John Proctor: The play’s dynamic protagonist finds himself at the center of the witch hunts. He hates hypocrisy, yet hides a grievous sin–his sexual encounter with Abigail Williams–and hesitates to expose Abigail as a fraud in order to save his good name and because he still has feelings for her. Proctor’s affair with Abigail sets off the chain of events that leads to the deaths of innocent Salemites. Proctor eventually redeems himself by publicly denouncing Abigail, confessing his adulterous affair, not confessing witchcraft, and accepting his sentence of death.
Abigail Williams: Abigail is a female orphan and has no legitimate path to power in Puritan society. She, therefore, uses illegitimate means to control others. These methods include sex, lies, and threats. Jealousy and spite, especially toward Elizabeth Proctor, and lust for John Proctor are her main motivations. There is, however, little doubt that she craves the attention that the witch trials have given her.
Reverend Hale: John Hale arrives at Salem confident in his ability to rid the town of witchcraft. He is naive. He initially fails to see that the witchcraft accusations stem from grudges and jealousy and not from any actual witchery. He discovers his folly too late, denounces the trials, yet fails to stop them. He ends the play a broken man.
Elizabeth Proctor: John Proctor’s wife disapproves of her husband’s adulterous affair (go figure). She throws her out and is eventually tried and convicted for witchcraft.
Reverend Parris: The town minister and uncle of Abigail Williams is more concerned with his status and career than finding out the truth.
Rebecca Nurse: Her acts of charity are known far and wide. That doesn’t stop her from being accused of witchcraft and being hanged. It’s Rebecca Nurse’s, Martha Corey’s, and John Proctor’s arrest that makes Reverend Hale change his attitude toward the witch trials.
Judge Danforth: The presiding judge over the trials considers himself beyond reproach. Why he listens to delirious girls caught dancing in the forest remains a mystery.
Thomas Putnam: Putnam holds a grudge against Francis Nurse and is the accuser of Rebecca.
Ann Putnam: Ann has given birth to eight children, only one of which survived. She is convinced that her babies died from non-natural means.
Ruth Putnam: Ruth becomes ill after dancing in the forest.
Betty Parris: She becomes ill along with Ruth and accuses Tituba of witchcraft.
Mary Warren: The Proctor’s servant who is easily influenced by Abigail. The witch trials give her a sense of importance. She tells the truth about Abigail, recants what she says when the girls turn on her, and accuses John Proctor of witchcraft.
This post is part of the series: The Crucible Study Guide
If you’re a witch you probably don’t want to read this study guide. You’ll be hanged soon.