The Crucible: Write about the character of Judge Danforth, and the use of his judicial powers in Salem
Judge Danforth is a prominent character in the play, and one of main persecutors of those accused of witchcraft - The Crucible: Write about the character of Judge Danforth, and the use of his judicial powers in Salem introduction. He seems a hard man, and one not willing to change his views. He is the main judge we see in the play, and is in charge of hearing all evidence against people, and judging them. The simple fact that he does not let any one of those accused off the charges (unless they confess) creates the impression that he is a hard man, with very little sympathy or any kinder human traits. However, during the play, there are times when he seems to be gentler with some people.
The first mention of Danforth is in Act three. Miller includes notes about many of the characters in the stage directions, and those of Danforth give an instant impression about him.
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‘Danforth is a grave man in his sixties, of some humour and sophistication, that does not, however interfere with an exact loyalty to his position and his cause.’
He brings religion into his arguments a lot, mainly criticising those who do not attend church regularly. He seems to have more respect for those who are what he thinks of as ‘good Christians.’
Danforth: ‘You are in all respects a gospel Christian?’
Procter: ‘I am, sir’
Danforth: ‘Such a Christian that will not come to church but once a month?’
Danforth: ‘…Plough on Sunday?’
In this last quote, Danforth seems disbelieving that a man who considered himself a Christian could plough on a Sunday. While nowadays this would be acceptable, in the days Miller was writing about, a man generally could not call himself a Christian unless he adopted a rather strict way of life, and obeyed the rigid rules of the church. Judge Danforth wants to respect Christians, and while using an apparent lack of Christianity against the people accused of witchcraft, he seems to admire the use of it to accuse them, just.
When the girls are questioned, they frequently protest ‘I am with God’ or ‘I am with God now.’ Danforth seems to believe them when they say this. He seems to want to believe they are ‘with God’ although he refuses to believe it about any accused. This seems quite hypocritical. However, if he believe that any people accused were ‘with God’ and announced them innocent, he would be accusing the girls of lying. This would mean he did not believe that they were with God. Therefore Danforth feels he has to choose someone to believe and stick to their point of view. Believing the girls, would certainly be a popular decision, at least at first, as the public would be keen to ‘carry out God’s work’ and condemn who they thought were involved in witchcraft.
He shows some kind human traits, although the select conditions under which he does this, makes it seem a lot more false. When he is talking to Goody Procter, he seems kind and respectful. When he dies this, she is already a condemned woman, and this may be for his own gain, as he is trying to get Procter to confess.
He may not be convinced of Goody Procter’s guilt, which brings in another theme often linked to Danforth – pride. Danforth obviously has a lot of pride. He has a lot of belief in his personal power, and obviously thinks of himself as a good Christian. He sees any challenge against the court as an attack on the court, and therefore an attack on him. He refuses to hear defense against those accused without seeing it as an attack, or a sign of witchcraft in whoever is defending a ‘witch’. When Mary Warren challenges the truth of the accusations, he listens, and probably has doubts about the charges against Goody Procter, and later on, Procter. He does not withdraw any decision already made, however, as that would prove himself wrong before, and show weakness now.
He feels he cannot let anyone off any charges for which others have already been punished. This is very moral in a sense, but usually when people’s lives are at stake a fairer trial is given. Surely a judge believing in justice would rather lose his good reputation than the lives of innocent people? Danforth obviously does not feel this way and becomes hard, showing now remorse at the end of the play as he says:
‘Let them hang high over the town. Those who weep for these weep for corruption.’