Static and Dynamic Characters of The Crucible
The Crucible is a play about the Salem witch trials. Its main characters are richly developed and varied. They consist of a Reverend and his niece; a married couple with their share of problems, along with their servant; and a minister called to the town because of his experience in the field of witchcraft. Each of these characters mentioned have their own traits that they bring to the plot of the story. When examined closely they can each be classified as either static or dynamic by the way their characteristics develop throughout the tale.
Reverend Parris is a minister in the town of Salem. As a very static character, his characteristics, for the most part, remain the same. In the introduction to the play, Parris is told to have â€œvery little good to be said for him.â€ This shows as Miller presents him a somewhat a villain. He is set from the beginning to prove that his daughter and niece are not involved in witchcraft. After he catches them dancing around a fire in the woods, he is very concerned with what this will reflect upon their name and, more importantly, his name. When it is suggested that he go to the parlor and talk to the people of the town, he responds, â€œAnd what shall I say to them? That my daughter and my niece I discovered dancing like heathen in the forest?â€ The fact that he refers to them as â€œmy daughter and my nieceâ€ shows that it is his reputation that he is worried about. This obsession with keeping his name clean is shown again towards the end of the play when John Proctor tells the court of the girls dancing in the woods. Parris immediately says, â€œExcellency, since I come to Salem this man is blackening my name.â€ This proves that over the course of most of the story, he keeps the same values (or lack there of). It is not until his niece flees from Salem with all of his money that he seems to change. One may perceive this as not a true change; itâ€™s just him realizing that being penniless and no longer having his nieceâ€™s power over the court to hide behind, he should change to benefit himself and his social status. Another theory may be that he starts to feel guilty for supporting a niece whose decisions have led to so many deaths; but still this would not be a change of character, just a change of conscience.
The niece of Reverend Parris, Abigail Williams, is also a static character with traits much like those of her uncle. Making the first accusation of the Salem witch trials, she from then on feels no remorse for her actions. During the ritual she was doing in the woods, she drank pigâ€™s blood with the intent of killing Elizabeth Proctor. She did this because of her love, which could be better categorized as obsession, for John Proctor with whom she had an affair. Abigail seems to not care how many people die in order to reach her â€œprizeâ€. After it is discovered that her cousin cannot wake, she approaches John about their affair. During their conversation, she shows her obsession for him by saying admitting, â€œI cannot sleep for dreaminâ€™; I cannot dream but I wake and walk about the house as though Iâ€™d find you cominâ€™ through some door.â€ She shows the same obsession later when she accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft. She does tell John that she regrets starting the trials after he is accused, but one would think that this regret is simply because her full intent was to have John as hers and now he would rather face death than run away with her.
The fact that John would not leave with Abigail shows that his love for his wife and faith in God has grown throughout the play. When the trials first start, John is asked to recite his commandments and leaves out â€œThou shall not commit adultery.â€ Still at this point he has not admitted to ever having an affair, even though Elizabeth already knows. After Elizabeth is accused, John becomes desperate to save her. He goes to the court and confesses to his and Abigailâ€™s affair in an attempt to falsify her claims. He tells of how bad of a person he thinks he is, and of how he now knows that God sees everything one does. This illustrates how dynamic of a character John is. When he himself is accused, John is told to sign a paper confessing that he is a witch. He signs this paper in order to stay alive, but when he finds out that it will be posted for the entire town to see; he rips the paper and exclaims that he cannot let others see the paper â€œ[b]ecause it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!â€ He is then taken away to be hanged. His wife sees the change in John, because when she is asked to plead with him she responds, â€œHe have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!â€
Elizabeth Proctor is not dynamic like her husband. She does not obtain goodness during the play, because she has it from the beginning. Abigail describes her as â€œa bitter woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman.â€ Although, it is shown that this is the exact opposite of Elizabethâ€™s character. When Elizabeth is brought to the court to validate Johnâ€™s claims of adultery, John describes her as, â€œThere are them who cannot sing, and them who cannot weep - my wife cannot lie.â€ Yet, she does lie; when Elizabeth is asked whether or not her husband committed adultery she lies because she thinks it will save her husband. This is an example of how great her love is for John, because she will go against her morals and sin by lying in order for him to live. Her plan backfires, though, because instead of this saving Johnâ€™s life, it leads to him being accused.
John Proctor is accused by his servant, Mary Warren. Mary is a very dynamic character where as she changes many times. In the beginning of the witch trials, she goes along with all the other girls and accuses people of the village of witchcraft. After she sees that it is all getting very out of control and Elizabeth is accused, Mary goes with John to the court to tell everyone that the girls are lying. While there she begins to fear the girls when they turn on her; so, to save herself, she accuses John of bewitching her. Being the third time sheâ€™s changed her mind, this shows Maryâ€™s true character. The accusation of John crosses the line for some, though, for they then turn against the court and Abigail.
Reverend Hale, who was called to the village to help sort out the hysteria, is one who turns from the court. When he first comes to Salem, Hale is in full support of its leaders. He truly believes that the devil is present and works to cast him out; though as the plot goes on, Reverend Hale sees that the girls have gotten out of control and need to be stopped. When John Proctor is accused, Hale turns from the court by saying, â€œI denounce these proceedings, I quit this court!â€ This establishes his dynamic character. He is one of the many who refuses to see John hanged. He pleads with Elizabeth to tell her husband to confess. He tells her, â€œWhat profit him to bleed? Shall the dust praise him? Shall the worms declare his truth? Got to him, take his shame away!â€ When a minister turns from the dealings of the witch trials, it marks the point at which the hysteria in the town ends.
The mix of static and dynamic characters makes The Crucible an erratic tale. Miller uses this blend well, as that each of the characters compliments each other in one way or another. By having some of the main characters of this narrative change greatly and others stay the same, one sets the stage for many unexpected plot twists.