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Crucible Character Study: Judge Danforth


Abigail may be wicked, but Judge Danforth represents something more agonizing: tyranny.

Danforth rules the courtroom like a dictator. He is an icy character who firmly believes that Abigail Williams and the other girls are incapable of lying. If the young women so much as shout out a name, Danforth assumes the name belongs to a witch. His gullibility is exceeded only by his self-righteousness.

If a character, such as Giles Corey or Francis Nurse, attempts to defend his wife, Judge Danforth contends that the advocate is trying to overthrow the court. The judge seems to believe that his perception is flawless. He is insulted when anyone questions his decision-making ability.

Danforth dominates everyone who enters his courtroom. Everyone with the exception of Abigail Williams, that is. His inability to comprehend the girl's wickedness provides one of the more amusing aspects of this otherwise somber character. Although he yells and interrogates the others, he often seems too embarrassed to accuse the beautiful Miss Williams of any lascivious activity. During the trial, John Proctor announces that he and Abigail were having an affair. Proctor further establishes that Abigail wants Elizabeth dead so that she can become his new bride. In the stage directions, Miller states that Danforth asks, "You deny every scrap and tittle of this?" In response, Abigail hisses, "If I must answer that, I will leave and I will not come back again." Miller then states in the stage directions that Danforth "seems unsteady." The old Judge is unable to speak, and the young Abigail seems more in control of the courtroom than anyone else. In Act Four, when it becomes clear that the allegations of witchcraft are completely false, Danforth refuses to see the truth. He hangs innocent people to avoid sullying his reputation.

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