Why won't Danforth pardon the prisoners in Act IV of The Crucible?

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Danforth states that he cannot pardon the people set to be executed in Act IV for two related reasons. The authority of the court must be maintained and pardoning those set to be hanged would suggest wavering on the part of the court. In his argument, Danforth claims that his decision is made in the interest of justice. 

"I cannot pardon these when twelve hare already hanged for the same crime. It is not just."

Danforth goes on to say that he cannot be seen to be "floundering". He is not at all cowed by the danger which Parris has spoken of (Parris found a dagger at his door on his way to the jail). Instead, Danforth claims that he would hang ten thousand people if they stood up against the law, regardless of danger or consequences for himself. 

As challenges to the rulings, the execution, and the validity of the sentences increase (from Hathorne, Parris, and Hale), Danforth becomes more and more severe and uncompromising in his insistence that the sentences be carried out. His stubbornness is connected to his belief that the court should not be in any way compromised in its authority. 

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