Explain what happens in Act 3 from Danforth’s point of view- and show

Explain what happens in Act 3 from Danforth’s point of view- and show

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Explain what happens in Act 3 from Danforth’s point of view- and show
how Arthur Miller makes it clear to the audience that Danforth is not
only misguided but deliberately ignores any evidence that casts doubt
on the stories of Abigail Williams

GCSE English Literature 20th Century Drama Coursework,

“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller

Essay Question:

Explain what happens in Act 3 from Danforth’s point of view- and show
how Arthur Miller makes it clear to the audience that Danforth is not
only misguided but deliberately ignores any evidence that casts doubt
on the stories of Abigail Williams and the other girls.

Danforth, as “the Deputy Governor of the Province” of Massachusetts is
an extremely powerful and influential man, a representative of the
King of England. He represents the combined authority of church and
state in this theocratic society of the day.

We do not meet Danforth until the start of Act 3, although Arthur
Miller mentions him briefly at the beginning of Act 2 not by name but
by his office. Danforth is not one of the main characters in the play
but he is certainly the most controversial. Arthur Miller makes us
aware of how this man is a paradox, but I shall return to this
shortly.

In the first two Acts of this play, set in Salem 1692, Arthur Miller
introduces us to the main characters and the events that lead to this
witch- hunt. He describes the people of Salem as a “sect of fanatics
whose creed forbade anything resembling a theatre or vain enjoyment”
and a “holiday from work meant that they must concentrate even more
upon prayer.”

Their outlook and self enforced discipline did help them to survive a
life, which I can only imagine as very harsh, as some of the first
settlers in America. These people lived by very strict rules and
regulations, and were not allowed to express their feelings physically
or verbally. The events that lead to the witch- hunt were, in my view,
the bubble bursting- such repression found an outlet! Arthur Miller
states “the witch- hunt was not mere repression” but a “long overdue
opportunity for everyone to express publicly his guilt and sins under
the accusations against victims. It suddenly became possible to speak
of matters which were forbidden in an ordinary way.” Also “hatred of
neighbours would now be openly expressed, and vengeance taken.” “Old
scores would be settled,” and all this under the umbrella of morality
and self righteousness.

Before the start of the play Reverend Parris has caught a group of
girls, led by his niece Abigail Williams, dancing in the woods- a

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strictly forbidden activity. Abigail has been conjuring spirits with
Tituba, his servant, in an attempt to kill Elizabeth Proctor. Act 1
opens with the Reverend Parris praying for his daughter, Betty, who is
lying in bed inert. Mr and Mrs Putnam’s daughter, Ruth, is also
unexplainably ill- it is obvious that both girls are pretending
because they are frightened. The Putnam’s use witchcraft as an
explanation. These accusations, would soon spiral in Act 2 into a full
blown witch – hunt with many of the main characters arrested and
thrown into jail.

Act 3 opens in the vestry room of the Salem meeting house, which is
being used as the General Court, and the voices of Judge Hathorne and
Deputy Governor Danforth can be heard in the background. We finally
meet Danforth, “a grave man in his sixties, of some humour and
sophistication that does not, however, interfere with an exact loyalty
to his position and his cause”. By the time the curtain rises he has
already condemned several people to hang and placed many more in jail-
he does not waste time, he “does not falter”. The trials are now in
full swing and Danforth presides “at the head” of the court, assisted
by Reverend Hale and Judge Hathorne.

Giles Corey, Francis Nurse and John Proctor all go to court to present
evidence which ,they believe, will save their wives. Proctor has also
persuaded Mary Warren to give evidence against the girls and discredit
their accusations. Giles Corey causes a “contemptuous riot” which
halts the trial.

Danforth is prepared to listen to this new evidence but, Arthur Miller
makes it clear, that he is very conscious of his own authority and
reputation; he tells Francis Nurse, “Do you know that near to four
hundred are in the jails… upon my signature… and seventy- two
condemned to hang?” By putting this at the start of Act3, Arthur
Miller may be trying to get across to the audience that Danforth is
proud of his reputation.

At one point he seems to be persuaded by Mary Warren’s retraction,
that she “never saw no spirits” and that it was “all pretence”.
Although, in the stage directions, he reacts “with great alarm and
surprise,” and his confidence is shaken. By speaking of his reaction
Miller may be trying to develop the point that Danforth finds it
difficult to conceive that girls are anything than what they say they
are, and it is apparent that he has never been in this situation
before.

For a while Danforth doubts Abigail, despite the constant interference
form Parris who is “hardly able to contain his anger and fear”, and
has much to lose. At this point the girls are called in to the vestry
and questioned. Abigail sensing a change of mood, and already guilty
of dancing, reacts with great indignation at being questioned. Then,
slyly, proceeds to go on the attack against Danforth and the
proceedings. Danforth “weakening” retorts “Child, I do not mistrust
you”. Abigail’s marvellous acting is beginning to have the desired
effect!

John Proctor trying to put a stop to Abigail’s acting, confesses to
“lechery” and Danforth is “dumbfounded” as he has never heard of a man
“cast away his good name” to free his wife. Nonetheless, Danforth
accepts that there might be some substance in Proctor’s accusation
against Abigail and has no option but to test his allegations. Mr
Parris is sent to get Goody Proctor (Elizabeth Proctor). When she
arrives Danforth makes John Proctor and Abigail turn their backs to
her so as not to influence her testimony. When asked if her husband
committed “lechery” Elizabeth hesitates - either answer is damning but
she opts for a denial, and Danforth, although, very aware of the
situation ignores it and dismisses Elizabeth.

At this point, Reverend Hale, who has voiced his misgivings over some
of the evidence given, becomes very agitated and pleads with Danforth;
“Excellency, it is a natural lie to tell: I beg you, stop now before
another is condemned!” Miller indicates Danforth is quite prepared to
forget all the new evidence and proceed with the witch trials, having
satisfied himself that John Proctor is a liar!

The scene continues with more play acting from Abigail, who when
accused of being “false” by Reverend Hale, produces one of her best
performances. She pretends that Mary Warren has sent her spirit in the
form of a “yellow bird”, which is about to attack her. Only the girls
can see this imaginary bird and they become hysterical. Mary Warren
snaps, changes sides, and accuses John Proctor of being “the Devil’s
man!”. By the end of Act 3, Miller indicates that Danforth is ready
to proceed with the trials and no evidence will stand in his way.

Danforth believes in witches, in what he is doing and can see no wrong
in the court’s decisions. He states “a person is either with the court
or he must be counted against it , there be no road between”. With
this statement he reinforces his authority and makes it clear he will
not have his judgement questioned. In my opinion Danforth, who
despite his great experience, seems to have a limited perception of
human nature. He is not prepared to listen to reason, he is influenced
by other people and dismisses evidence lightly. His behaviour is a
paradox; he seems to want to hear fresh evidence yet he does not act
upon it; he is able to read into Parris’ behaviour yet he does not
dismiss him; he seems to allow his position to cloud his judgement or
maybe he is too pompous to admit, in the light of new evidence that
his previous judgement might have been wrong. A man of his experience
should not be naïve enough to presume that the children would not lie,
especially to save themselves. Danforth was the only hope that the
accused people had and he failed them. Arthur Miller presents him as a
rather incompetent and negligent man and I agree!
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