Why does Danforth refuse to postpone the hangings?  

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noahvox2's profile pic

noahvox2 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Danforth is an elderly man who serves as the judge in the witchcraft trials. Danforth is extremely rigid and once he has made up his mind, there will be no changing it. For example, when Corey tries to defend his wife, Danforth roars,

"Then you take it upon yourself to decide what this court shall believe and what it shall set aside?"

When Corey tells Danforth that he did not mean any disrespect, Danforth again declares indignantly:

Disrespect, indeed!-It is disruption, Mister. This is the highest court of the supreme government of this province, do you know it?

Danforth seems almost proud of the fact that just by signing his name, he is responsible for 400 people being in jail and another 72 being condemned to die.

Thus, when Parris suggests that the hangings be postponed because of recent developments that have cast doubt on the proceedings in their town, Danforth twice declares that there will be no postponement.

On the most basic level, Danforth refuses to allow the postponement because he is a rigid person and is convinced that his decision is the correct one. Second, he himself says that to allow postponement would speak "a floundering...on my part". In addition to Danforth's unwillingness to appear indecisive, he also says that a "reprieve or pardon [would] cast doubt upon the guilt of" those who had already been put to death.

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gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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As was mentioned in the previous post, Deputy Governor Danforth is an extremely rigid and prideful man. In Act Four, Parris attempts to convince Danforth to postpone the hangings. Parris tells Danforth that other towns, such as Andover, have thrown out the court and there is a high possibility that the citizens of Salem will rebel if Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor are hanged. Upon hearing this suggestion, Danforth remains implacable and refuses to pardon John and Rebecca because twelve people have already been hanged. He goes on to mention that pardoning the accused will only bring "doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now." Danforth is intransigent and too prideful to admit when he is wrong. He also has complete faith in "God's law" and believes the court is infallible. Postponing the hangings will make Danforth and his court look weak, and people will begin to question the court's authority. 

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