In The Crucible, who is most to blame for the Salem events and why?

Quick answer:

In The Crucible, one could argue that Abigail Williams is most to blame for the events that transpired in Salem, because she was the first person to manipulate Salem's officials, falsely accuse innocent citizens, and propagate witchcraft hysteria throughout the community. Abigail also threatened the other girls to corroborate her story, accused Elizabeth Proctor of attempted murder, and pretended to be attacked by spirits. Reverend Parris also shares the blame for supporting his niece and aligning himself with Salem's court.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The argument can be made that the girls are most to blame for the Salem witch trials in The Crucible. Before the start of the play, Abigail Williams, Betty, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, Ruth Putnam, and several other girls consulted with Tituba and danced naked in the forest. In Salem's austere Puritan society, dancing in the forest and communicating with spirits are forbidden activities. Reverend Parris startled the girls while they were dancing, causing Betty and Ruth to feign illness, which puzzles the local doctor. The girls' decision to participate in taboo, forbidden activities is the catalyst for the witchcraft hysteria.

The girls also agree to follow Abigail's lead and testify against innocent citizens during the witch trials. They pretend invisible spirits are attacking them, continually faint on the stand, and accuse their neighbors of witchcraft. Ruth Putnam also does her father's bidding by accusing George Jacobs of witchcraft. The girls enjoy their elevated status throughout the town and continue to spread witchcraft hysteria.

Another person responsible for the witch trials is John Proctor. In the first act of the play, Abigail Williams tells him in private that they were only dancing and "took fright" when Parris surprised them. Even though Proctor knows the girls are frauds, he does not take action and intervene before the witch trials begin.

Proctor waits too long to disclose the truth, and the proceedings are underway by the time he presents his deposition. Elizabeth Proctor even criticizes him in act 2 for not telling the truth and exposing Abigail as a liar. Proctor had the opportunity to end the trials before they began, which is why it can be argued that he is most to blame.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are several notable characters who are primarily responsible for the events that transpired in Salem, beginning with Abigail Williams. Abigail Williams is the first character who recognizes that she can manipulate Salem's authority figures to her advantage, and she immediately uses Tituba as a scapegoat when Reverend Hale begins his investigation. Abigail Williams is also the first character to accuse innocent civilians of witchcraft, which significantly contributes to the destructive hysteria throughout town. In addition to accusing innocent citizens, Abigail Williams also threatens to kill the other girls if they do not corroborate her story or follow her lead.

As the play progresses, Abigail Williams continues to manipulate Salem's officials and threaten the lives of innocent citizens by falsely accusing Elizabeth Proctor of attempted murder. When John Proctor reveals the truth and admits to lechery, Abigail responds by pretending to see Mary Warren's spirit in the rafters, which shifts the momentum back in her favor. Following John's arrest, Abigail skips town with Mercy Lewis to avoid the consequences of her actions. The tragic events in Salem would have never happened if Abigail did not falsely accuse innocent civilians and had accepted responsibility for her actions.

One could also place the majority of the blame on Reverend Parris for succumbing to peer pressure from Thomas Putnam, inviting Reverend Hale to investigate witchcraft, and supporting Abigail and Salem's corrupt court. Reverend Parris fears that he will lose his position of authority and aligns himself with the selfish court officials. Parris also tries to undermine John Proctor's logical arguments, refuses to acknowledge that Abigail is lying, and supports the court's decision to arrest innocent civilians. Reverend Parris was in a position of authority to stop the witch trials before they began but decided to align himself with Salem's fraudulent court and assist his deceitful niece.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One could argue that it is the girls who are most to blame for these events.  It was their questionable activities in the woods that prompted Betty Parris and Ruth Putnam to become ill and spark the investigation into witchcraft.  Further, it was Abigail to accused Tituba -- a slave who seems only to have confessed in order to avoid beatings or death -- and then Abigail and Betty who piled accusation upon accusation in the final moments of Act One.  Finally, it was the girls who knowingly accused innocent people in the court.

One could also argue that it is Mrs. Putnam who is most to blame because she sent her daughter, Ruth, to Tituba to conjure the spirits of Mrs. Putnam's dead children in order to find out how and why they died.  Her action then led to the events above.

One might also argue that it is the adults who believe, or purport to believe, these children: adults including Reverend Parris (who purposely hides the truth about what he knows from the court in order to maintain his reputation and position), Mr. Hale (who recognizes early on that the court was erring and condemning people to die based on little else besides the testimony of children, but says too little too late), Judge Hathorne (who seems more interested in using the trials as a way to increase his own power in the community and colony), and Deputy Governor Danforth (who adopts the position that these girls are speaking for God and who refuses to delay executions even when there is compelling evidence that the girls were dishonest because it would undermine his own authority).  One could even suggest that John Proctor is to blame because Abigail tells him much of the truth about the forest early on, and he says nothing until it is too late.

There are a great many people to blame for these trials, and it seems to me that they could not have occurred without all, or at least most, of these people acting as they did.  The girls lied, yes, but it was up to the adults to decide how to respond, and they responded wrongly.  Some were too willing to believe in the lies -- like Mrs. Putnam -- and others seemed to have something to gain in their perpetuation -- like Mr. Putnam, Parris, Danforth, and Hathorne.  All are responsible.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is to blame for the tragic events of The Crucible?

Most people tend to feel that Abigail Williams is to blame for what happened in The Crucible. She is the master manipulator who fools an entire town into believing that witches are running amok. However, I think two other people share a large portion of the blame: Judge Danforth and Thomas Putnam.

Judge Danforth is the one who actually sentences people upon finding them guilty, and he does so without any real evidence of witchcraft. He bases his rulings almost entirely on Abigail and her friends' accounts, which we know are untrue. His rulings are also very rigid; defendants are either guilty or innocent, and there is no opportunity to appeal or review his decision. He contributes to the hysteria by telling the people that they are either with him or against him. Townspeople realize that they must lie in order to survive and kill others, or tell the truth and die while others live.

Thomas Putnam is also guilty because he's pretty closely aligned with Abigail's tactics. He accuses for his own benefit. Very wealthy and influential, but also extremely greedy, he accuses people of witchcraft via his daughter to get rid of them and buy their land. He starts by accusing easier targets and then works his way up to accusations that would be harder to convince the populace about. He is motivated entirely by greed and power and has no problem lying to advance himself.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is to blame for the tragic events of The Crucible?

One could argue that Abigail Williams is primarily to blame for the tragic events that transpired during the witch trials in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. In an attempt to avoid punishment for dancing in the forest with the other girls, Abigail Williams uses Tituba as a scapegoat and begins falsely accusing innocent citizens of witchcraft. Abigail Williams not only perpetuates the witchcraft hysteria by pretending to be attacked during the proceedings. She also attempts to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor by accusing her of attempted murder.

In addition to blaming Abigail Williams for the tragic events associated with the witch trials, one could also argue that Reverend Parris, Deputy Governor Danforth, Judge Hathorne, and Reverend Hale are responsible for the numerous deaths of innocent citizens. As Salem's authority figures, they support and trust Abigail Williams and the other girls testifying against innocent citizens. Although Reverend Hale eventually denounces the proceedings, he is too late. Many innocent citizens have already suffered and died. Danforth and Hathorne overlook Abigail's lies and become primarily focused on maintaining their authority, which is why they continue to convict innocent citizens.

John Proctor also bears some responsibility for the witch trials. In act one, Abigail Williams tells him the truth about Betty and Ruth's mysterious illnesses and admits that they were simply dancing in the forest. Instead of intervening and shedding light onto Abigail's sensitive information, John remains silent and does not expose the truth until it is too late. Overall, Abigail Williams, Salem's authority figures, and John Proctor all bear some responsibility for the tragic events that transpired during the Salem witch trials.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is to blame for the tragic events of The Crucible?

There are several arguments that point to different people.

1. Abigail Williams could be worthy of blame. We see in the first Act that she manipulates the girls into helping her lie about what went on in the forest prior to the start of the play. It is in this same intimidating mood that the girls follow her lead in beginning to call out names of who they "saw" with the Devil in the end of that Act. Her dominance continues as the play unfolds and the girls are required to attend court as if they have a special ability to identify those who are bewitched.

2. The adults who trusted Abigail and the girls could certainly deserve blame. Because they gave the girls this power, they believed the girls actions more and more. In fact, when real evidence was brought to court, the court officials believe the girls' spectral evidence over the hard and tangible evidence along with honest and trustworthy testimony. Danforth and Hathorne would have been dis-barred in today's societies for allowing what happened to happen.

3. Reverend Parris was just trying to protect his reputation. But, his actions set this chain of events in motion. If he could have just accepted what the girls did, Abby might not have gone to all of those lengths to lie about the situation.

4. The Putnams are traditionally considered a party who influenced the girls. Their daughter Ruth was in with the group and reportedly helped influence along with Abby. The Putnams did not get along with many people of the town because their choice for a new minister was not chosen. Additionally, they had land battles with the Nurses and the Proctors. They had motive to see members of those families killed.

The only person who influenced some of the killing who does not share any amount of the blame is John Hale. He worked throughout the entire last Act to free those who were in jail. Now, he didn't try to help them escape, but he certainly tried to convince the court that what they were doing was wrong.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is to blame for the tragic events of The Crucible?

When asking this question, the first instinct is almost always to place the entirety of the blame on Abigail Williams and her group. However, Miller's play was largely a criticism on McCarthyism, and a political climate wherein a person's life could be completely ruined simply by being accused being affiliated with communism. For such an environment to function and flourish, it requires the ignorant and spiteful actions of many more, as well as the ignorance and apathy of more still.

That being said, Abigail Williams certainly did her part. A string of lies that are motivated by protecting herself as well as winning her place in the heart of John Proctor eventually lead the community to ruin. It is clear that Abigail will do anything and hurt anyone to get what she wants or to keep herself from punishment.

The Putnams are also heavily to blame, as they use the witch trials as a means to increase their estate. While they did not create the hysteria, they made it much worse by exploiting the situation in their own favor.

The officials of Salem, such as Danforth, all convince themselves that they are doing the right thing. However, it is obvious that they are at least subconsciously aware of their own doubt, and are allowing themselves to be steamrolled by the will of their hysterical community.

The Crucible is a lesson in how one person such as Abigail, who is powerless enough on her own, can cause the deaths and ruin of several innocents when there is a faction considered to be as unfavorable as "witches." Between being accused by Abigail and being executed, there are several steps that the accused would have had to go through wherein logic could have easily prevailed. However, everyone is so afraid of being associated with witchcraft that they back down and do nothing to stand against mob mentality.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is to blame for the tragic events of The Crucible?

It could be said that the acts of Abigail Williams, Tituba, and the girls who conjured spirits in the forest and then tell a succession of lies are the catalyst for the ultimate tragedy of the executions. However, there is plenty of blame to go around in The Crucible.

The Putnams are also culpable. The family prompts Ruth to accuse George Jacobs of witchcraft with the goal of having him forfeit his land, although this also ends Jacobs's life.

The deep insecurity of Parris, Danforth, and Hathorne also contributes to the deaths of innocent citizens of Salem.  Because they do not want to be seen as personally weak or for the theocratic government to be seen as fallible, they entertain the scurrilous allegations brought forward by Abigail and the other girls as well as the Putnams. This leads to the executions of some of Salem's most pious and honorable citizens. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is to blame for the tragic events of The Crucible?

The blame for the events of the story has to be assigned to more than a single individual. Abigail Williams and her friends certainly deserve a portion of the blame. Judge Danforth, Reverend Parris and Reverend Hale also share responsibility for the numerous deaths resulting from the witchtrials. 

The trouble in Salem begins when Abigail convinces her friends (and Tituba) to divert attention from their own midnight actions in the woods. To do this, accusations of witchcraft are made against others.

These accusations are fabricated for the most part - simply made up. The responsibility for the lies rests with Abigail and her cohort. However, it is at this point in the story that the responsibility shifts to the adults in the Salem community.

Instead of actually assessing the claims made by frightened girls (who happen to be facing quite a serious punishment for witchcraft of their own), Hale and Parris decide the stories are true. Believing the girls' lies without skepticism is the fault of these adults and community leaders.   

Furthermore, it is the official court that hands down the verdicts and sentences citizens to death. This court, represented in large part by Danforth, is responsible for the tragedy of wrongful death meted out in punishment for crimes that were never committed. 

Seen in this way, we can say that the girls' accusations tip the first proverbial dominoes leading to tragedy, but they are far from alone in the final blame. 

...the community's reaction to these accusations, he shows how easily stories can be taken out of context—and how people are blamed for crimes they haven't committed.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Which character is most to blame for all of the witchcraft hysteria that breaks out in Salem in The Crucible?

A number of arguments could be made and supported with anecdotal evidence from the text, but when we evaluate the play as a whole, it becomes very difficult to apportion blame. If one character is most to blame, then it would logically follow that another character might be completely blameless. It seems, rather, that Arthur Miller aims to demonstrate exactly the opposite. Everyone in Salem is responsible; no one can be completely exempted from blame.

Miller presents the situation as mass hysteria: each individual does not merely pass their heightened suspicions along to one other person, but every community member infects others in an ever-widening net of suspicion. The specific accusations mushroom into an epidemic where guilt is attached by contagion. Accordingly, as each person is suspected, they not only claim their innocence but often try to push the blame onto other people; the more they successfully implicate, the more their hopes grow of being exonerated themselves.

The senior office holders are the men who could have put a stop to the proceedings, but their pride prevented them from doing so. In that regard, as they are the highest authorities who pronounce the sentences and have the executions carried out, the blood of the innocent is on their hands.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Which character is most to blame for all of the witchcraft hysteria that breaks out in Salem in The Crucible?

In addition to blaming Abigail Williams, one could also argue that Reverend Parris is the primary individual responsible for perpetuating the witchcraft hysteria that consumes Salem and leads to the deaths of numerous innocent citizens. Although Abigail Williams initiates the witch trials by falsely accusing innocent citizens of witchcraft, Reverend Parris is responsible for perpetuating the witchcraft hysteria by summoning Reverend Hale to search for witches in Salem's community. Instead of publicly chastising Abigail Williams and the other girls for dancing in the woods, Reverend Parris attempts to silence the information regarding his daughter and niece dancing in the woods to protect his position as the community's spiritual leader.

Reverend Parris also attempts to please the Putnams by calling Reverend Hale to search for witches. Reverend Parris is only concerned with protecting his reputation, which is why he silences Abigail and Betty's activities in the woods and attempts to win the support of the Puntams by calling for Reverend Hale's expertise. After Parris summons Reverend Hale, the witchcraft hysteria quickly spreads throughout the community. Reverend Parris attempts to silence Giles Corey and John Proctor while supporting Abigail and the corrupt judges. He purposely overlooks Abigail’s flaws and attaches himself the court in order to maintain his position of authority. Even though Reverend Parris does not accuse individuals of witchcraft, he is responsible for spreading the hysteria by summoning Reverend Hale and supporting Abigail's false accusations.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Which character is most to blame for all of the witchcraft hysteria that breaks out in Salem in The Crucible?

Abigail Williams is the most to blame for the witchcraft hysteria that takes hold of Salem.  She participates in witchcraft rituals in the woods, theoretically causing her cousin (and Ruth Putnam) to become ill from guilt and fear and allowing her uncle to find her and the other girls dancing and conjuring.  Her actions begin the entire problem.  Betty Parris wakes for a few moments in Act One to scream, "You drank blood, Abby!  You didn't tell [Reverend Parris] that! [....] You drank a charm to kill John Proctor's wife!"  Clearly, Betty is stressed out about their activities in the forest, and she is anxious about her father finding out.  If Abigail hadn't actually been engaging in these illegal and immoral activities, the hysteria would never have even begun.

Further, Abigail makes the first accusation when she names Tituba as a witch.  Once Abigail becomes the subject of Mr. Hale's questions, she panics.  In order to redirect suspicion away from herself, she cries out, "She made me do it!  She made Betty do it!" and she blames Tituba for "mak[ing] [her] drink blood," laugh during prayer, and sleepwalk naked.  Putnam and Parris then clamor to hang or beat Tituba to force her to confess, and she does what Abigail did before her: accuse someone else, someone who the town will believe could be a witch.  Thus, Abigail starts the chain of accusations that ignited the hysteria.

Finally, Abigail turns Tituba's attempt to save her own life into an opportunity to accuse others in the town and create her position of authority in the trials.  By the end of Act One, Hale is blessing Tituba and calling her "God's instrument," one who has been specially selected by God to "help [them] cleanse [their] village."  Tituba has become the center of attention, has acquired a position of authority (at least, relative to her position before), and Abigail wants this too.  She "rises, staring as though inspired" and she yells out, "I want to open myself!" and she repeats the names of the women Tituba named, adding one more.  Indeed, she has been inspired; she seems to realize that she will be believed if she falsely accuses others, and we might imagine that she now sees her opportunity to accuse Elizabeth Proctor.  She proceeds to falsely accuse three more women before the end of the act.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is most to blame for the Salem witch hunt in the play The Crucible?

I am going to answer this differently than most would. Many would, probably, state that Abigail Williams is the one to blame for the witch hunt in the play "The Crucible."

Instead of looking at one person as holding the power to be most to blame, one could look at the Puritan society as being the one to place the blame upon.

The Puritans had some very strict theologies. They believed that people were predestined to be either saved or damned, that Christ only died for the elect, and that mankind is sinful based upon the fall of Adam and Eve. For the majority of the population, these were hard ideologies to swallow. Any minor falter proved a person to be wrong in the eyes of the society.

That being said, given the staunch rules the Puritans held, any behaviors which they deemed sinful or wrong were attacked. A simple sickness turned into hysteria based upon the reactions of the society at large.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who or what was to blame for the Salem witch trials in The Crucible?

see link below for answer:

http://www.enotes.com/crucible/q-and-a/crucible-what-three-factors-does-arthur-miller-256062

Posted on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What can be held responsible for the hysteria in Salem in The Crucible?

While there is a list of people in The Crucible responsible for the hysteria that grips Salem, a more interesting culprit might be the town's culture.

Abigail, the girls, Hathorne and Danforth, Reverend Parris, and the Putnams all help to cause the hysteria in Salem. We could even make a case that Hale played a role in encouraging the Salem hysteria.  However, Miller makes a point that Salem's culture was predisposed to the hysteria that is the basis for The Crucible.

Much of the analysis about Salem's culture comes from the Act I stage directions.  Miller's details help us gain insight into Salem.   Miller talks about the town's intense seriousness towards daily life.  They had "no novelists- and would not have permitted anyone to read a novel if one were handy."  There was no theatre or anything "resembling 'vain enjoyment."  Dancing and celebration were seen as work of "jokers" and not encouraged.  The town's extreme seriousness showed a lack of perspective. It is why panic grips the adults when they find out that the girls were in the woods.  For example, Parris is aghast when he asks Abigail if the girls were dancing.  When Rebecca Nurse dismisses what happened in the woods as childish immaturity, she is dismissed.  Her common sense approach is no match for the intense seriousness that is a part of Salem life.

People who broke the seriousness to which Salem committed itself were dealt with severely.  Miller talks about the town's "practice of appointing a two-man patrol whose duty was to 'walk forth in the time of God’s worship to take notice of such as either lye about the meeting house, without attending to the word and ordinances, or that lye at home or in the fields with-out giving good account thereof, and to take the names of such  persons, and to present them to the magistrates, whereby they may be accordingly proceeded against.”   Reporting on people's behaviors and "naming names" were embedded in Salem culture.  Miller includes this detail because he sees it as a major contributing factor to the hysteria surrounding the witch trials.  Salem people were not able to simply let people live their own lives.  Rather, there was a constant intrusiveness that defined Salem culture: "This predilection for minding other people’s business was time-honored among the people of Salem, and it undoubtedly created many of the suspicions which were to feed the coming madness."  The need to constantly report on other people who were "breaking the rules" was a cultural spark that flared into a wildfire.

Finally, Miller feels Salem people had a fear of "the other" that contributed to the hysteria.  Miller argues that Salem did not deal well with anything seen as different.  For example, they saw the forest as "the last place on earth that was not paying homage to God." Darkness and anything that was not fully understood was seen as bad. What they did not understand was demonized as the work of "the Devil."  Miller points out that their fear of "the other" was based on insecurity about their town's purity. They "found it necessary to deny any other sect its freedom; lest their New Jerusalem be deviled and corrupted by wrong ways and deceitful ideas."  The result was "an air of innate resistance" where persecution became a part of their cultural residue: "They believed, in short, that they held in their steady hands the candle that would light the world."  This candle lit the fires of hysteria.

Several characters in The Crucible play an active role in spreading hysteria. However, there is much to be said about how the culture of Salem might have had a role in encouraging its emotional contagion and madness.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is blamed for the events of The Crucible?

There are several notable characters responsible for the corrupt witch trials, which include Abigail Williams, Reverend Parris, Thomas and Ann Putnam, Deputy Governor Danforth, and Judge Hathorne. Abigail Williams is the first significant character to falsely accuse innocent citizens of being involved in witchcraft and becomes the leading voice throughout the proceedings. Abigail fabricates stories and feigns illness as she testifies against innocent citizens. She even falsely accuses Elizabeth Proctor of attempted murder in order to have John to herself. Reverend Parris supports the corrupt court and is one of the first people to entertain the idea of witchcraft. He even requests Reverend Hale's help in searching for witches and criticizes innocent citizens of attempting to undermine the court. The Putnams spread rumors of witchcraft throughout Salem and also support the corrupt court. Thomas even uses the trials as a land grab by purchasing the forfeited properties of accused citizens. Both Danforth and Hathorne vehemently defend their corrupt court and refuse to accept evidence that Abigail and the girls are lying. Danforth and Hathorne remain resolute throughout the play and willingly hang innocent citizens to cement their authority.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on