Tituba is the first person to be accused of witchcraft. She is represented as a black slave from Barbados in The Crucible, however much research has documented that Tituba was, in reality, a Native American Indian from the north (cite). Tituba is probably the first to be accused because she is an exotic foreigner who is different and the fact the she encourages the girls to dance and chant seals her fate.
Sarah Good is the second person to be accused of witchcraft. Sarah Good is an old homeless mother who is distrusted by the townspeople. She is an anomaly to the strict Puritan code of behaviour because she goes door to door begging with her children. Several villagers, including her own husband, testify against her and Sarah is put in prison alongside her five-year-old daughter Dorcas who is chained to a wall.
Abigail Williams is the young woman making the accusations and is held responsible of unleashing the witch hunts in Salem. Her motivation in The Crucible appears to stem from John's denial of her affections and of Elizabeth's removing her from the Proctor home. The name Abigail was understood by the Puritans to mean ‘good role models for girl'.
Reverend Parris is the father of Betty Parris and the uncle of Abigail Williams. He is disliked by many of the town's people who doubt his ability as a leader and they mistrust his sincerity as a preacher. He has been in the village for five years and his popularity is on the decline. He calls in the hierarchy from Boston to judge the ‘witches'. Parris drives the action of the play by continuing to put forth his own beliefs, suspicions and accusations. He becomes increasingly unbearable as the action evolves.
John Proctor is a local farmer who represents the hard working pilgrims who founded the state of Massachusetts. He does not support the trials as Abigail confides in him that it is all a ruse. As the trial unfolds, the plot thickens and lands John in the courtroom defending both himself and his wife, Elizabeth. It is his betrayal of his wife with the younger Abigail that becomes the central theme in the play.
Elizabeth Proctor is John's wife. She is an angst-ridden woman who is probably suffering from post-natal depression after the birth of her third child. The dialogue in the play suggests that Elizabeth is cold and candid with John and this gives him a reason and permission to seduce Abigail. The conflict that emerges and intensifies as the play progresses between John, Elizabeth and Abigail is the tension that drives the action. Elizabeth's life is spared because she is pregnant.
Mary Warren, the Proctor's maid, is an innocent and contradictory character in The Crucible. She symbolises the threatened child in us all. She is manipulated by Abigail Williams, threatened by John Proctor and reassured by the Governor Danforth. Mary manages to change her story to best suit her circumstances. Mary simply wants to please God and not end up at the end hanging.
Rebecca Nurse is a pious grandmother and when she is accused of witchcraft it is apparent that the world has indeed gone mad. Reverend Hale espouses these exact words towards the end of The Crucible and it could be argued that it is to Rebecca Nurse that he is referring.
Deputy Governor Danforth represents authority. He instils fear and desperation into the inhabitants of Salem because he has the power to take their lives from them. He is what we would refer today as ‘the hanging judge'. As the story unfolds, he appears to be less interested in the facts and more consumed by his power. As the tension rises and his adrenalin increases the trials become a spectacle rather than a system of justice. The accused are the guilty proving their culpability, rather than the innocent proving their virtue.
Reverend John Hale represents the voice of reason. He is an intelligent and sensitive man who is not easily influenced. His concern is for the people and for the truth. Unlike the other authoritarian and judicial figures in the play, who allude to being primarily ruthless and ambitious, Hale truly is in possession of good morals and principles. He does not get caught up in the hysteria and it seems that this is because he does not have an agenda of his own. He simply wants to find the real cause of the fits and ravings of the young girls.
Giles Corey is a larrikin. He knows the court system and has played the system to his advantage in the past. But he plays it one time too often and ends up at the mercy of the court. Interestingly, he is the only person not to end up at the end of a rope instead he is crushed to death by the authorities who place heavy stones on his chest.
Activity - Hot seating
Items needed: One chair
One student takes the hot seat. They then become a character from The Crucible. Let the students choose whom they might like to portray - Mary Warren, Abigail Williams, John Procter, Reverend Hale
Students in the audience get to ask the student questions, as though they were that character. It is the job of the person in the hot seat to answer the questions as concisely as possible.
This activity is a good way for the students to get a feel for what the trials may have been like. Should the teacher or leader choose a jury, then through hot seating a re-enactment of the witch trials can take place and could be totally encompassing.
Activity - Inner Monologue
Two or more students choose a section of the play to act out.
As they read through the piece, ask them to think of the underlying thoughts of the character. What is behind what is being said?
Ask the students to repeat the reading while vocalising these inner thoughts.
This activity is a good way to teach about the depth of characters in plays.
Activity - Freeze Frames
Assign students smaller groups of about 5 students each.
Each group is given a part of the play that they must turn into a frozen image created with their bodies.
For example: the girls dancing in the woods, the arrival of Reverend Hale, the trials or the actual hangings.
Students may wish to take on the roles of the characters, or the surroundings, but all must create a final frozen image.
Each student should then explain to the others in the class who they represent, and what that person or thing would be feeling at that point in time.