The Crucible Characters
The main characters in The Crucible are John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail Williams, Reverend Parris, and Tituba.
- John Proctor is an innocent man accused of witchcraft by his former lover, Abigail.
- Elizabeth Proctor is John's wife, who is convicted of witchcraft but spared by the court when it's found that she is pregnant.
- Abigail Williams is Reverend Parris's niece, who accuses John and Elizabeth of witchcraft as revenge for being fired.
- Reverend Parris is who finds the group of girls dancing naked in the forest.
- Tituba is a slave found dancing with the girls.
Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1600
John Proctor, a farmer, is the protagonist of the story. He is a well-respected man in Salem, but it is revealed that he had an illicit affair with the adolescent Abigail Williams prior to the events of the play. This mistake comes back to haunt him when his wife, Elizabeth, is named a witch by Abigail and the girls who follow her. John is aware—from conversations with both Abigail and his servant, Mary Warren—that the girls have fabricated their accusations. Though he despises the trials, he is initially reluctant to challenge the girls for fear that his indiscretion with Abigail will be exposed, costing him his good name.
After Elizabeth is arrested, however, John confronts the court with evidence, including depositions and a signed petition vouching for the characters of Elizabeth, Rebecca Nurse, and Martha Corey. His actions are viewed as attempts to undermine the court, and his own integrity and Christian faith are questioned. Eventually, John, too, is imprisoned and accused as a witch. John initially decides to falsely confess to witchcraft in an attempt to spare his life, but in the end, he refuses to lie and chooses to be executed rather than sacrifice his good name. One of the central conflicts of the play concerns John's internal struggles in the wake of his immoral affair. Ultimately, he redeems his good name and his soul by refusing to surrender his integrity.
Abigail Williams is the young woman with whom John Proctor had an affair while she was a servant in his household. Abigail becomes very attached to John and hopes he will start a genuine relationship with her, despite the fact that he already has a wife. It is suggested by Betty that this is Abigail’s motivation when she takes part in Tituba's ritual at the start of the play, where she allegedly drinks blood as part of a charm to kill Elizabeth Proctor. When the girls are discovered, they—led by Abigail—deflect their own guilt onto others in the town, accusing them of being witches. Throughout the play, Abigail is shown to be cunning and manipulative. She exerts great power over the other girls, and at times, she appears to be genuinely convinced by the hysteria she has created—and therefore must know to be false.
Elizabeth Proctor is John Proctor's wife. She knows of John's affair with Abigail and is trying to forgive her husband, though she clearly struggles to trust him. Elizabeth is seen as a model citizen, but her reputation does not protect her from accusations of witchcraft, and she is eventually jailed. Shortly after being imprisoned, Elizabeth announces that she is pregnant, and her trial (and potential execution) is temporarily stayed. Elizabeth possesses a strong sense of honor and morality. Though she wants John to live, she ultimately respects his decision to die rather than lie and be freed.
Mary Warren is one of Abigail's friends and a servant in the Proctor home. A poppet belonging to her is found in Elizabeth Proctor's possession. This results in Elizabeth's arrest for witchcraft. Although she is weak and easily influenced by Abigail, Mary eventually tries to put things right by telling the court that the girls made up their accusations of witchcraft. When the girls turn on her, however, Mary is too afraid to stand by the truth, and she rejoins the girls, helping them accuse John Proctor.
Reverend Parris is Salem's local reverend, and his daughter Betty's illness at the start of the play is one of the events that sets off the witch trials. It is suggested—particularly by John Proctor—that Parris is a greedy and unchristian man. Indeed, Parris is shown to be deeply concerned with his reputation and power, which he fears are being challenged by some in town. In an attempt to maintain his authority, Parris becomes a staunch advocate for the trials and eventually loses his grip on reality and logic. Even when Mary Warren admits the girls have been lying, Parris refuses to believe her.
Reverend Hale comes from outside of Salem and is called in due to his expertise in witchcraft. He is supposedly learned and educated on the phenomenon. Though he is initially a supporter of the trials—possessing a passionate belief that witchcraft is a very real threat—he slowly becomes skeptical of the girls’ accusations and the trials’ proceedings. By the end of the play, Hale rejects the trials as a farce and finds himself abandoning his Christian principles and counseling the accused to lie to save themselves.
Deputy Governor Danforth
Danforth comes to Salem to oversee the witch trials. Like Parris, he is committed to carrying out the trials, even in the face of evidence that the accusations are false. Danforth is depicted as short-sighted and unwilling to admit to errors. Notably, he refuses to postpone the executions of Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor for fear that any leniency will cast doubt on the guilt of those he already condemned to die. Ultimately, his misplaced confidence in his own judgment prevents him from administering true justice.
Ezekiel Cheever is the clerk of the court, and he performs his role dutifully and unquestioningly, albeit with occasional hesitation. Cheever is responsible for drafting the warrants for those accused of witchcraft. When he arrives at the Proctor home to deliver Elizabeth’s warrant, he is initially bashful. Then he notices a poppet, which has a needle protruding from it. This he takes as evidence of Elizabeth’s guilt, for during the day’s court proceedings, Abigail Williams had accused Elizabeth of bewitching her by use of a poppet and needle. He ignores the Proctors’ contrary claims, preferring to fulfill his duty. Cheever thus represents the choice to conform in the face of collective fear and hysteria.
Giles Corey is a local farmer who is still physically and mentally formidable despite being eighty-three. He takes a grounded, practical attitude towards life, and as such he refuses to be swayed by the atmosphere of paranoia and manic accusation that overtakes Salem. When Corey is placed on trial, he does not capitulate to the demands that he merely confess to witchcraft and receive a mild punishment. Nor does he formally deny the charges, in which case his property would be seized by the town. Instead, he maintains his silence and is crushed to death by stones.
Sarah Good is a local woman who is homeless and considered an outsider by most members of the Salem community. She is nearing sixty years of age but is rumored to be pregnant, which fuels accusations of witchcraft. Sarah Good is among the first individuals to be accused of witchcraft. Her tenuous status in the community makes her a ready target of such accusations.
Judge Hathorne is one of the primary judges overseeing the witch trials. He is in his sixties, and his attitude towards those on trial is generally harsh and irritable. He tends to assume guilt in the trials’ defendants by default.
Marshall Herrick is the taciturn local marshall. He helps carry out the trials’ proceedings, but he remains reserved in his personal judgments. In fact, he even stands up for the integrity of certain accused citizens of Salem when asked. Herrick represents a neutral party who participates in the trials without necessarily condoning the persecutions.
Mercy Lewis is the servant of Thomas and Ann Putnam. She is eighteen and described as “fat” and “sly.” She is one of Abigail’s accomplices, helping Abigail distribute accusations without questioning their validity.
Francis Nurse is an older man who is widely respected and regarded by the Salem community. He and his wife, Rebecca, are friends with the Proctors. Despite the Nurses’ innocence and excellent reputation, they become victims of the witch trials. This is in large part because of a long-standing land feud with the Putnams, who retaliate by defaming the Nurses.
Rebecca Nurse is, like her husband, Francis, a deeply respected member of the Salem community. As a mother of eleven and a grandmother of twenty-six, she is an influential and established citizen. She is presented throughout the play as a keen arbiter of moral discernment. She displays her ethical sensibility in her ongoing refusal to confess to witchcraft, and she compels others to refuse by example.
Betty Parris is the daughter of Reverend Parris. For much of the play, she is bedridden, lying motionless and unconscious. It is presumed that her state is a result of her contact with witchcraft.
Ann Putnam is a wealthy member of the Salem community. She is bereaved and embittered as a result of the loss of most of her children. She feels jealous of Rebecca Nurse, who has faced far fewer losses. Ann Putnam is a vocal proponent of the accusations of witchcraft.
Thomas Putnam is a wealthy, greedy landowner. He is manipulative, leveraging the accusatory climate in his financial favor. Putnam hopes that other landowners will be convicted of witchcraft and therefore forced to forfeit their lands. He intends to then acquire those properties. Giles Corey sees Putnam’s intentions and accuses him accordingly.
Tituba is a Barbadian woman who serves in Reverend Parris’s household as a slave. Abigail and her friends accuse Tituba of witchcraft after Tituba helps the girls to concoct potions and conduct séances. Tituba’s outsider status makes her an easy object of suspicion.
Susanna Walcott is one of the girls who follows Abigail in her machinations and accusations. She is a servant.
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