Contrast in Mary’s and Abigail’s treatment

Danforth’s interaction with other characters, in particular the contrast in Mary’s and Abigail’s treatment, is yet another way in which he manipulates the court’s proceedings. Danforth is very harsh, cold and direct towards Mary; whilst he is comforting, calm and enticing towards Abigail, who is the key to Danforth seeing out the trial and the desired outcome, in the favour of Danforth and against the accused. Danforth is threatening, aggressive and harsh towards Mary, an example of this cold treatment being Danforth saying “I cannot hear you. What do you say? (Mary utters again unintelligibly.) You will confess yourself or you will hang! (He turns her roughly to face him.)

Do you know who I am? I say you will hang if you do not open with me!” Danforth uses threatening language, openly and directly making threats on the life of Mary. The use of the question, although not a leading question, again places pressure on Mary; Danforth is trying, shamelessly, to cause Mary to give in and buckle under the pressure, so that the remainder of the trial will play into the hands of Danforth. Although not drawing a direct parallel with the McCarthy trials, in terms of the threats made on the lives of those in opposition; those who were in opposition faced prison and those in the literary and drama businesses who had the creativity and influence, to change people’s opinions and allow them to see through the mass hysteria which had blinded people, could have restrictions placed on their works.

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Further to this, Danforth treats Abigail as if she was a child, with attention and submission, this is seen when Danforth says “(weakening): Child, I do not mistrust you -” Danforth comforts Abigail, calling her child, and emphasising his will to accept her word, thus showing that Danforth is merely following Abigail’s lead, manoeuvring the case in her direction, so that his actions will not contradict Abigail’s accusations and discredit the case. The stage directions simply read, “(weakening)” this shows he is breaking down, slowly falling into submission; although Danforth is theoretically holding the most authority in the courtroom, it is actually Abigail who holds the balance of power, the final outcome of the case resting in her hands.

The contrast in treatment between the two girls highlights Danforth’s manipulative nature, doing his very best to maintain his position, showing complete disregard to the life of those about to be hung. Similar to the attitude shown by the judge of the McCarthy trials, the cases were conducted in a manipulative manner, protecting those in positions of authority within the government and “House Committee on Un-American Activities”, without showing any regard for the accused.

The contrast in the treatment, between Abigail and Mary, create tension as both the audience and Proctor, know Abigail is making false accusations in the hope of one day once again finding love with Proctor; whilst Danforth knows Abigail is lying, without understanding her motivation for doing so, is intent on allowing her accusations to be accepted in the hope of maintaining his own reputation. The audience, who is detached from the mass hysteria, clearly understands the motivation of both Danforth and Abigail, and are therefore, eager to see how the trial will play out; the audience is also keen to see how Abigail will fashion the course of the trial and how Danforth will follow Abigail’s lead.

Danforth also constantly disregards Hale, who stands in opposition to Danforth and in the favour of the accused. Danforth interrupts, discredits and cuts out Hale’s involvement in proceedings. An example of this being this brief interchange between the two, “Hale: But this child claims the girls are not truthful, and if they are not – Danforth: That is precisely what I am about to consider, sir. What more may you ask of me? Unless you doubt my probity? Hale (defeated): I surely do not sir. Let you consider it then.”

Within this interchange we see Hale unable to complete his dialogue; he is interrupted by Danforth, so that he may not have any influence within the trial. Danforth understands that Hale has the intelligence and influence to break through the mass hysteria, opening the eyes of those engulfed by the hysteria, and therefore breaking down the trial and exposing Danforth’s manipulative nature; Danforth’s only intentions being to maintain his own image.

Danforth is also aware of Hale’s nerves as Hale knows if he were to disregard Danforth he would also being accused. Danforth uses this, and it shows through in their interchange; Danforth directs two questions at Hale after interrupting him, the key question being, “Unless you doubt my probity?” with Danforth knowing that Hale’s only possible answer being yes, as Hale knows if he were to go against Danforth he may be victimised and wrongly accused. Tension is created as the exchange highlights that Danforth has something to hide, and that he will use his manipulative tendencies to discredit those who stand against him.

The scene is constructed using the characters position’s on stage, and uses religious imagery to symbolise the way in which the characters are portrayed by Danforth. The group of girls, who along with Abigail, have made false accusations and are responsible for stirring up the mass hysteria; their entry into the scene contains significant imagery. Miller instructs in his stage directions, “But she breaks into sobs at the thought of it, and the right door opens, and enter Suzanna Walcott, Mercy Lewis, Betty Parris, and finally Abigail. Cheever comes to Danforth.” The girl’s entry from the right has significant religious imagery, with the right symbolising good, purity and God, however they would be more fit to enter from the left, which represents evil, Satan and hell.

This imagery of the girls being good, is a complete juxtaposition of their actions, the girls have wrongly accused and cost the lives of many. Despite this Danforth sees the girls as good, despite their unholy nature and actions which contradict the puritan lifestyle; the girls are beneficiary to Danforth, providing him with the direction and manner in which to conduct trial; using Abigail in particular to gain the outcome which would see him maintain his reputation and respectability within Salem.