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    A Severe Test of Characters in Judgement in The Crucible, a Play by Arthur Miller

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    A crucible is a large heat resistant container used to melt and fuse metals and ores at very high temperatures, thus it is a severe test or trial. In the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller, all of the characters are put through a “severe test or trial” of character and judgment throughout the Salem witch trials. Because of everything they had to undergo during these events, many of the characters experienced numerous changes. Others, in contrast, did not change at all, despite the events they had to endure. As the events of the play unfold, the multiple changes of disposition, as seen in the character of Reverend Hale, are unmistakable. It is also extremely obvious that some characters, such as Reverend Paris and Judge Danforth, experience no changes at all.

    In the beginning of the play Reverend Hale is seen as a savant in the field of witch hunting. He is called to Salem to solve the mysteries of what is ailing the children in the small village. He believes he knows exactly how to handle things, and in this way he is a bit ignorant of the world. As seen in Act I from pages 36-48, when Reverend Hale is first brought to Salem, he is very sure of himself. Whenever the other characters ask him any sort of question he always seems to have an answer.

    For example, on page 41, Paris asks Hale why the Devil would ever choose to strike at his house, and Hale replies, “What victory would the Devil have to win a soul already bad? It is the best the Devil wants, and who is better than the minister?” The more respect and reverence Hale is given by talking of superstition, the more he convinces himself that the strange behavior of the girls is all because of witchcraft. However, later on in the story Reverend Hale begins to see the error of his ways. He gains this insight in Act III, in the scene from pages 94-120, in the courtroom when he realizes that the girls are liars. Every time one of the accused tries to defend himself or herself, or someone tries to defend the accused, the judge immediately claims this is an attack on the court.

    When Reverend Hale says, “Is every defense an attack on the court?” it is apparent he is beginning to question the court’s authority. He begins to see that the girls are liars and are making everything up about their spectral evidence. But when he tries to bring it up in court, Danforth once again claims he is “attacking the court.” Finally, when he can take no more of the accusations of the innocent he says “I denounce these proceeding. Quit this court!” At the end of the book Hale has gained much knowledge and is more aware of what is going on around him. Therefore, he is a much more discerning man.

    In contrast to Reverend Hale’s many changes of personality, Reverend Paris stayed the same scoundrel he was at the beginning of the story, all the way until the end. Throughout the play, Reverend Paris always thinks everyone is against him. He is a hypocrite and is very egotistical but because he is a “Man of God” he is held in high esteem by the townspeople. His name and status mean everything to him and because he is so terrified of losing the respect he had worked so hard to earn, he would do anything to keep them from being tarnished, including lying under oath in the courtroom.

    In act I, on page 9, when talk of witchcraft as being the cause of Betty’s sickness arises, Paris fears for his reputation and denies all possibilities of anything supernatural as the cause. However, once he sees that accusing people of witchcraft will give him a better name and will make him look better, rather than admitting his daughter was dancing in the woods, he plays along by pointing his finger at other people. Furthermore, in the beginning he admits to seeing his daughter dancing with the other girls naked in the woods.

    But in act III, on page 105, Proctor points out this fact to the courtroom, and when the judge formally asks him whether this accusation is true, Paris says “I can only say, sir, that I have never found any of them naked…” Whenever Proctor tries to explain Paris’s lies and prove him wrong, Paris worries about his good name. He even says to the judge “Excellency, since I come to Salem this man is blackening my name.’ At the end of the book Paris tries to convince Proctor to sign a written confession of his connection with the Devil with only the good of one person in mind – himself. From beginning to end, Paris is a scoundrel.

    Similarly, Judge Danforth does not undergo any changes throughout the play. Like Paris, Danforth cares only about his name and reputation, rather than doing his job and dispensing justice. He is a very obstinate man who does not care to listen to anybody’s explanations. As soon as it seems he might be proven wrong he throws them in jail claiming they were “attacking the court”, therefore questioning his authority and questioning God. He fears being seen as flippant and will consequently do everything in his power, including prosecuting innocent men and women. Two major scenes point out the judge’s venal persona, one in the beginning and one towards the end.

    In act III on page 85, Giles tells Judge Danforth that the girls are frauds and are telling lies about his wife. Danforth’s response is not one that is expected from a man appointed to uphold justice. Without even giving Giles a chance to explain, he begins to yell at him saying that he is showing disrespect and it is disruption to the court, making Giles start sobbing helplessly. Danforth continues ordering everyone around in the court in such a manner throughout the play, trying to quell all signs of an uprising against the court.

    After everything that happens Judge Danforth does not change. This becomes unmistakable when, in Act IV, Danforth goes to the jail cell to convince John Proctor to sign a written confession for making a bind with the Devil. He knows that if Proctor refuses it will make the court look like fools, since Proctor is such a well-respected man. Getting him to sign the confession means justifying everything he did and proving that witches really do exist. At the end he is still just as obstinate as he was in the beginning.

    In conclusion, almost every one of the characters in the story underwent a severe test or trial. It not only tested their judgment, but their character, honor, and dignity. Out of all the characters in the play, Reverend Hale went through the most changes in his personality and his general nature. He is no longer searching as hard for respect because by the end he realizes that if he does the right thing respect will follow. Hale notices that every time someone questions the proceedings of the court Danforth and Hathorne call it contempt of the court, disrespect, and an attack on the court.

    He finally becomes conscious of the fact that the girls are causing the deaths of many innocent people, and although playing along will make him look good for a while, it is not the right thing to do. Realizing what is going on around him, he takes it upon himself to fight the court with Proctor and help bring back justice to Salem.

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    A Severe Test of Characters in Judgement in The Crucible, a Play by Arthur Miller. (2023, Mar 11). Retrieved from

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