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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The Crucible is set in the last decade of the 17th century in Salem, Massachusetts, which was then a modest village peopled by Puritan settlers. The Puritans were very religious but also highly superstitious, and events which could not be explained away by reason or by the will of God were often attributed to the work of Satan. This fear of the Devil, combined with a highly regulated and at times hypocritical social order, culminated in the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692, on which this play is based.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
The recently appointed minister in Salem and father of Betty Parris. Parris is dogmatic in his opinions, intolerant of opposition, and suspicious of those whom he does not like. His belief in witches and his desire to punish his enemies set in motion the chain of events that leads to the hysteria in Salem. During the witch trials, he pressures Danforth, the chief judge, to punish those who, in his opinion, are possessed or in league with the Devil.
A young, upright, outspoken, successful farmer in Salem. He loves and respects his wife and is repentant of the one act of adultery he has committed with Abigail Williams, his former servant. He resents the greediness and holier-than-thou attitude of Reverend Parris and, therefore, invites his wrath and suspicion.
John's young wife and the mother of his three sons. She is pregnant with a fourth child. Though she has become somewhat cold towards her husband on account of his liaison with Abigail, she greatly loves and respects him.
Reverend Parris' niece. An intelligent, resourceful, and highly mischievous girl of seventeen, Abigail is the natural leader of the other girls in Salem and leads them in accusing many of the town's citizens of witchcraft. She is also infatuated with John Proctor and keen to take Elizabeth's place. Quick-thinking and highly manipulative, Abigail extricates herself from awkward situations and promotes her ends by bullying, subterfuge, and convincing acting.
Reverend John Hale
A minister from the nearly town of Beverly who is called by Reverend Parris to investigate his suspicions of witchcraft in Salem. As he becomes aware of Abigail's, Parris', and Hathorne's hidden agendas, he begins to question the validity of the trials, in which he acts as a judge. He then tries to convince Danforth of the truth, but lacks the courage and conviction to openly oppose him.
One of the judges who brings his prejudices to the proceedings and tries to interpret all evidence so as to support his pre-determined conclusions. He takes every opportunity to make Danforth see things his way.
Deputy Governor Danforth
The judge appointed especially for the Salem witch trials. Though basically fair and open-minded, he is over-confident in his ability to judge the truth. Danforth feels that it is his duty and destiny to purge society of evil and establish the Kingdom of Christ on earth. He is, therefore, temperamentally inclined to interpret all evidence as proof that Satan's forces are operating in Salem.
The young maidservant of the Proctors. Although Mary is honest and well-intentioned toward the Proctors, when faced with the prospect of suffering, her sense of self-preservation overrides her natural goodness. She is very much afraid of Abigail and also does not want to be cut off from the other young girls.
A well-to-do, respected farmer. He is helpful toward his friends and active in the community. When he tries to stop the court's investigations, he is arrested.
The wife of Francis Nurse. Rebecca volunteers as a midwife and is highly respected in Salem for her helpful nature. She is very firm in her opinions and willing to make any sacrifice in the cause of truth. She is accused of being a witch on the prompting of the Putnams, who are jealous of her good fortune.
A sincere, well-intentioned, though cantankerous, old farmer. He is frank and forthright in his thinking and utterances. He is on good terms with John Proctor and Francis Nurse. When accused of practicing witchcraft, he faces his death by torture with singular bravery and courage.
A rich, unscrupulous farmer who is out to expand his land holdings by any means. He is manipulative, close-minded, and domineering. He expects everybody to respect him and accept his opinions.
The Negro slave of Reverend Parris, believed to be practicing witchcraft.
Thomas Putnam's wife. A firm believer in witchcraft, she is convinced that her seven daughters died of unnatural causes. She is behind the midnight dance in the woods.
A simple beggar woman falsely accused by Abigail and her friends of witchcraft
Betty Parris, Susanna Walcott, and Mercy Lewis
Young girls of Salem involved in the midnight dance in the woods. Loyal followers of Abigail Williams, they support her both out of fear and a sense of allegiance. Betty is the ten-year-old daughter of Reverend Parris, Susanna works as a maid with Dr. Griggs, and Mercy is a servant of the Putnams.
Ezekiel Cheever, Marshal Herrick, and Hopkins
Petty officials of the court functioning under Deputy Governor Danforth.