The Role of Authority in The Crucible

Categories: JusticeThe Crucible

In The Crucible there is a mass hysteria happening about witchcraft and Judge Danforth conducts the witchcraft trials. Judge Danforth has a dominating personality with a dictatorship way to the Purtain Law. While trying to commit the witches, some innocent people are killed, and lives have been ruined because Judge Danforth refuses to believe John Proctor. Judge Danforth is ruled by the law and religion. He would rather see people die than be humiliated by being proved wrong. Another authority figure in the town is also driven by selfish motives is Reverend Parris.

Parris wants to prosecute his enemies because he wants to protect his status in the community.

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He is willing to do anything to make sure no one can find out what happened in the woods, in order to secure his position in the community. For a reverend he is very greedy when it comes to money..In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the author criticizes authority figures by illustrating Judge Danforth’s attachment to his own power and image and Reverend Parris’ greed counteract with what they should be representing in the community.

In Act III, people portrayed Judge Danforth as authoritative and intimidating. Danforth demonstrates his authority when he dismisses Reverend Hale when he says “a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between.”( Miller 94), by ignoring hale “This shows how out of touch Danforth is, as well as how consumed he is with having all obey him;” (Bloom).

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He is saying that he finds Proctor trying to defend his wife by questioning the court and Danforth’s judgement. Danforth is implying that the court is supposed to show God’s, and if you speak against the court you are with the Devil. He uses fear to elicit confessions, it means that the judges are corrupted and not really looking for justice. This shows how Danforth abuses his authority to get what he wanted. In The Crucible Miller has symbolized all the judges of the witchcraft trials “presented them as being more ‘official’ in a legal sense than their historical models actually were” (Martin). Danforth acts as though the truth is his goal, and accepts those whose stories support his ideas, but when someone in Act III has a story that disagrees he throws them in jail. Proctor brings a list of townspeople who say that Elizabeth, Martha, and Rebecca are good people and that they were never shown in concert with the Devil. Also when Mary Warren testified that the other girls were pretending to see spirits, he is “wide-eyed and baffled” (Miller 89) but unwilling to believe her because it would make him look like a fool in the court. He is putting his reputation over his true purpose as a judge. Danforth acts as though the truth is his goal, and accepts those whose stories support his ideas, but when someone in Act 3 has a story that disagrees he throws them in jail.

By this time in the story, Abigail has left and John Proctor and Nurse Francis are about to be hanged. Judge Danforth has yet to accept that he is wrong and “ refuses to give in as twelve people have already been hanged; he spoke of his determination to extract a confession from Proctor” (‘The Crucible.’ 123). Danforth is gullible when it comes to the girl’s stories and then said, “You are either lying now, or you were lying in the court, and in either case, you have committed perjury and you will go to jail for it” (Miller 107) he’s stubborn when it comes to believing that the girls lied. Mary Warren lies to protect herself. At this point Salem is spiraling out of control and “contrary to the strong and proficient appearance he puts forth, however, he is revealed to be, at times, distracted and uncomprehending of the proceedings over which he presides” (‘The Crucible.’ 124). This shows that he is no longer seeking justice but for himself.

Danforth at the end truly is caring about justice for Salem. Judge Danforth dismisses Reverend Parris and Hale about stopping the hangings and says “Now hear me, and beguile yourselves no more. I will not receive a single plea for pardon or postponement.” (Miller 131). He thinks that if he stops the hangings it will cause everyone to question his credibility. Danforth is not acting in the law of the land, he thinks that he’s acting on the behalf of God. Danforth compares himself to Joshua from the bible saying that God wanted him to save Salem from the devil saying “Mr. Hale, as God has not empowered me like Joshua to stop this sun from rising, so I cannot withhold from them the perfection of their punishment. ( Miller 132)” The ironic thing is that “none of the judges in the trials had any legal training, and, apparently, neither had anyone else who was administering the law in the Massachusetts Bay Colony ” (Martin). The town is in disorder but he doesn’t care about maintaining law and order. Judge Danforth is the perfect example of how law and order are supposed to be versus how it is maintained by Judge Danforth.

In The Crucible Reverend Parris has a daughter Petty Parris and Abigail Williams is his niece. Abigail and Betty were conjuring spirit and dancing in the woods. Reverend Parris is paranoid and “protective of the status which his position brings” (‘The Crucible.’ 125). He knows that Abigail is lying about what really happened in the woods but doesn’t care. The people of Salem do not like him “despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side” (Miller 3). He thinks that if people in the town find out what happens they would want him out of his position. He is so worried about his status that he doesn’t even care about Abigail and “ her dealings with witches in the opening scene, he seems to worry more about what these activities will mean to his reputation than Abigail’s spiritual state”. (‘The Crucible.’125 )”. It’s an inconvenience that “ when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character.” (Miller 12)

Parris is also a very greedy and self-centered man who bickers” with his congregation over such matters as his salary, housing, and firewood” (Martin). “The salary is sixty-six pound, Mr. Proctor! I am not some preaching farmer with a book under my arm; I am a graduate of Harvard College.” (Miller 29) He wants to be wealthy and have power over the town. “Man! Don’t a minister deserve a house to live in?” (Miller 30). He also comes off as disrespectful when he says “You people seem not to comprehend that a minister is the Lord’s man in the parish” (Miller 30). Reverend Parris says that he is the Lord’s man but continues to lie and deceit Judge Danforth to keep everything that he has worked so hard for. Parris is trying to “discover the ‘truth’ to prevent it from damaging his already precarious reputation as Salem’s minister, Abigail actually is telling him the historical truth” (Martin).

Towards the end, he realizes how bad the situation is and tries to rectify it, but only in his interest. He has been threatened by upset people in the town.“Tonight, when I open my door to leave my house – a dagger clattered to the ground. You cannot hang this sort. There is a danger for me. I dare not step outside at night!”(Miller 128). Reverend Parris wants Reverend Hale to get confessions out of John Proctor, Nurse Rebecca, and Martha Corey that were “well respected and the people might take revenge upon Danforth”(‘Overview: The Crucible’) to save himself. He tries to make it look like “God’s Work”. Abigail has left, with his money and robbed him of all his savings. He was very embarrassed to tell Judge Danforth that Abigail had left saying “I had thought to advise you of it earlier in the week, but -” (Miller 126). He even convinces Danforth to talk Elizabeth about making John confess to being a witch. When John decides that he will not lie about being a witch; reverend Parris is completely scared for his family wondering what will happen.

At first, Authur Miller portrayed Judge Danforth as authoritative and intimidating. As the story plays out, Danforth becomes gullible about the girls’ stories and the witch trials. He wanted to save his reputation so he repeatedly chose to look the other way. Reverend Parris was completely greedy, selfish, and deceitful throughout the story. He was only worried about his reputation and wealth. The Crucible, the author criticizes authority figures by illustrating Judge Danforth’s attachment to his own power and image and Reverend Parris’ greed counteract with what they should be representing in the community.

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The Role of Authority in The Crucible. (2021, Oct 08). Retrieved from

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