We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment.
Danforth’s arrival in Act 3 raises the stakes for the residents of Salem. He is there to convene trials of the accused, so when he tells John and the others he’ll “burn a hot fire,”, he means it. His words turn out to be true: while Danforth falsely condemns many people, he also does burn away John’s lies and deception about his relationship with Abigail.
You must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between. This is a sharp time, now, a precise time – we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world. Now, by God’s grace, the shining sun is up, and them that fear not light will surely praise it.
In speaking to Francis Nurse during the courtroom scene of Act 3, Danforth reveals his own deluded belief that he is doing the will of God by condemning innocent people to death. Danforth’s lack of self-awareness results in the deaths of many innocent people.
Mr. Proctor, you have been notified, have you not? I see light in the sky, Mister; let you counsel with your wife, and may God help you turn your back on Hell.
By Act 4, most of the people of Salem recognize that the witch trials were a sham. Abigail has run away, and Parris reports that he has been threatened. But Danforth won’t accept this turn of events. In order to protect himself, he continues to insist that he did the right thing, and, even now, tries to threaten John.
Hang them high over the town! Who weeps for these, weeps for corruption!
Danforth gets almost the last word in the play, condemning John to death for taking back his false confession. Danforth’s inability to recognize that the witch trials were a sham and that he has participated in the murder of dozens of innocent people is chilling. His character represents what can happen when people are too self-righteous to listen to reason.