The Crucible

by: Arthur Miller

Judge Danforth

Governor Danforth represents rigidity and an over-adherence to the law in The Crucible. Danforth is clearly an intelligent man, highly respected and successful. He arrives in Salem to oversee the trials of the accused witches with a serene sense of his own ability to judge fairly. The chaos of the trial doesn’t affect his own belief that he is the best judge. At the end of the play, Salem is falling apart, Abigail has run away, having stolen Parris’s life savings, and many other lives have been ruined yet Danforth still cannot agree that the trials were a sham. He remains firm in his conviction that the condemned should not be executed. When John refuses to let him post his confession in town, Danforth sends him away to be hanged, “high over the town.” Danforth believes in sticking by a principle in spite of all evidence that his belief is wrong.

Despite his intelligence and prestige, Danforth is the most deluded a character in the play. While modern audiences many find the idea of witches laughable, Danforth reflects his time, an era when many people believed in witches and witchcraft, (although it should be noted that Miller makes it clear that at least a few of the residents of Salem are skeptical of witches). But even in Salem, in 1692, some people did not fall for the girls’ “pretense” as easily as Danforth does. Once he believes the girls, lead by Abigail, really are possessed, Danforth is trapped by his own ego, unable to see that they’re lying despite mounting evidence. He just can’t go back and admit that he was fooled. Danforth represents the evil of blind certainty in the play: he refuses to accept the truth because to do so would humiliate him. He’d rather see people die.