‘The Crucible’ is a play written by the author Arthur Miller. The play revolves around several 1690’s witchcraft trials. The book unravels the lies and secrets of the characters in the village, ultimately contributing to the hangings. The play itself focuses on the ‘witch’ hangings in the village of Salem. Of the characters in this book several of them appear to be responsible for the events. At a closer look you find that indeed a lot of the characters are responsible, some knowingly but some unintentionally contributing to the hangings.
The village reverend, Reverend Parris, finds his young daughter Betty dancing in the woods with Abigail, his niece, his African slave Tituba and several of the other village girls. In the morning Betty will not awake and is heard murmuring. He is clearly upset and when Abigail tells him that the people of Salem are talking of witchcraft, and that he should go and deny the rumours of witchcraft he says ‘And what shall I say to them? That my daughter and my niece I discovered dancing like heathen in the forest?’
He is clearly angered and most probably embarrassed by catching his daughter and niece like this, but he wishes to maintain his reputation and so does not want the villagers to find out about it.
This clearly represents that Betty, although she cannot mean it, is responsible for the rumours and whisperings of witchcraft beginning in the forest. If she were not ill, nobody would have suspected anything, for although Parris himself witnessed the goings on in the forest, a reputable man such as himself would be unlikely to say anything about it. Parris then mentions to Reverend John Hale of Beverly the goings on in the forest.
‘Why, sir- I discovered her-(indicating Abigail)- and my niece and ten or twelve of the other girls, dancing in the forest last night.’ In mentioning this to Reverend Hale, Parris is also becoming responsible in a small way. Had he not mentioned anything nobody would know of any unnatural events occurring. In saying this he is effectively feeding the flames of the fire of witchcraft rumours, and the rumours led to the accusations and ultimately the hangings.
Soon after, Abigail confirms the rumours of witchcraft to the villagers. After being questioned, she tries to blame Tituba, saying to Hale and Parris ‘She made me do it! She made Betty do it!’ She then says ‘She makes me drink
blood!’ Tituba tries to defend herself against Abigail, pleading with Hale and Parris, saying that Abigail was the one begging her to conjure. Tituba saying this also confirms the accusations that some sort of witchery is in place. Tituba is told she will be whipped to death if she does not confess, so she does so, seeing as she has no option but to go along with the lie. She is forced to blame several other villagers, and Abigail sees a window of opportunity and decided to accuse more villagers.. Abigail appears to be a slightly twisted, bitter and jealous woman.
While being employed by him, she has an affair with a village farmer, John Proctor. Proctors wife Elizabeth finds out and Abigail is dismissed, however none of the villagers find out about this affair. Abigail is determined to win back John Proctor and appears prepared to go to any lengths. Proctor rejects her, he has decided that his wife and family are worth more than an affair with Abigail, who is still convinced that Proctor is in love with her and always has been. When she has been rejected again, Abigail develops a malicious idea, which she believes will put herself back in Proctors arms once more.
And if not that, at least the woman with the man she loves will be punished. This is one of the most selfish and malicious things Abigail does, of which there are several. She accuses more lower village members, and she threatens her friends not to tell the truth, she tells them that she will ‘come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.’ In doing this she creates allies. She can rely on them being scared of her, using power through fear so that they will not speak a word of the truth and they will go along with whatever lie she conjures next. She creates for herself a trustworthy position within the community by relying on the villagers believing her accusations, for who would not trust somebody telling the words of God. Abigail then uses and abuses this position she has gained to satisfy herself and get what she wants. She believes that if Goody Proctor is hung, John Proctor will be hers.
Through all of her actions, Abigail Williams is clearly responsible for the hangings. She falsely accuses people, she encourages rumours and she essentially began the whole witchcraft questionings. Without her, they would probably not have happened.
The Deputy Governor of the Village is also responsible for Salem’s hangings; he is a strong man with a lot of influence and power. He arrests several people who are accused of witchery, and when he finds out that these people are most likely to be innocent, he refuses to admit that he was wrong, he believes that to confess now that he may have been wrong would be admitting that he wrongfully and pointlessly prosecuted and hung innocent people. If he admitted to this, people may think less of him, his social status may drop and his authority may seem undermined. He therefore goes along with the girls. In doing so, he contributes heavily to the hangings.
Without his false convictions and prosecutions, the innocent people would never have been hanged. Danforth seems to be quite inhumane. Even when Goody Proctor tries to lie for her husband Proctor to clear his name of lechery, Danforth does not even waver in his decision, despite Hale telling him that it was a ‘natural lie to tell’ and that any spouse would do it for someone they loved. Because of this, John Proctor is arrested.
To a certain extent, reverend Parris can also be blamed for the deaths, he seems so convinced that everyone is against him that he turns against his own niece, Abigail Williams. However, when she gains higher status and power, he becomes her ally in his attempts to hold up his own position in the community. If the court finds out that Abigail has been lying, Parris will go down with her, he will be seen as the uncle of a vicious woman who he has also been defending. He seems to only care about himself, and what will happen to him. He is ignorant of others’ feelings and does not care what happens to others in his way. He defends Abigail and in doing so, he is gaining more status within the community. He wishes to preserve the new respect that the villagers have for him. In defending Abigail, he is attacking the accused, and at the same time, he is also siding with the court, a clever decision to keep him on the good side of the important people. Parris is trying to get rid of anyone who may ruin his chances of coming out with a good reputation.
Arthur Miller used a lot of dramatic devices to create tension and make the audience feel the story. The play itself is already on a very powerful subject and the expression and language Miller uses in the play creates a more tense feeling as you read the story.
I think that ultimately, a lot of the villagers are at fault for the hangings in Salem. Most of them have played their part in either spreading the rumours or convicting the ‘witches.’ However, without Deputy Governor Danforth, none of them would have been convicted to be killed, and without the lies, accusations and manipulation of Abigail Williams, the whole thing would not have been carried on any further. I believe that these characters are both mainly at fault for the deaths of many innocent people.