Could characters in The Crucible have done more to end Salem's hysteria?

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John Proctor and Reverend Hale are two characters in The Crucible who could have done more to end the hysteria in Salem. John could have revealed that Abigail and the girls were simply sporting in the woods and that their actions had nothing to do with witchcraft. Reverend Hale could have also challenged the corrupt court when righteous citizens like Rebecca, Martha, and Elizabeth were accused of witchcraft. Both characters failed to take the initiative or reveal the truth.

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Reverend Parris could have done more to end the hysteria in Salem by coming clean to the community about what he saw in the forest. Instead of calling Reverend Hale from Beverly to investigate witchcraft, he could have told the truth about his daughter and niece. However, the audience understands...

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he is a self-centered, cowardly man who is only concerned about his status and would never jeopardize his position of authority to benefit others. After the witch trials commence, Reverend Parris tries his best to undermine John Proctor to protect Salem's court.

John Proctor could have certainly done more to put an end to the witch trials by exposing Abigail as a fraud and informing Salem's authority figures about his private conversation with her. Unfortunately, John purposely distances himself from Abigail and the trials to protect his reputation. He does not want to be viewed as a lecher and ruin his outstanding name in the community.

Reverend Hale is another person who could have intervened before things got out of hand. As an esteemed expert in witchcraft, he could have easily put a stop to the investigations the moment the girls began accusing respected citizens. Instead, Reverend Hale does not speak up or question the veracity of Abigail's testimonies. By doing so, Reverend Hale allows the witch trials to continue as innocent citizens are put on trial for their lives.

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John Proctor could certainly have done much more to end the hysteria in The Crucible. If he'd had the courage earlier on to stand up and admit his affair with Abigail Williams and show her to be the liar that she is, then it's unlikely that the witch hunt would've developed as it did.

As it is, however, John only came forward late in the day, by which time the trials had spun out of control, developing a terrifying momentum all of its own. And even when John finally did tell the truth about his affair with Abigail and try to expose her as a liar, his testimony was undermined by his wife, Elizabeth. In an honest attempt at saving her husband's good name, she stood up in open court and denied that John had had an affair with Abigail.

As an expert on witches and as a man of God, Reverend Hale could also have put a stop to the hysteria. As soon as it became clear that fine, decent members of the community were being accused of witchcraft, he could and should have intervened with the court, stood up, and loudly proclaimed that there was something seriously flawed with the proceedings.

But he didn't. Like John, he does intervene, but again it's too little, too late. By that time, the trials have spun out of control, to the extent that no one, not even Judge Danforth, can stop it. Too many reputations are bound up with the witch trials for them to stop just yet.

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When thinking about which characters in The Crucible could have done more to end the hysteria in Salem, one should first consider who the most powerful characters are. Three in particular stand out.

Abigail Williams has personal power, through her beauty, charisma, and skill as an actress. She was also the prime mover in starting the hysteria, which she could have stopped or helped to stop by being honest or even by telling lies of a less destructive nature.

Deputy Governor Danforth has political and legal power. If he had decided at the beginning of the trials that there was nothing to the allegations of witchcraft, he could have done much to quell the hysteria. He could have accomplished a great deal even by insisting on a strict standard of legal proof, which none of the accusations could ever have satisfied.

Reverend Hale has the power of intellectual and spiritual authority. If he had been quicker to realize that the trials were a sham, he could have used this authority to discredit them and calm the hysteria.

Miller makes it clear that the witch hunt in Salem quickly took on a life of its own, and it is possible that, when the hysteria was at its height, there was nothing anyone could have done to end it. However, these three characters would have had the best chance of restoring the village to sanity, if they had chosen to make the attempt.

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There are several characters in The Crucible who could have done more to end the hysteria in Salem. John Proctor is the first character who comes to mind when thinking about individuals with the power and influence to stop the witchcraft hysteria. In act 1, Abigail Williams tells John Proctor in private that the girls' actions had nothing to do with witchcraft. Although John knows this significant information, he waits until Salem's court is established and Abigail has risen to prominence to reveal the truth regarding the hysteria. In act 2, Elizabeth even encourages John to travel to Salem and tell the court officials about Abigail's comments. Given John's positive reputation, he could have easily prevented the hysteria from consuming Salem if he would have taken the initiative.

Reverend Hale is another character who could have prevented the hysteria. At the beginning of the play, Reverend Hale is naive and enthusiastic about the possibility of exposing witches. However, he never entertains the possibility that Abigail and the girls are lying to improve their social status or recognizes that innocent citizens are confessing to save their lives. When upstanding, righteous citizens like Rebecca, Martha, and Elizabeth are accused of witchcraft, Reverend Hale continues to support the corrupt court. Similar to John Proctor, Reverend Hale waits until it is too late to challenge the court, reveal the truth, and put an end to the hysteria.

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Abigail Williams could have brought the hysteria to an end; after all, she is the one who started it by threatening the other girls into silence and perpetuating it by implicating more and more people for her own selfish motives.

Mary Warren and the other girls could have come clean to the Salem authorities and informed them of Abigail's threats. If they had presented a united front against her instead of shrinking in fear, lives could have been saved.

If he had behaved as a leader of his congregation instead of becoming preoccupied about holding onto his job, Reverend Parris could have saved lives. His willful blindness about Abigail's machinations and his own daughter's involvement in witchcraft, as well as his eagerness to take down political enemies like the Nurses, Coreys, and Proctors, prevents him from putting a stop to the hysteria.

Hathorne and Danforth, as the magistrates with the power to levy judgment and punishment, could have suspended the trials until more investigation was conducted. By allowing spectral evidence and not looking more closely at the accusers and their possible motivations, the two magistrates are ultimately responsible for letting the hysteria destroy a community.

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Many of the named characters in the play The Crucible are based upon actual historical records and people who were actually involved in the events portrayed. Certainly, any number of these people could have acted in ways to shift the course of events. For example, Abigail Williams could have chosen not to spread lies or to manipulate the other girls into following her lead. Justice Danforth could have chosen not to believe the girls' fantastical stories (referred to in court proceedings as "spectral evidence") over the accused. The Reverend Hale could have chosen to remain involved in the trials, instead of walking away in frustration; his attempts to be a voice of reason put him at odds with the judges and court magistrates, who had various political reasons for wanting rebellious people like John Proctor to be silenced.

Any number of townspeople could have refused to believe the accusations of witchcraft, instead of being willing to believe that witchcraft was behind any number of occurrences, from Betty Parris' strange afflictions, to the other things described (cows' milk drying up, children falling ill, etc.). Being able to accuse others of witchcraft effectively meant that community members could bring about the ostracization and ruination of their neighbors without ample evidence or proof, because the environment was so superstitious and supportive of these witchcraft rumors.

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