Characters (in Order of Appearance)
- Reverend Samuel Parris
- Parris is the minister of Salem's church, disliked by many residents because of his greedy, domineering personality. He is more concerned about his reputation than the well-being of his sick daughter Betty. He is also less concerned about his missing niece, Abigail Williams, than for the lives of the dead and condemned on his conscience and the money taken. His niece and daughter were the first to accuse others of witchcraft, and he owned the slave, Tituba, the first to be accused of witchcraft.
- Tituba is Reverend Parris's slave. Parris seems to have owned and purchased her in Barbados back in his time as a merchant. She cares for the children and prepares a potion for Abigail that will kill Elizabeth Proctor. Additionally, she attempts to raise the spirits of Ann Putnam's dead children. During the first scene of the play, she is turned in by Abigail and responds by claiming that four women in Salem are witches. She is not seen again until the final scene of the play taking place in the jail. By this point the events have troubled her to the point that she is haunted by hallucinations and hysteria – Both she and Sarah Good are driven mad, and are not mentally well.
- Abigail Williams
- Williams is Parris' 17-year-old niece and the play's antagonist. Abigail was previously the maid for the Proctor house, fired by Elizabeth after her discovery of Abigail's affair with her husband, John. Abigail and her uncle's slave, Tituba, lead the local girls in love-spell rituals in the Salem forest over a fire. Rumors of witchcraft fly, and Abigail tries to use the town's fear to her advantage. She accuses many of witchcraft, starting first with the society's outcasts and gradually moving up to respected members of the community. Finally, she accuses Elizabeth Proctor, believing that John truly loves her and not Elizabeth. Abigail wants Elizabeth out of the way so that she and John can marry. John says that Abigail "hopes to dance with me upon my wife's grave." She is manipulative and charismatic, attacking anyone who stands in her way. She flees Salem during the trials and, according to legend, becomes a prostitute in Boston.
- Susanna Wallcott
- Susanna is a little younger then Abigail. She works for Dr. Griggs.
- Ann Putnam
- Ann Putnam is the wife of Thomas Putnam. She has one daughter, Ruth, but has had seven miscarriages. Ann is accusatory and harsh to many, but also very hurt by the deaths of her babies.
- Thomas Putnam
- Thomas Putnam lives in Salem village and owns a bit of land close to Giles Corey. Giles accuses him of trying to steal it, and says that Putnam got his daughter to accuse Giles' wife of witchcraft. This possibility is strongly supported by the play, and thus Putnam is one of the play's true villains because of his resentments toward others and tendency to use it to advance himself.
- Betty Parris
- Elizabeth "Betty" Parris is the ten-year-old daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris and is the first to become ill after being "bewitched". She accuses Abigail of drinking blood to kill Elizabeth Proctor.
- Mercy Lewis
- Servant to the Putnams and one of the girls caught in the woods with Abigail and Betty by Reverend Parris. She is described as being "a fat, sly, merciless girl of eighteen." She and the other girls browbeat Mary Warren into silence about what she saw in the woods in Act I. In Act III, she and the other girls claim to be under the influence of Mary Warren's spirit, which causes them to see and feel various phenomena. She escapes Salem with Abigail.
- Mary Warren
- Mary Warren serves as housemaid for the Proctors after Abigail Williams. She is a lonely girl who considers herself an "official of the court" at the beginning of the trials. John Proctor is shown to sometimes abuse her and hit her with a whip. She nearly confesses that she and the other girls were lying about witchcraft until the other girls pretend that she is sending out her spirit to them in the courtroom. This event, which could have led to her death, propels her to accuse John Proctor of witchcraft, stating that he forced her to lie about herself and the others.
- John Proctor
- John Proctor is a down-to-earth, forthright farmer and the play's protagonist. He has a sexual relationship with Abigail Williams while she is a servant at his farm. Although he speaks his mind and stands up to Parris, he has no wish to be a martyr and he is careful about what he says when he senses real danger. He does show courage and boldness in his opposition to Parris and Putnam and he fiercely resists the arrest of his wife. Proctor is cautious when it comes to denouncing Abigail, particularly when his wife, claiming to be pregnant, is not in immediate danger. However, he feels he owes it to his accused friends to expose Abigail as a liar. He works hard to build a defense for those accused and manages to persuade Mary Warren to tell the truth, but this success is short-lived. As a last resort, he suffers the public shame of confessing to his adultery with Abigail to no avail. In prison, he eventually confesses so that he can live with and care for his family, but finally he decides to die rather than lose his good name and admit to witchcraft; he thus refuses to sign the paper. He does this for the sake of his children's reputation and because Elizabeth and others have refused to confess. He will not deny himself. He has doubted his ability to be a good man so far, but with Elizabeth's example and support he realizes he can be true to himself and accept death.
- Giles Corey
- Giles is a friend of John Proctor who is very concerned about his own land. He believes Thomas Putnam is trying to take his land and that of others by convincing the girls to accuse Giles' wife of witchcraft. Giles gains this information from an anonymous man whom he will not name, as he knows that the man would be put in prison if he did. He is subjected to being pressed by stones when he refuses to plea "aye or nay" to the charge of witchcraft. The character of Giles Corey is based on a real person. Giles' wife, Martha, is executed because of the witchcraft accusations. It is unusual for persons to refuse to plead, and extremely rare to find reports of persons who have been able to endure this painful form of death in silence, as explained in the following quote from Elizabeth Proctor:
- "He were not hanged. He would not answer yes or no to his indictment; for if he denied the charge they'd hang him surely, and auction out his property. So he stand mute, and died Christian under the law. And so his sons will have his farm. It is the law, for he could not be condemned a wizard without he answer the indictment, aye or nay."
- From this it is obvious of Giles' reason for holding out so long against so much pain: As long as he did not answer yes or no, his children would be able to keep his estate. Whether this was for his children's sake or to spite Thomas Putnam's greedy obsession with buying up land is arguable. The play supports both possibilities.
- Rebecca Nurse
- Rebecca Nurse, wife of Francis Nurse, is highly respected in Salem for her helpful nature. Very firm in her opinions, and willing to make any sacrifice in the cause of truth, she voices her opposition to the idea of witchcraft. Near the end, she is accused of being a witch on the prompting of the Putnams, who are jealous of her good fortune.
- Reverend John Hale
- Hale is a well-respected minister reputed to be an expert on witchcraft. Reverend Hale is called in to Salem to examine the witchcraft trials and Parris's daughter Betty, who has fallen into a mysterious illness after being discovered participating in the suspect rituals. He originally believes that there are witches in Salem and advocates the trials, but later realizes the widespread corruption and abuse of the trials, and struggles to convince accused "witches" to lie by confessing and live, rather than to tell the truth and die.
- Elizabeth Proctor
- John Proctor's wife, and a resident of Salem. She is accused of witchcraft, and is only saved from death due to the fact that she is pregnant. Abigail hates her for being Proctor's wife, and for keeping Proctor's heart. By the end of the play she feels that Proctor's affair is due to her own faults, much to Proctor's dismay. By the end Elizabeth chooses not to save John's life and allows him to hang saying she would not take away his goodness.
- Ezekiel Cheever
- An astute yet weak character; his most important appearance is in the Proctor household where he denounces Elizabeth Proctor for witchcraft, regarding the poppet (doll) which was placed in the Proctor house to make it appear that Elizabeth was practicing witchcraft against Abigail Williams. His reason is clouded by the authority of Salem for whom he works. He used to be friends with John Proctor, but when the accusations started, he quickly turned against his friends and their family who were accused of witchcraft. He tells Danforth that Proctor sometimes plows on Sundays and that Proctor missed church often. He acts as a scribe in Act 2 of The Crucible, and in some interpretations of the play, he hangs Proctor. The character is based on the actual son (with the same name) of Ezekiel Cheever, the famous schoolmaster and author of Accidence: A Short Introduction to the Latin Tongue.
- George Herrick/John Willard
- Herrick was the Marshal of Salem and in the play is responsible for bringing the defendants before the court. He is a sympathetic character, advising Deputy Governor Danforth of Proctor's good character and becoming friendly with the accused witches that he guards. Some productions name the character John Willard, a reference to constable John Willard who came to disbelieve the allegations and refused to make any further arrests. He himself was then arrested, charged with witchcraft and hanged.
- Judge John Hathorne
- The sadistic presiding judge over the Salem Witch Trials. Cold, ignorant, antagonistic, he constantly denies any new developments regarding the events in Salem Village. Hathorne could also be considered the "hangin' judge" of the era, wishing only to see people suffer. His only real moment of emotion in the play occurs in the final scene, where he appears almost joyful that Proctor considers confessing for a crime he didn't commit, this going along with his sadistic streak.
- Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth
- Mister Danforth is a pretentious and selfish judge, who is extremely loyal to the rules and regulations of his position. Seen by Miller himself as being the true villain of the piece, he described him as thus in a New York Times article: “...he rule-bearer, the man who always guards the boundaries which, if you insist on breaking through them, have the power to destroy you. His ‘evil’ is more than personal, it is nearly mythical. He does more evil than he knows how to do; while merely following his nose he guards ignorance, he is man’s limit.”
- Public opinion and his acute adherence to the law are most important to him. He seems to secretly know that the witch trials in Salem are all a lie yet will not release any of the prisoners because he is afraid of being viewed as weak and having his theocratic reputation undermined. When Proctor knowingly defies his authority by refusing to lie and sign a public confession saying that he is guilty of witchcraft and accusing others, Danforth, outraged at having his power undermined, immediately sentences him to hang along with the other prisoners including Rebecca Nurse.
Read more about this topic: The Crucible
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