Who is Responsible?
In the Crucible, by Arthur Miller, the witch trials killed many innocent people. People were accused of being witches by the children, and if they didn’t admit it they were hung. For being silent and not lying, a sin in the highly Christian Puritan society, people were hung. At multiple times in the story, several characters could have stopped the trials from proceeding with either evidence or just common sense. Put because of the power on the line and the cowardice of some of the characters, the trials were not stopped before the deaths of many. While there were many at fault, the three most responsible people are Abigail Williams, Reverend Hale, and Mary Warren.
The first person at fault is Reverend Hale of Beverly. He was famous in the colonial New England for being able to find, or decide there were no, witches amongst the people in the Puritan cities. He was called in to Salem by the Reverend of Salem, Mr. Parris. Parris asked him to come because his daughter was “sick” and would not wake. Reverend Hale came to see if it was the devil afflicting the child, even though she was just pretending to be sick to avoid punishment from Parris. Hale confirms that Betty is bewitched, and begins to grill Tituba after Mrs. Putnam and Abby start to put the blame on her. It is Hale’s fault Abigail began to accuse people because he tells Tituba, “You’re God’s instrument put in our hands to discover the Devil’s agents among us.” (Miller 46), and Abigail wants that kind of special attention. Hale supports the girls’ initial accusations and he suggests that a judge be brought in from Boston, ceding his authority to the court and the girls. Hale is even more to blame when he realizes the girls are lying later on, “It is his own suspicion, but he resists it.” (Miller 69), and does not do enough to stop the trials. Through both over-zealous ignorance of common sense and a failure to act upon what he knows to be true, Hale is one of the characters most responsible for the witch trials.
Another of the people most responsible is the architect, Abigail Williams. Abigail is at fault because she knows that the “bewitched” girls were just faking to avoid getting in trouble, but she leads them in accusing people anyway, knowing full well that the accused would either die or admit to a crime they didn’t commit and lose all credibility. Abigail thought the girls pretending was not a big deal at first, “We were dancin’ in the woods last night, and my uncle leaped in on us. She took fright is all.” (Miller 22) she told Proctor. However, one she saw all the attention Tituba was receiving from Hale, she came forward to take the attention for herself. After that she began to use her power to accuse the lower level of people in the town, lying openly in court and getting away with it because the accepted evidence was her word that someone sent her spirit after her. There was no way to make a defense against that kind of accusation, with what was accepted as proof, and it was either the noose or the jail cell. Then Abigail began to accuse the higher class of Salem, and she got away with it because she was now seen as a saint in the town by many, mainly the judges. At any point she could have stopped, but she kept going and more and more people die, which is why she’s one of the people most responsible for the witch trials.
The third person most responsible is the servant of the Proctors, the weak-willed Mary Warren. Mary Warren, as a viewer of the event that triggered the trials, could have come out at any point in time and ended the trials. Mary Warren eventually reluctantly agreed to tell the truth, at John Proctor’s urging, and it seemed as if the trials might end. Mary Warren, however, as soon as she faced that conflict of Abby refuting her claim, wilted and returned to the “there are witches” side. She even accused Proctor, “You’re the Devil’s man!” (Miller 118) to smoothly assimilate back into the ranks of the accusers. Instead of helping Proctor save all of the accused she betrayed him and condemned him along with the rest of the accused. Mary is a follower, and because she followed Abby, many people lost their lives or their names. Mary was proof that the girls were lying, but she failed to let her voice be heard. Mary was one of the main people responsible for the witch trials because it was within her power to exonerate the accused, but she failed to do so.
Throughout The Crucible, there were many instances where the witch trials could have been prevented. Through those instances, three people were most responsible for the witch trials not being stopped. Many people died because of the failure to act or lack of sanity that these characters presented. Reverend Hale, Abigail Williams, and Mary Warren were the characters that are the most to blame for the witch trials.