Judge Danforth Character Analysis
Judge Danforth is the epitome of over-adherence and rigidity concerning the law. He is intelligent, successful, and highly respected. Danforth has come to Salem in order to oversee the prosecution of those accused of witchcraft. He has serene confidence in his ability to deliver fair judgment. The hysteria of the trials does not extinguish his personal belief that he is the most qualified judge.
After the play, the town of Salem is in disarray, Abigail has escaped from the town after stealing Parris’ entire life savings. Other innocent lives have been destroyed, but still, Danforth cannot admit that the prosecution in the witchcraft case was fake. He remains steadfast in his belief that the convicts should be executed because it would be unfair to those who had earlier been hanged. The moment Proctor declines to allow him to post his confession at the church entrance, Danforth immediately orders for his execution. This shows how Danforth fanatically believes in standing by a principle despite being proven beyond any reasonable doubt that he has an incorrect conviction.
Though he is a man of high prestige and intelligence, Danforth has proven to be the most deluded character in this play. Whereas a contemporary audience might find the concept of witches and witchcraft ridiculous, Danforth is a reflection of his time, an era whereby most people had a superstitious belief in the presence of witches and witchcraft. However, the author has also clarified that there were a few members of the community who took the concept of witchcraft with a pinch of salt. However, in 1692, some Puritans in Salem completely fell for the girls’ pretentious acts just like Danforth does.
Upon believing the girls’ feigned possessions, under the leadership of Abigail, he gets trapped in his ego. Danforth is now unable to admit that he has been duped simply. He is representative of the evils of blind faith in the play. He has refused to accept the truth since doing so will embarrass him. Danforth would rather let people die instead.
Judge Danforth also appears arrogant, whereby he immediately responds to those who oppose the court’s decisions by silencing them. The moment Giles Corey Spoke up in the courtroom, Danforth orders him to sit down immediately. When this method fails to work, he summons the court-martial to have Corey taken out. He considers Corey’s plea for a fair hearing as a rebellious act.
When Danforth’s acts of silencing people to not go according to plan, he resorts to bribery as a new strategy. Danforth offers a deal to Proctor promising to keep Elizabeth alive while in prison rather than hanging her. In exchange, Proctor is to remain silent. Nevertheless, Proctor stands his ground.
Moreover, upon failing in his bribery attempts, he does not stop there. He resorts to manipulation claiming that an individual should either stand with the court or will be deemed an enemy of the system. There is no middle ground, and whoever feels he is innocent should not be afraid of the court. What he is insinuating is that by protecting their spouses, these men seem to be challenging the court. As such, they must be corrupt.