Character Profile - Danforth



Opening Impression:

Judge Danforth is a judge of the Supreme Court who holds respect because of his years of experience, he is a ‘man in his sixties’, and the number of people who have been sentenced under his ruling. He is a God fearing Christian man with clear but stubborn definitions of right and wrong. His ideals may seem rigid and old fashioned, causing frustration in the audience and members of the play as he is unable (or unwilling) to see through the ‘witchcraft’ façade.



Quotations & Analysis:





You will keep your seat!

Judge Danforth is respected by people in the court and has decades of experience [man in his sixties] The imperative and exclamation mark suggest he likes to keep order, which could suggest his controlling nature.



An exact loyalty to his position and his cause

Judge Danforth, like Hale (in the beginning) believes in his ‘cause’ and is ignorant/stubborn and perhaps pompous in his position of power. This foreshadows his old fashioned form of justice where any form of wrongdoing is punishable and where he is unwilling to entertain the possibility that he might be mistaken.



Giles: To Danforth, who impresses him

Danforth at first commands much respect from the people as he is in a position of power and whose authority cannot be undermined. The audience respects Giles so we trust his interpretation of Danforth at first.



“This is the highest court of the supreme government of this province”

He believes in honour, respect and recognition. The court in essence is just a human construct but Danforth places great pride on these human constructs and of doing things for show, which could illustrate his stubbornness when passing judgment.



“Who is this?”

The repetition of this line could show that he does not know the townspeople and is ignorant to the tensions that exist there and yet still feels that he is in a place to convict the Salemites. There is also a sense of outrage here as if he cannot believe that someone is challenging his authority.



[Restrained – he is curious]

“Not come to church?”

Religion is important to Danforth and he believes it is a sin to not attend church. Church is just one aspect of being a good Christian as Proctor argues, and one that is for show. Danforth therefore, in opposition to Proctor, is shown to believe in such facades and is shallow in his idea of a ‘good Christian.’



[It is the reflection on himself he resents]

There is a suggestion that Judge Danforth somehow knows that he has abused his power at some point “four hundred…on my signature” (below) He is feeling guilt at sentencing people with perhaps little evidence at the time. Therefore, increasingly Danforth begins to feel shame and uneasy about his past judgments and this is brought out by character such as Hale and Proctor who judge him and highlight Danforth’s insecurities about his form of judgment.



“A person is either with this court or he must be counted against it”

I believe this summarises Danforth’s character as he has a very narrow form of justice, either right or wrong. This foreshadows how Proctor will be sentenced, because although he is known as a good man in the townspeople’s/audiences eyes, Danforth can only see his guilt and his ’un-Christian’ ways



“Near to four hundred are in the jails…on my signature”


There is a sense that Danforth makes this comment to impress those in the room and command respect. He also does not want people to question him, in the same way perhaps as he himself does not want to question those he has sentenced to death.



“But proof sir, proof”


Danforth relies on proof to sentence people. However the “ipso facto…” speech shows us that he is gullibly capable of believing claims supported by the most dubious evidence, i.e. witchcraft, seeing birds, cold chill. This could show he is an unfit to conduct trials in Salem, and his inadequacy as a judge perhaps reflects how high ranking members of the House Un-American Activities Commission under McCarthy were equally unable to distinguish good evidence from bad, think clearly and see through lies.



“No uncorrupted man may fear this court”


Judge Danforth believes in right and wrong and truth and justice, although the lines are blurred in Salem, and hence innocent people are sentenced. Judge Danforth for example, has the inability to see that Proctor is a good man.



“You surely do not doubt my justice?”

This rhetorical question reveals how Danforth, mostly commands and receives respect. Ironically, however, the question should be a genuine interrogative rather than rhetorical. Doubt about Danforth’s (McCarthy’s) justice is exactly the kind of thing that Miller wants to encourage.



“You – you are a lecher?”


Reflects Danforth’s belief in the seven sins and reveals that he judges people based on their adherence to the rules of Christianity. However, the question also reveals the shock that characters in Salem would feel on learning that a character as respected as John Proctor is an adulterer.



“Be quiet! Be quiet!!”

The repetition suggests that respect is being lost for Danforth as his words are no longer immediately listened to. His urgency increases (with use of extra exclamation marks) as he realizes he is being ignored. This is unusual for him and hence the annoyance and outrage in the line when delivered.



“Do you know who I am?”

Again an opportunity to assert his power with use of rhetorical question. Although the question seems empty, suggesting that the power and influence that Danforth holds is equally hollow.



“Are you drunk, Marshall?”

Towards the end of the play Judge Danforth has lost his respect in the town. Marshall Herrick drinks inhis presence, and action which perhaps suggests the feeling of shame in the town that some many people have been wrongly convicted.



“There is no rebellion in Andover!”

Judge Danforth desperate denial of the uprising against the court in Andover suggests that he is aware that his situation is precarious and that he needs to maintain a firm grip on events in Salem.



“I cannot pardon these when twelve have already hanged fro the same crime. It is not just.”

This may be a moment of recognition for him when he realizes it may be too late to go back on his decisions. He may realize that he has wrongly sentenced people but fear for his reputation. This is one of the most damning of Danforth’s lines … for most of the play he comes across as a character with integrity who believes that he is doing the right thing despite being sadly misled. However, here his refusal to back down and accept the potential consequences of his erroneous judgments suggests a weakness and desire to protect his name and position that undermines any sense of integrity previously created.



This shall post upon the church door

The idea of things being for show is reinforced by the idea that the warrants will be posted on the door, to show the power of the courts and to reaffirm Danforth as in control. Once again we see a Church and court that are committed to empty shows of power rather than truly moral judgments.



Come then, sign your testimony

The fact that Danforth encourages Proctor to sign the testimony even though he knows it is a lie reveals the true weakness of his character. Desperate to put down the possibility of rebellion in Salem, Danforth will accept a fabricated confession solely in order to reinforce his crumbling authority in the town. Here we see his motives are just as selfish as those of Parris, Abigail and the Putnams. Once again, personal integrity seems to be the true measure of heroism. Placed in a situation that tests his integrity, Danforth takes the easy way out while, in contrast, Proctor will sacrifice his life rather than give up his own sense that he is a good man doing the right thing.





Role in the Play:

Danforth is used by Miller to show the simplistic, outdated, and steadfast justice system in Salem and comment on the absurdity of modern day McCarthyism. Danforth may be used to represent the 1950’s government who sentenced people based on little factual evidence due to their ‘communist sympathies’, and just like they did to ‘witches’ in Salem. Most powerfully we at times are given the sense that Danforth knows the accusations made in Salem are lies but is unwilling to admit this fact because it will undermine his name and the fact that he has already sentenced people to death for the same crime, based on the same evidence.