In "The Crucible", who is blamed for the horrific event?

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Deputy-Governor Danforth is to blame for the witch-hunt. Superstition is to blame for all the deaths.

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If one had to blame a single character in The Crucible for the horrific events in Salem, I would select Deputy-Governor Danforth. It is true that the witch-hunt begins in his absence. He clearly is not responsible for starting the crisis. Once the court is established, however, he is the primary figure of authority and he uses that authority to cause harm. In Act III, he tells Francis Nurse that four hundred people are in jail upon his signature, seventy-two of them condemned to hang. He seems curiously proud of this. In Act IV, he has already hanged twelve people and plans to kill more because:

Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now.

In other words, he will kill more people to avoid having to admit that he has been wrong. Danforth gives the appearance of respectability to the corrupt court and allows innocent people to be killed because of his cowardice and vanity.

The vast majority of the blame, however, must be apportioned not to a "who" but to a "what." Superstition is really to blame for the witch-hunt. Even an educated man like Hale regards it as sinful even to question the existence of witches. Even at the end of the play, when he realizes how destructive his involvement in the trials has been, Hale does not understand that his blind faith has led him to spend his life pursuing knowledge of a non-existent phenomenon, which is to say, the opposite of knowledge, something very much worse than pure ignorance. The people of Salem are both ignorant and superstitious. No particular harm comes of their ignorance alone. John Proctor does not know if there are witches in the world and this lack of knowledge causes no problem for anyone, though it scandalizes the superstitious Hale. It is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge which goes by the name of superstition that causes all the deaths in Salem.

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No one individual is responsible for the terrifying witch-craze that descends upon Salem. This is an outbreak of mass hysteria, which, as the name implies, requires the active participation of many people, not just one or two individuals. That said, it's certainly possible to identify certain individuals as having greater moral responsibility than others for this appalling tragedy.

An obvious candidate would be Abigail Williams. She's the leading light in this whole unseemly fiasco, the one who more than anyone else pointed the finger of suspicion at people she knew full well were entirely innocent of witchcraft. It is Abigail who's the driving force behind the witch-craze, the evil genius ramping it up at every opportunity, irrespective of how many innocent lives she destroys.

But as well as sins of commission, there are also sins of omission, and a special mention in this regard needs to be made of Reverend Hale. Although he didn't start the fire, as it were, he had ample opportunity to stamp it out before it engulfed the whole town. He could've used his authority as a man of God and an expert on witches to nip this madness in the bud. But he didn't. Instead, he went along with the witch-craze until it was too late to stop it.

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There are many potential answers to this question, in part, because it is difficult (if not impossible) to pin the blame on just one character. Abigail Williams would likely be a popular answer because she drank the charm to kill Elizabeth Proctor, accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft in order to resume her affair with Elizabeth's husband, and accuses a great many people of witchcraft. She first accuses Tituba, then Sarah Good, Goody Osburn, Bridge Bishop, Goody Sibber, Goody Hawkins, Goody Booth, and Elizabeth Proctor. Eventually she even accuses her one-time friend, Mary Warren. Abigail is selfish, vengeful, and murderous.

However, one might also blame the Putnams. After all, they admit in Act One that they sent their daughter, Ruth, to conjure the spirits of their dead babies with Tituba. Had they not enlisted Tituba's help, the girls might never have gone to the forest with her and been caught by Reverend Parris; Betty would not have panicked and become ill and Abigail would not have been questioned or have accused anyone else.

You might say that Reverend Parris is responsible for the play's events. He allowed himself to be egged on by Mr. Putnam to announce the witchcraft; he called Reverend Hale to town, inspiring more rumors and doubts; and he tried to sway the court via Deputy Governor Danforth, at every turn, prejudicing the magistrates against the people he does not like and insisting that they are corrupt.

One could also claim that Danforth himself is to blame. He represents the law at the colony of Massachusetts and he could have put down these accusations as meritless when he first arrived (or at any time after). However, he chooses to uphold his authority rather than the truth and permits the hanging of people he seems to realize are actually innocent. The trials add to his power.

Some might argue that Mr. Hale is the one responsible because he is so proud of his knowledge and books that he is rendered blind to the possibility of corruption in either the hearts of the accusers or the judges. He does not stand up to the court until it is too late.

In short, there are so many possible candidates that you could go in almost any direction and find someone who could be blamed for the tragic events.

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