories can be taken out of context—and how people are blamed for crimes they haven't committed.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Abigail Williams and her cohort of supporters are to blame for the tragic events that take place in the play. After the Putnams visit Reverend Parris's home and begin discussing the rumors of witchcraft, Abigail realizes the seriousness of the situation. It is also Abigail who threatens Betty and the other girls into following her lead as she begins accusing innocent people of witchcraft. Abigail plays a leading role in perpetuating hysteria regarding witchcraft throughout the community, but Reverend Parris's decision to request Reverend Hale makes the situation in Salem significantly worse. Resentful neighbors, such as the Putnams, also share some of the blame for the tragic events, as do the rigid, self-righteous court officials. Deputy Governor Danforth and Judge Hathorne refuse to exercise discernment and believe that their court is infallible as they proceed to execute numerous innocent citizens.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It could be said that the acts of Abigail Williams, Tituba, and the girls who conjured spirits in the forest and then tell a succession of lies are the catalyst for the ultimate tragedy of the executions. However, there is plenty of blame to go around in The Crucible.

The Putnams are also culpable. The family prompts Ruth to accuse George Jacobs of witchcraft with the goal of having him forfeit his land, although this also ends Jacobs's life.

The deep insecurity of Parris, Danforth, and Hathorne also contributes to the deaths of innocent citizens of Salem.  Because they do not want to be seen as personally weak or for the theocratic government to be seen as fallible, they entertain the scurrilous allegations brought forward by Abigail and the other girls as well as the Putnams. This leads to the executions of some of Salem's most pious and honorable citizens.