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Characters / The Crucible

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Characters in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible.

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    Main Characters 

John Proctor

The protagonist of the play, the husband of Elizabeth Proctor, and the father of several children.

John works as a farmer. His main conflict in the play narrative isn't the witch trials; instead, he is weighed down by the woeful and sinful horrors of his past affairs with Abigail, leaving him as an atoner desperate to redeem himself and cleanse himself from his sins. He sort of achieves this repentance when he allows himself to be hanged at the end of the fourth act.

He is portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis in the 1996 film.

Tropes applicable to John Proctor:

  • Anti-Hero: Has a history of lechery and, at least at the start of the play, a contemptible personality.
  • The Atoner: The sin that has stemmed from his affair with Abigail has made John's life a living hell as he struggles to find a way to repent.
  • Badass Beard: In the film. Just look at that picture.
  • Chewing the Scenery:
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mostly with regard to Reverend Parris.
    Putnam: I do not think I saw you at Sabbath meeting since snow flew.
    Proctor: I have trouble enough without. I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation.
  • Dirty Old Man: A 35-year-old man having an affair with a 17-year-old girl is pretty eyebrow-raising by today's standards.
  • God Is Dead: Proclaims this near the end during his breakdown in court.
  • The Hero Dies: He gets hanged at the end, and so did the real-life John Proctor.
  • Jerk Ass: Proctor starts out this way. However, he ends up being so broken that it ironically turns him into a far nobler man.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: At the end of the film white reciting the Lord's Prayer.
  • Only Sane Man: He thinks of himself as this before all of the madness starts. By the time the trials are in full swing, he truly is.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Proctor after the arrest of his wife. Milking the Giant Cow has been used in the film as well.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The core of his "God is dead!" speech is using his last words to chew out the entire town and especially Danforth for the murderous paranoia of the witch trials.

Abigail Williams

The 17-year old niece of Samuel Parris. Serves as the play's antagonist due to starting the chaos in Salem and being the single most powerful figure during the trials.

Was previously the maid for the Proctor house, but was fired by Elizabeth after her discovery of Abigail's affair with her husband, John.

By the end of the play, she's fled from town with Mercy Lewis, getting away from everything scot-free. However, as the epilogue tells us, she eventually turns her life to prostitution and doesn't live to the age of 18.

Portrayed by Winona Ryder in the 1996 film.

Tropes applicable to Abigail Williams:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: She's attracted to Proctor because of his dissident nature and gruff personality.
  • Adult Fear: At a young age, Abigail had to watch her own parents being killed in front of her.
  • Batman Gambit: Her Evil Plan is to use a bunch of these to secure her crush and a powerbase. She loses both through overreaching.
  • Big Bad: Just about everything that goes wrong in the story is caused by Abigail. Pretty impressive for a teenage girl...
  • Broken Bird: She saw her parents murdered right in front of her when she was just a child. After that tragedy, she was raised by her greedy uncle (who just so happened to be the clergy) and was used by a man she was in love with, only to be later told by said man that she was nothing to him. Not to mention that with the rumors of her no longer being a virgin, she would have never been married or hired. So while her actions were inexcuseable, you can't help but see why she doesn't care about anybody in town.
  • Consummate Liar: The townspeople heel at her every world because she's so damn good at playing the Children Are Innocent angle.
  • Dark Messiah: As a Straw Hypocrite: the town thinks she's the lynchpin of their battle against witchcraft; in reality, she's just a girl trying desperately to cover he own wrongdoing.
  • Enfant Terrible: Even more so in real life, where she was 12 instead of 17.
  • Foil: To Elizabeth and Mary. Abigail is bad and beautiful while Elizabeth is good, plain, and follows her Puritan beliefs; Mary contrasts Abigail in terms of plainness and weakness.
  • A God Am I: Claims to be "God's finger" in the movie.
  • Karma Houdini: Flees Salem scot-free, avoiding any form of repercussion.
  • Manipulative Bitch: It really shows when Mary tries to confess their deception; Abagail controls the proceedings without any trouble at all, and Judge Danforth takes her every word as gospel.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Attempts to do this on Elizabeth twice so she can have John fully to herself. It's mentioned that she drank blood in order to place a charm to kill Elizabeth whilst in the woods, and she uses the witch trials to accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft in order to have her hanged.
  • Narcissist: She doesn't care one bit that her lies are ruining the lives of others, as long as she stays out of trouble. And she's perfectly willing to let Elizabeth Proctor be executed so she could have John to herself.
  • The Sociopath: Given her past, it isn't too surprising she'd be completely messed up in the head.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Abigail just can't listen when Proctor tells her the affair is over.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Abigail sticks a needle in a poppet (doll) and tells Mary to give it to Elizabeth to frame her for using witchcraft (though Mary's involvement is left ambiguous). She goes as far as to stab herself with a needle to make it believable.
  • Yandere: Even though Proctor has long broken off the affair with her, she still loves him and believes that he does as well. The idea that Proctor might be a little averse to marrying his wife's murderer never even occurs to her.


Reverend Samuel Parris

The minister and leader of Salem's church. Because of his greedy personality, he is disliked by most citizens. He is more concerned about his reputation than the well-being of his sick daughter Betty. He is also more concerned about his missing niece, Abigail Williams, and the money taken by her, than for the lives of Williams' and the other girls' victims.

Parris was also the owner of the slave Tituba.

Portrayed by Bruce Davison in the 1996 film.

Tropes applicable to Samuel Parris:

  • Foil: To Hale. Parris is sycophantic, corrupt, greedy, and self-serving, while Hale is empathetic, compassionste, and selfless. Ironically, by the end of the play they are working together for the exact same goal, for entirely different reasons.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: When Tituba is questioned, Parris plays the bad cop (threatens to whip her) and Hale is the good cop (wants her to be saved by God).
  • It's All About Me: It's pretty obvious that he sees his position merely as a means of wealth and prestige. When Abigail is accused of witchcraft, he doesn't care one bit about her safety and the potential dangers; he's merely concerned about the blow to his reputation.
  • Jerk Ass: His narcissistic and self-centered persona gets him a lot of hate from the public.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: He gets all of his life savings robbed of him by Abigail. He is also voted out of office in the epilogue and is mentioned to have never been seen again after that.
    • This is of course historically inaccurate as the real Samuel Parris was not voted out of office, but resigned in 1696, years after the trials ended (though his position by that point was clearly untenable in part due to the trials). He was actually preaching elsewhere as late as 1711.
  • Smug Snake: His sense of self-importance is way out of proportion to his actual usefulness.
    “I am not some preaching farmer with a book under my arm; I am a graduate of Harvard College!”
    • Parris did not even actually graduate from Harvard. He left school early to take over his deceased father's sugar plantation in Barbados, so his inflated sense of self is shown greatly in this line.
  • Villainous Breakdown: When Proctor refuses to sign a confession.

Reverend John Hale

A well-respected minister that doubles as an expert on witchcraft. Gets 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 rituals in the woods that start the play.

He originally advocates the trials, believing that there are witches in Salem, but later realizes how bad the trials really are, and struggles to convince the women accused of being "witches" to live by confessing to a lie rather than dying for telling the truth. He fails to influence anyone or save a single life, and he lives on with the guilt of all of the lost lives.

Portrayed by Rob Campbell in the 1996 film.

Tropes applicable to John Hale:

  • The Atoner: By the end, for his part in the trials.
  • Break the Cutie: In the beginning, Hale is full of exuberance and intellectual glee, which fade significantly by Act Two. This is shattered completely by Proctor's death.
  • Failure Hero: Despite his reputation as a witchcraft specialist and his being called to Salem in the hopes of disproving any notion of supernatural activity, he is duped by Abigail and the other girls into believing it. As a member of the court, his role is to provide wisdom and knowledge, but his advice falls on deaf ears due to Abigail's manipulations, and he quits when he sees the innocent John Proctor accused. By the final scene, his only goal is to have the condemned prisoners falsely confess so that they might live, but he fails to convince a single one of them. He fails completely, and doesn't even get to be a Doomed Moral Victor, but rather lives on with the guilt of knowing he played a major part in so many deaths.
  • Foil: To Parris. Parris is sycophantic, corrupt, greedy, and self-serving, while Hale is empathetic, compassionste, and selfless. Ironically, by the end of the play they are working together for the exact same goal, for entirely different reasons.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Hale being the good cop and Parris being the bad cop. While questioning Tituba, Parris threatens to flog her to death before Hale intervenes, suggesting a more peaceful option.
  • Heel Realization: His encounter with the Proctors makes him realize that many of the accused witches are probably innocent. He...doesn't take it well.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The real John Hale was an enthusiastic supporter of the witch trials, and didn't change his mind until public opinion started to turn against him and his own wife was accused of being a witch.
  • Knight In Sour Armor: By the end of the play. Starting off an intellectual, he changes from idealistic to completely cynical. In the end, he attempts to convince Goody Proctor to persuade John to abandon his moral ideals so that he may live, reflecting Hale's own change in paradigms from valuing religious law to simply valuing that a human being makes it out alive, regardless of the moral cost. It doesn't work.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Hale listens to Proctor and the other townspeople at every turn, and even tries to back them up when they appeal to Danforth in act 3. Even after this fails, he genuinely tries to get the convicted to confess purely because he wants to save them.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Hale reaches this point at the end, actively advising the accused to confess to witchcraft so that they'll live, even though he knows they're innocent.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Hale after Proctor's "God is dead" line.
    Hale: I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court! *leaves and slams the door behind him*
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Hale starts of like this, all too eagerly applying his knowledge of witchcraft to sign away the lives of 72 people. He quickly gets over it, but by then things have already gotten out of hand.

    Court Authorities 

Judge John Hathorne

The presiding judge over the witch trials. Cold, ignorant, antagonistic, he constantly denies any new developments regarding the events in the town.

Portrayed by Robert Breuler in the 1996 film.

Tropes applicable to John Hathorne:

  • Hanging Judge: Becomes something very similar over the course of the play.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: His only real moment of emotion in the play occurs in the final scene, where he appears almost joyful that Proctor considers falsely confessing to witchcraft.
  • Sadist: He is pretty insistent on hanging people regardless of them being guilty or innocent.
  • The Spock: There absolutely nothing emotional about the man. You could replace him with a robot programed to apply the law and barely know the difference.

Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth

A judge whose primary loyalty is to himself and to his position.

He's even seen by Miller himself as the play's true antagonist, who described him in a NY Times article with the following description: "... [t]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."

Tropes applicable to Thomas Danforth:

  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original play, although he is the Greater-Scope Villain in there as well, Danforth comes off as a conflicted well intentioned extremist who only refuses the pardons because he believes it would cause a panic and lead to anarchy, and upholding the law is of the utmost importance to him. In the film, however, he's a psychotic knight templar hanging judge who blatantly enjoys sending people he knows are innocent to their deaths, and openly insults anyone who questions him or sympathizes with the people he murders. In this case, it is due his characterization was merged with the character of Judge Hathorne in the original play, whose personality was like that. Although Hathorne is in the film as well, he is a total nonentity since his characterization has been taken on by Danforth.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Judge Danforth does this to Reverend Parris when he's about to question Mary Warren.
  • Composite Character: Danforth's a mix of several real-life judges.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    Giles: This is a hearing; you cannot clap me for contempt of a hearing.
    Danforth: Oh, it is a proper lawyer!
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Even Miller himself thinks so.
  • Hanging Judge: He becomes this over the course of the play. He's even called out as such by Giles:
    Giles: He means to hang us all!
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: He's portrayed as the Greater-Scope Villain in the play because he symbolises most if not all the judges that took part in the witch trials (Hathorne is a seperate character in the play). Ironically, the one actually named Danforth in real-life fell more on Hale's side of things and helped to stop the witch trials.
  • Inspector Javert: Danforth vows he would hang 10,000 men for challenging the law and never be swayed.
  • Knight Templar: He's committing what amounts to judicial murder, in full knowledge of the fact, simply because he cares more about upholding the inviolability of the law than messing with people's lives.
  • Rules Lawyer: Danforth mocks Giles as one, which later turns out to be true.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Danforth and the judges start out this way, and it all goes downhill from there...

    Other Characters 

Giles Corey

A friend of John Proctor who is very concerned about his own land, which he knows Thomas Putnam is trying to steal by getting the girls to accuse Giles' wife, Martha, of witchcraft. Giles gains this information from an anonymous source, whom he declines to name, as he knows that this person would be persecuted. He is subjected to being pressed by stones when he refuses to plea "aye or nay" to the charge of witchcraft.

Portrayed by Peter Vaughan in the 1996 film.

Tropes applicable to Giles Corey:

  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Downplayed, but still. His rambling about Martha reading strange books gets her accused of witchcraft.
  • Cool Old Guy: Giles Corey, both here and in real life.
  • Defiant to the End: "More weight!" This happened in real life, too.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: He had stones pressed onto his chest to try and get him to squeal; the only thing he would say was, "More weight." Even though it happened off-screen in the play, that doesn't make it any less awesome.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Averted with Giles, as he really did die in real life as the play portrayed, allowing his sons to keep the land that he would leave to them. By confessing or denying the accusation, his land would have been forfeit, but instead he kept silent, never confirming or denying the accusations, only asking for more weight to be pressed on him, until he was crushed to death.
  • Loophole Abuse: Giles knows that he will be put to death if he confesses, and that if he pleads innocent, he will not be believed. Therefore, he refuses to plead at all, knowing that he will die regardless, and that by refusing to plead, his land will not be forfeit, and instead his sons can inherit.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Giles' innocent accidental accusation of witchcraft against his wife.
  • Rules Lawyer: Danforth mocks Giles as one, which later turns out to be true.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Giles intentionally keeps on saying "more weight" while pressed so he won't lose his property, so he gave his life to protect his name for his children. To make it more awesome, his Thanatos Gambit broke the Xanatos Gambit of his accusers. If he confessed, then as a witch his property is confiscated, but if he denied it and was still convicted (almost certain to be the case) then he'd also lose his property. His third option exploits a loophole. He didn't break it entirely because he still died but he destroyed the main goal. What makes this truly awesome is that this particular part of the story really did happen.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: Giles is tortured to death by having stones piled onto him but refuses to give either a plea or a confession, meaning that his property would pass to his children.


Tituba is Reverend Parris's slave from Barbados. 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 the girls to attract the men and boys they fancy, Abigail wants to kill Elizabeth Proctor for John Proctor. Additionally, she attempts to raise the spirits of Ann Putnam's dead children at their behest. 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. She and Sarah Good (whose infant child died in prison) are both mentally unsound by this point.

Portrayed by Charlayne Woodlard in the 1996 film.

Tropes applicable to Tituba:

  • Ethnic Magician: Ann Putnam claims that she "has knowledge of conjuring." It's implied that she's a practitioner of some form of folk magic, since Abagail enlisted her for their ritual in the forest.
  • Out of Focus: She abruptly disappears from the narrative after the first scene, and is only mentioned in passing afterwards.
  • Sanity Slippage: She's on the brink of madness by the end.
  • A Taste of the Lash: In the movie adaptation, this is used on Tituba in front of Abigail and others.
  • Token Minority: Justified in this case, since she's a slave brought into a Puritan colony from the Caribbean.