Who are The Crucible characters? What do they do and when do they show up in the play? Find out in this overview of the characters in Arthur Miller's The Crucible.
In this article, I'll go over each of the Crucible characters by name, pinpoint which act(s) each character appears in and/or is mentioned in, and briefly describe each character and what she/he does in The Crucible.
Central Cast of The Crucible
To start off with, I'll discuss the seven characters in The Crucible who are integral to the plot of the drama: John Proctor, Abigail Williams, Mary Warren, Giles Corey, Rebecca Nurse, Reverend Hale, and Elizabeth Proctor. For each of these characters, you'll get an overview of their relationships with other characters in the play, a short description of their personality, and a rundown of the actions they take throughout the play.
John Proctor is the central character whom the drama of The Crucible revolves around. This primacy is helped by the fact that he has relationships with many of the other characters in the play: Proctor is husband to Elizabeth Proctor, former (adulterous) lover of Abigail Williams, employer of Mary Warren, friend of Giles Corey and Francis Nurse (and by extension their wives), and not a fan (though not precisely an enemy) of Reverend Parris. Proctor is described by Miller as “respected and even feared in Salem,” having “a sharp and biting way with hypocrites” even though he “regards himself as a kind of a fraud” (p. 19) due to his affair with Abigail Williams.
Act 1: We find out that Proctor had an affair with Abigail that he says he no longer wishes to continue. Proctor is skeptical of witchcraft and of Parris's claims of persecution and leaves shortly after Reverend Hale arrives at the Parris household.
Act 2: Elizabeth and John discuss the events that have been happening in Salem; Elizabeth encourages John to tell the court what Abigail told him about the girls faking it, which triggers a discussion about John's affair with Abigail and his continuing guilt about it. Over the course of the act, Proctor becomes frightened of the power the girls have with their accusations, especially once his wife is arrested for witchcraft.
Act 3: Proctor goes to court to fight the charges against his wife and dispute the veracity of the girls' claims; he eventually ends up being accused of witchcraft himself.
Act 4: Tormented over whether or not to confess to witchcraft to save himself, Proctor ultimately ends up tearing up his signed confession and going to the gallows with what remains of his integrity intact.
For a deeper exploration of John Proctor’s character traits and actions, read our character analysis of him.
Also Known As: Abby Williams
Abigail is the niece of Reverend Parris and the cousin of Betty Parris. She also used to work as a servant with the Proctors, before she was sent away by Elizabeth Proctor for having an affair with Elizabeth's husband John. She is friends (or at least acquaintances) with Mercy Lewis and eventually becomes the ringleader of the "afflicted" girls (i.e. the girls who accuse people of being witches). Miller describes Abigail as "seventeen...a strikingly beautiful girl, an orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling" (p. 8); in essence, he is calling her a pretty little liar.
Act 1: Abigail is accused by her uncle of dancing in the woods (possibly naked) and of being soiled; she vehemently denies this, but when he leaves Betty wakes and accuses Abigail of drinking a potion to kill Elizabeth Proctor. Eventually, Abigail manages to get out of being punished by first accusing Tituba of forcing her to drink the potion and then appearing to confess her bewitching and accusing others of witchcraft.
Act 2: We find out, first via Mary Warren and then via Ezekiel Cheever, that Abigail has accused Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft.
Act 3: Abigail is questioned about faking her symptoms and denounces it as a lie; she then leads the girls in a hysterical display against Mary Warren when Mary tries to discredit them and succeeds in influencing Mary to abandon her testimony.
Act 4: We hear from her uncle, Reverend Parris, that Abigail has run off with Mercy Lewis and some of her uncle’s money.
For more about Abigail Williams and her role in The Crucible, read our in-depth discussion of Abby, and our analysis of important Abigail Williams quotes.
Me? Accuse someone of witchcraft so I could marry her husband and run off with my uncle's money when that didn't work out? Whyever would you think such a thing?
Mary Warren is a servant to John and Elizabeth Proctor and part of the group of girls accusing people of witchcraft. Described by Miller as "seventeen, a subservient, naïve lonely girl" (p. 17), Mary is motivated both by her desire to be a part of "the great doings in the world" (p. 20) and her fears of getting in trouble (whether with Abigail or the Proctors).
Act 1: Mary shows up at the Parris household to confer with Abigail and Mercy about what's going on (since they were all dancing in the woods the night before).
Act 2: Mary arrives back at the Proctors' slightly more confident due to her role in the court; she brings Elizabeth a poppet she made and both the Proctors news of what has been happening in Salem and reveals that she managed to stave off one accusation of witchcraft against Elizabeth (although it turns out that after Mary left, Elizabeth was accused again). After Elizabeth is arrested and taken away, Mary is yelled at by John Proctor and told she has to testify in court about how she made the poppet, stuck a needle in it, and gave it to Elizabeth.
Act 3: Mary is bullied by John Proctor into testifying how there is nothing supernatural occurring in Salem. This ends up backfiring when she is accused of sending her spirit to torment the girls; eventually, Mary accuses Proctor himself of being a witch and returns to the fold of accusers.
Discover more about Mary Warren’s role in The Crucible with our character analysis of her.
Giles Corey is husband to Martha Corey and friends with John Proctor and Francis Nurse. A cantankerous old man who has no problem suing even his friends for perceived insults, Giles is described by Miller as "a crank and a nuisance, but withal a deeply innocent and brave man" (p. 38).
Act 1: Giles wanders into the Parris house to find out what’s going on. He tells Reverend Hale that he thinks it’s weird his wife Martha reads all the time and that whenever she reads, Giles has trouble praying (conveniently omitting the information that Giles has just started to go to church more regularly and so naturally would have difficulty remembering his prayers).
Act 2: Giles comes to the Proctors’ house along with Francis Nurse to report that both their wives have been arrested for witchcraft; he asks Proctor’s advice for what to do
Act 3: Giles storms into court to try to prove his wife isn’t a witch. He ends up being condemned for contempt of court when he won’t name the person who told him that Putnam’s daughter accused George Jacobs of being a witch in order to be able to purchase George Jacobs’ forfeited land.
Act 4: We learn via Elizabeth Proctor that Giles was pressed to death (with stones on his chest) since he refused to answer the accusations against him one way or another so his property would stay in his family.
For a more detailed discussion of Giles Corey and what happened to him, read our dedicated Giles Corey character analysis.
Also Known As: Goody Nurse
Rebecca is married to Francis Nurse. She is friendly with everyone in Salem except for Ann Putnam, whose concerns over her daughter Ruth Rebecca kind of brushes off in Act 1.
Act 1: Rebecca comes over to the Parris household and tries to calm everyone down, saying it’s probably just girls being girls and not anything supernatural. When it becomes clear that everyone else wants to go ahead with the investigation of possible witchy causes for the girls’ behavior, she departs.
Act 2: The audience learns from Francis Nurse that Rebecca has been arrested for the murder of Ann Putnam’s seven children who died in infancy.
Act 3: The audience learns via Hale that Rebecca has been found guilty of witchcraft in court (p. 80).
Act 4: Rebecca is saddened to learn that John is going to confess to witchcraft, then uplifted when he decides not to; they both go to the gallows together.
For more discussion of the function of Rebecca Nurse in the play, make sure to read our complete analysis of Rebecca Nurse in The CrucibleThe Crucible.
Reverend John Hale
Reverend Hale is an "expert" on witchcraft, called in from Beverly by Reverend Parris as a precautionary measure (in case Betty Parris's affliction is supernatural in nature). Described by Miller at the beginning of the play as "nearing forty, a tight-skinned, eager-eyed intellectual," (p. 30), Hale changes over the course of the play from an idealist who believes he has the power to root out the Devil to a disillusioned man who realizes he has added to a hysteria and caused the deaths of innocents.
Act 1: Hale appears in response to Parris’s summons. Excited to use his specialized skills to hunt out the Devil, Hale ends up (inadvertently) pressuring Tituba into confessing until she names names.
Act 2: Hale comes to the Proctors to check in on them, since he’s heard some disturbing things about them (John doesn’t go to church often, Elizabeth was accused of being a witch that day, etc); he quizzes John on his commandments and is upset/shocked to hear that the girls might be faking their fits and lying to the court. He seems conflicted (“in great pain”) but still unwilling to completely accept how thoroughly he’s screwed everything up (p. 68).
Act 3: Hale ineffectually tries to stop the juggernaut he has set into motion; he now realizes that witchcraft isn’t as black and white as he thought because at least some of the accusations clearly stem from ulterior motivations and there's no evidence besides hearsay for convictions…but it’s too late. Storms off after Proctor is ordered to jail by Danforth (p. 111), denouncing the court and what it is doing.
Act 4: Hale has returned to Salem to try to get the accused witches to confess and save their lives so he can feel less guilty/accumulate less blood on his hands. He does not succeed.
Reverend Hale, by the end of The Crucible.
Reykjavik statue/used under CC BY 2.0/Cropped from original.
Elizabeth Proctor is married to John Proctor. Elizabeth dislikes Abigail Williams, likely due to the fact that John Proctor committed adultery with Abigail. While Miller does not give Elizabeth any specific stage direction descriptions they way he does with many of the other characters, we learn through various bits of dialogue that Elizabeth had been sick the previous winter (p. 61).
Act 2: Elizabeth tries to urge her husband to go to town to tell everyone Abigail is a liar – first because it’s the right thing to do, then because she’s worried Abigail is going to accuse Elizabeth of being a witch in order to take her place in John’s life (and bed). She is disappointed that John met with Abigail alone and somehow failed to mention that detail to her, but is not allowed to defend herself because John’s internal guilt causes him to react angrily and volubly to her fears.
Elizabeth accepts a poppet from Mary and tries to protect Mary from John’s wrath at Mary's having neglected her duties at home to go off to the court and accuse people of witchcraft. At the end of the act, Elizabeth is arrested and taken in after it’s revealed Abigail called her out as a witch (after Mary Warren and Hale left for the day) and she has that damning poppet with a needle stuck in it.
Act 3: Elizabeth is brought into the court to confirm that Abigail Williams was dismissed from her position for sleeping with John Proctor, since John has boasted that Elizabeth never lies. In a crisis of faith, Elizabeth chooses to lie to protect her husband’s reputation; this unfortunately ends up having a negative effect as it undercuts John’s accusation that Abigail is accusing Elizabeth of being a witch in order to marry John.
Act 4: Elizabeth is asked by Danforth and Hale to convince John to confess to save his life; instead, she basically just acts as a sounding board while John agonizes over what to do. She also tearfully confesses that John Proctor is the best and that she shouldn’t have judged him because only he can judge himself, and tells him that whatever he chooses is okay by her (p. 127):
Do what you will. But let none be your judge. There be no higher judge under Heaven than Proctor is! Forgive me, forgive me, John—I never knew such goodness in the world! She covers her face, weeping.
When Parris and Hale try to get Elizabeth to stop John after he’s torn up his confession and is on his way to the gallows, she does not, stating, “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!” (p. 134).
Other Salem Residents in The Crucible
Aside from the seven central Crucible characters listed above, there are also many other Salem residents who appear in this play. Whether they accuse others of being witches, are accused of being witches themselves, or are simply townspeople with an axe to grind against Reverend Parris, the characters below all contribute to move the action of the plot forward.
Reverend Samuel Parris
Reverend Parris is the father of Betty Parris, uncle of Abigail Williams, and minister of Salem. He is not portrayed in a positive light in this play, being described by Miller from the very beginning as someone who "cut a villainous path through history" who "believed he was being persecuted wherever he went." Through his actions and words, Parris "very little good to be said for him" (p. 3).
Act 1: Parris is worried that Betty is sick, so he has called on Dr. Griggs for medical care and sent for Reverend Hale for spiritual care. He questions Abigail about her dancing in the woods with Betty and Tituba and discusses how he thinks there are people plotting against him and his fears about how people will perceive him if witchcraft is discovered under his roof.
Act 3: Still self-important and petty, Parris accuses people who he perceives as a threat or who state they don't believe in witchcraft of lying or having "come to overthrow the court" (p. 82).
Act 4: Parris asks Danforth and Hathorne to meet him in jail to discuss the dangers attendant on hanging well-respected members of the community like Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor. Parris explains that he and Hale have been praying with the convicted witches and hoping they'll confess; for Parris, this is because the people about to hang are influential and so their deaths might cause trouble for him. He also mentions that Abigail has disappeared and seems to have stolen his life savings, which prompts Danforth to call him "a brainless man" (p. 117).
Parris also tells Danforth that he's been threatened as a result of his actions in the witch trials: “Tonight, when I open my door to leave my house – a dagger clattered to the ground” (p. 119), but Danforth does not seem to care.
Betty is the ten-year-old daughter of Reverend Parris and cousin to Abigail Williams...and doesn't get much more of a character description/development than that. She is the third person in Salem to accuse people of witchcraft (after Tituba and Abby). Other than a brief time onstage in Act 3 (when she chants in unison with the rest of the witch-accusing girls), Betty is only onstage during the opening act of the play.
During Act 1, Betty falls ill after dancing in the woods with Tituba and some of the other girls of the village (Abigail Williams, Mercy Lewis, Mary Warren, and Ruth Putnam). When she temporarily rouses from her stupor, Betty accuses Abigail of drinking a potion to kill Goody Proctor (p.18), before falling back into an inert state. Betty livens up again at the end of the act to chime in with her own hysterical accusations of witchcraft.
In her forties, Tituba is Reverend Parris’s slave that he brought with him from Barbados. She is devoted to Betty (p. 7, p. 41) but possibly harbors some resentment against Parris that comes out in her "confession" of witchcraft (p. 44):
TITUBA, in a fury: He say Mr. Parris must be kill! Mr. Parris no goodly man, Mr. Parris mean man and no gentle man, and he bid me rise out of my bed and cut your throat! They gasp. But I tell him “No! I don’t hate that man. I don’t want kill that man.” But he say, “You work for me, Tituba, and I make you free! I give you pretty dress to wear, and put you way high up in the air, and you gone fly back to Barbados!”
Various townspeople (Abigail, Mrs. Putnam) seem to think that Tituba also can "conjure" spirits, which at some points it seems that Tituba herself may also believe ("Devil, him be pleasure-man in Barbados, him be singin’ and dancin’ in Barbados. It’s you folks – you riles him up ‘round here; it be too cold ‘round here for that old Boy. He freeze his soul in Massachusetts, but in Barbados he just as sweet...", p. 113).
Act 1: Tituba tries to find out how "her beloved" Betty is doing, but Parris shoos her away; later, she is accused by Abigail of forcing the girls to do the Devil’s work. When pressured by Hale and Parris to confess and give the names of those who are abetting her, Tituba eventually does by naming Goody Good and Goody Osburn (the two women Putnam had previously suggested as witch candidates).
Act 4: Tituba is in the jail with Sarah Good, acting as if she very much believes in the Devil. She and Goody Good are hustled out by Herrick to make way for the judges.
Susanna works for Doctor Griggs and is described by Miller as "a little younger than Abigail, a nervous, hurried girl" (p. 8). Eventually, she joins in with Abigail, Betty, Mercy, and Mary as the "afflicted girls" who accuse others of witchcraft.
Act 1: Susanna tells Reverend Parris that Doctor Griggs is concerned Betty’s illness is supernatural in origin (p. 9).
Act 2: Susanna has become part of the group of accusers; is one of the people Mary Warren says would’ve witnessed Mary sewing the poppet in court (p. 72).
Act 3: Susanna joins in with Abigail and Mercy in accusing Mary Warren of bewitching them via Mary’s bird-shaped spirit (p. 107).
steve p2008/used under CC BY 2.0/Cropped from original.
Mercy is a servant to the Putnams and seems to be the particular caretaker of Ruth. She also appears friendly with Abigail Williams (which makes sense, as they were dancing in the woods together) and contemptuous of Mary Warren. Mercy is described by Miller as "a fat, sly,merciless [get it, get it, because her name is MERCY yet she shows no mercy] girl of eighteen" (p. 16).
Act 1: Mercy has come to the Parris house to find out what’s going on. She gets to confer with Abigail about getting their stories straight about what happened in the woods (since Mercy was apparently running around naked in the woods) before she's sent away to get Doctor Griggs for Ruth.
Act 3: Mercy is one of the girls in court who accuses Mary Warren of bewitching them via Mary’s bird-shaped spirit (p. 106).
Act 4: Parris says that he believes Mercy has run away with his niece, Abigail Williams (p. 116).
Mrs. Ann Putnam
Also Known As: Goody Putnam, Goody Ann
Ann Putnam is wife to Thomas Putnam and the mother of the afflicted Ruth (who we never see onstage) and seven other dead children (who we also never see onstage — because they're dead). There appears to be some friction between her and Rebecca Nurse, possibly because Rebecca Nurse has many living children and grandchildren while Ann only has the one child; it also seems that Rebecca may have chided Ann in the past for not being up to snuff (p. 36):
Let God blame me, not you, not you, Rebecca! I’ll not have you judging me any more!
Miller further describes Ann as being “a twisted soul of forty-five, a death-ridden woman, haunted by dreams” (p. 12). So clearly the woman has some issues.
Act 1: Ann comes to the Parris household to find out what’s going on and report that her daughter is being afflicted by something possibly supernatural. She knows that the cause of her daughter's illness is something supernatural because she sent her daughter to Tituba to find out (via supernatural means) who murdered Ann’s other seven children in infancy.
Ann is ready and willing to believe any explanation for why her children died except that it was natural causes (understandable for a grieving mother). She seizes eagerly upon Tituba’s saying that Goody Osburn was a witch, saying, “I knew it! Goody Osburn were midwife to me three times. I begged you, Thomas, did I not? I begged him not to call Osburn because I feared her. My babies always shriveled in her hands!” (p. 44).
Thomas Putnam is husband to Ann Putnam and father of the afflicted Ruth. Described by Miller as "a well-to-do, hard-handed landowner, near fifty" (p. 12) and "deeply embittered" with "a vindictive nature" (p. 14), Putnam has quarrels with nearly every major (male) character who appears onstage in this play. He dislikes Francis and Rebecca Nurse (since their family helped block Putnam’s candidate for minister), Reverend Parris (since he got the job instead of Putnam’s brother-in-law), John Proctor (because he is chopping down wood that Thomas Putnam believes rightfully belongs to him), and Giles Corey (because Corey accuses him of conspiring with his daughter Ruth to kill another man for his land).
Act 1: Putnam urges Parris to investigate possible supernatural causes of Betty’s (and his daughter Ruth’s) ailments. Miller intimates (via stage directions) that Putnam doesn’t necessarily believe in witchcraft – he just is looking for a way to gain power and/or make Parris do something dumb that he can then exploit: “at the moment he is intent upon getting Parris, for whom he has only contempt, to move toward the abyss” (p. 14).
Act 3: Putnam briefly shows up in court to say that Giles’ accusations against him are a lie (p.89).
Francis is the husband of accused witch Rebecca Nurse and friends with Giles Corey and John Proctor. Francis is described by Miller as "one of those men for whom both sides of the argument had to have respect," although "as he gradually paid for [the land he'd originally rented] and raised his social status, there were those who resented his rise" (p. 24). Basically, Francis is seen as a fair and upstanding citizen of Salem, although there are some who resent his social-climbing. Through one of Miller's character essays, we learn that Francis is part of the faction that opposed Thomas Putnam’s candidate for minister of Salem (p. 24), which led to bad feelings between the two families (that may have motivated the accusations of Rebecca as a witch).
Act 2: Francis lets the Proctors know his wife’s in jail and charged with supernatural murder (p. 67).
Act 3: Francis appears in court to present evidence of the girls’ fraud jointly with John Proctor and Giles Corey (p. 80); brings a petition signed by neighbors attesting to his wife’s good name that is then used by the court as a source for arrest warrants, much to Francis’s horror (p. 87)
Also Known As: Goody Good
The first woman to be accused of witchcraft in Salem, Sarah Good is described by Elizabeth Proctor as “Goody Good that sleeps in ditches” (p. 58).
Act 1: Thomas Putnam floats her name as a possible witch (p. 43); Tituba then picks up on this priming and names her as a co-conspirator (p. 44), followed shortly by Abby (p. 45)
Act 2: Mary Warren reports that Sarah Good confessed to attacking the girls supernaturally and so won’t hang; also, Sarah is pregnant at age 60.
Act 4: The first (and only) time Sarah Good appears onstage is at the beginning of this act: she is hanging out with Tituba in the jail, acting a little crazy, and seeming to see the Devil. It's unclear whether she thinks the Devil is real or if she’s just playing along at this point because she doesn't have anything to lose and won't be hanged since she's confessed and is pregnant.
The Court Officials
Besides the general residents of Salem, The Crucible also has the characters involved in the “legal” part of the witch trials and the “justice” system.
Cheever was originally an “honest tailor” (p. 69) but by the time of his appearance in the play (in Act 2) has become “a clerk of the court” (p. 68). Elizabeth that he "knows [John Proctor] well" (p. 50), but by the time of the trials it is clear that he is no longer held in quite as high esteem ("You'll burn for this, do you know it?", p. 69).
Act 2: Cheever comes to arrest Elizabeth Proctor on orders from the court; he is convinced of her guilt when he finds a poppet with a needle stuck in it (p. 70), and isn't willing to believe other explanations for it, even though Mary Warren clearly states that she's the one who made the poppet and stuck the needle in it.
Act 3: Cheever testifies about his experience with Goody Proctor and John Proctor in the previous Act (finding the poppet after Elizabeth denied keeping them, John ripping up the arrest warrant); though he prefaces his testimony with an apology to Proctor
Herrick is the marshal for the court system in Salem, which is to say that he is the person sent to gather up prisoners, stop people from leaving the court and from attacking other people in the court, and lead convicted witches to be hanged.
Act 2: Along with Cheever, Herrick comes to the Proctors' house to take Elizabeth Proctor away to the jail, as per orders of the court.
Act 3: Herrick vouches for John Proctor’s character (p. 86) and acts as the arm of the court (he stops Proctor from attacking Abigail, stops Abigail from leaving when she’s accused of whorishness, and is asked to take Proctor and Corey to jail).
Act 4: Herrick drunkenly clears Sarah Good and Tituba out of on cell of the jail to make way for the judges’ discussion with Parris and Hale. He also shepherds the prisoners (Elizabeth Proctor, John Proctor, and Rebecca Nurse) back and forth between the cells, the main room, and (ultimately) the gallows.
Judge Hathorne is a Salem judge presiding over the witchcraft trials. Described by Miller in the stage directions as “a bitter, remorseless Salem judge” (p. 78), Hathorne lives up to that depiction in both word and deed – he shows no mercy to the accused witches or their families and is always willing to believe the worst of people. Judge Hathorne appears in Acts 3 and 4 of The Crucible.
Act 3: Hathorne is very concerned with all civilians showing the proper respect to the court and the law (although he's less shrill about it than Parris is).
Act 4: Hathorne comes to the jail to confer with Danforth; he is confused by and suspicious of why Hale is back, disapproves of Parris’s increasingly “unsteady” and wishy-washy demeanor (p. 115), and seems to think everyone is filled with “high satisfaction” (p. 117) at the hangings of the witches.
Fun fact: The character of Judge Hathorne is based on the historical Hathorne who was so reviled that his descendant, author Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter, House of the Seven Gables), changed the spelling of his last name to avoid being associated with him.
Deputy Governor Danforth
At the time of the events in the play, Danforth is the Deputy Governor of the entire Province (of Massachusetts). Danforth oversees all of the court proceedings in the play as the highest legal authority. He is described by Miller as "a grave man in his sixties, of some humor and sophistication that do not, however, interfere with an exact loyalty to his position and his cause" (p. 79). While no one in the play seems to like him, exactly, he does command respect from most of the characters, at least at first - as the play continues and it becomes clear that Danforth is more concerned about procedure than justice, characters (including Giles Corey and John Proctor) vocally display their loss of respect for Danforth.
Act 3: The audience first sees Danforth in his position as the presiding court judge for the witch trials. Danforth is not swayed by emotion but is swayed by the girls’ demonstrations of witchcraft (perhaps because he can see it with his own eyes, feel their clammy skin, etc). The combination of his dispassionate questioning and his belief in witchcraft means that what logically follows is him ordering the arrests of everyone who signed the petition affirming the good characters of Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey, holding Giles in contempt of court, and ordering Proctor’s arrest.
Act 4: Danforth fills the audience in on what has been going on in Salem between Acts 3 and 4. He continues to lack detectable emotions and base his decisions on legality (e.g. it wouldn’t be fair to postpone the hangings of these witches because we already hanged others) instead of morality (we should avoid killing people unless absolutely necessary and unless all other avenues have been exhausted). When he senses that John Proctor might not be entirely aboveboard in his confession, he warns that if Proctor is lying about being a witch, then he can't stop Proctor from hanging; when Proctor rips up his confession, Danforth feels no qualms about sending him to the gallows (p. 134):
Hang them high over the town! Who weeps for these, weeps for corruption! He sweeps out past them.
A guard at the Salem jail who helps Herrick clear Tituba and Goody Good out of the room to make way for Danforth in Act 4. Hopkins doesn’t even get a first name, and only has one line (p.113) - he's mostly there to announce Danforth's arrival.
Unseen Characters in The Crucible
There are several characters in The Crucible who don’t actually show up onstage but still play an important role in the play. In one case, a character actually has more lines from offstage (Martha Corey) than another character does onstage (Hopkins), while in other cases these offstage, unseen characters are used to move along the action of the play.
Martha Corey is the (third) wife of Giles Corey, accused of witchcraft directly by Walcott (and indirectly by Giles himself). We learn through Francis Nurse that Martha Corey is highly thought of in town - or at least, she was until she was accused of witchcraft (p. 67):
...Martha Corey, there cannot be a woman closer yet to God than Martha.
While Martha never appears onstage, she is mentioned in all four acts and has three offstage lines in Act 3.
Act 1: Giles first brings up his suspicions that Martha's bookishness is somehow causing him to falter at his prayers (despite the fact that he only started regularly going to church when he married her, and so "it didn't take much to make him stumble over [his prayers]" (p. 38).
Act 2: Giles reports that Martha's been taken away after Walcott accuses her of bewitching his pigs; Giles explains that he didn’t mean to imply his wife was a witch because she read books (even though that is absolutely what he implied).
Act 3: Martha is heard from offstage being questioned by Judge Hathorne about witchcraft at the opening of the act; later, she is mentioned as being one of two accused witches who 91 people declared their good opinion of in a petition (p. 86-87).
Act 4: Martha is mentioned as one of the accused witches Hale is trying to convince to confess; later, when John Proctor asks if Martha’s confessed, Elizabeth confirms that “[s]he will not” (p. 125).
The only surviving child of Thomas and Ann Putnam, Ruth, like Betty Parris, shows signs of being bewitched. According to Ruth's parents, Ruth was sent by her mother to Tituba to figure out who supernaturally murdered Ruth's seven dead infant siblings; this is no doubt the reason why Ruth "never waked this morning, but her eyes open and she walks, and hears naught, sees naught, and cannot eat" (p. 13). While she never appears onstage, Ruth (and her strange illness) is used in absentia to corroborate the presence of some supernatural evil in Salem during Act 1.
Ruth is only brought up again a couple of times during the rest of the play: in Act 3, the audience learns that Ruth is said to have accused George Jacobs of being a witch (p. 89), and that she is not in the court when John Proctor brings Mary Warren to confront the other girls (p. 94).
Also Known As: Goody Osburn
The name of Goody Osburn first comes up in Act 1, when she is suggested by Thomas Putnam as a possible witch (p. 43). This suggestion is then corroborated by the accusations of Tituba (p. 44) and Abigail Williams (p. 45). In Act 2, we learn that Good Osburn is the first witch to be condemned to hang in Salem (p. 54). We also learn that it's not all that surprising that someone would accuse Goody Osburn of being a witch, since she is “drunk and half-witted” (p.58).
In the first act of The Crucible, George Jacobs is named as a witch by Betty Parris (p. 45). His name briefly comes up in Act 2 as the owner of a heifer John Proctor is thinking about buying for his wife (p. 48), but it is not until Act 3 that he becomes more important. In Act 3, Giles Corey alleges that he's heard that Ruth Putnam accused George Jacobs of witchcraft because convicted witches forfeit their property, and the only person who has enough money to buy up that property just so happens to be Ruth’s father, Thomas Putnam (p. 89):
...the day [Putnam's] daughter cried out on Jacobs, he said she’d given him a fair gift of land...
The accusation that Ruth had basically handed her father George Jacobs' property by accusing him of witchcraft, however, is never brought to trial because Giles refuses to reveal the name of the person who told him about Putnam's words; therefore, George Jacobs becomes the indirect cause of Giles being arrested for contempt of court (and, ultimately, pressed to death).
Also Known As: Goody Bishop
Bridget Bishop is a tavern proprietor in Salem (p. 4) and is the first witch named by Abigail who wasn’t also named by Tituba (p. 45). Goody Bishop's main role in The Crucible is as a contrast to Rebecca Nurse; to illustrate how the people hanged earlier in the play were of lower moral character than those set to hang during Act 4, Parris mentions how Bridget “lived three year with Bishop before she married him” (p. 117).
Doctor Griggs is mentioned in Act 1 as the man Parris has consulted with to find out what’s wrong with Betty (p. 8) and in Act 2 as the man who confirms Sarah Good is pregnant (p. 56). He's also the employer of Susanna Walcott.
Other People Mentioned in The Crucible
In addition to all the characters who we've previously discussed, there are also several other people mentioned over the course of the play. Some of these names are useful to know because they give context to character relationships that shape how events unfold in The Crucible (for instance, James Bayley is the brother-in-law of Putnam who was passed over for minister of Salem due to opposition by other townspeople, including Francis Nurse, which causes bad blood between the two families). Some of the other names might be useful if your teacher asks you to list off people accused of witchcraft over the course of the play, or to list people who accused others of witchcraft.
Whatever the reason, if you want a list of every name mentioned in The Crucible, we're here for you: see below for the nittiest-of-the-grittiest table of all the named people in The Crucible.
Reports seeing Betty Parris flying.
Owns the barn over which Betty Parris is said to have flown.
Brother-in-law of Thomas Putnam who was prevented from becoming minister of Salem by “a faction” (including Francis Nurse & family).
Brother of Thomas Putnam who helped Thomas jail George Burroughs.
Minister of Salem jailed for debts he didn’t owe by Thomas and John Putnam (possibly out of spite because Burroughs became minister where Bayley wasn’t able to)
Signer of the first complaint against Rebecca Nurse; brother of Thomas Putnam.
Signer of the first complaint against Rebecca Nurse; brother of Thomas Putnam.
Accused of being a witch by Betty Parris.
Accused of being a witch by Betty Parris.
Accused of being a witch by Abigail Williams.
Accused of being a witch by Betty Parris.
Accused of being a witch by Abigail Williams.
Accused of being a witch by Betty Parris.
Accused of being a witch by Abigail Williams.
Son of Elizabeth and John Proctor. Is not the person who snared the rabbit eaten for dinner by John and Elizabeth in Act 2.
Father or other relative of Susanna Walcott. Accuses Martha Corey of witchcraft against his pigs.
Judge at the Salem witch trials.
Judge at the Salem witch trials.
Father of Mercy Lewis; reports he thought his daughter was staying over with Abigail Williams for a night.
Drunk Salem resident hanged as a witch; John Proctor is compared favorably to him.
Named by Elizabeth Proctor as someone who confessed to being a witch.
Named by Elizabeth Proctor as someone who confessed to being a witch.
Common Discussion Topics for The Crucible Characters
Now you know all about the characters in The Crucible. But what might you be asked about them? Here are some common essay questions/discussion topics about characters in The Crucible. Practice answering them for yourself to gain a deeper understanding of the play (even if your teachers don't end up asking you these specific questions).
- Choose a character who you think might represent a certain "type" of person. In your essay, argue which type of person this character represents. Use evidence from the play to support your claims. Be sure to explain why Arthur Miller might have chosen to have this character represent this type of person.
- Compare and contrast Elizabeth Proctor and Abigail Williams. How is each woman affected by her position in the Puritan theocracy of Salem?
- How do different characters serve as foils for each other (e.g. Elizabeth and Abigail, Hale and Danforth)?
- How do characters change throughout the play, namely John Proctor, Mary Warren, and Reverend Hale?
- How does John and Elizabeth Proctor’s relationship drive the play?
- Choose one character from The Crucible. Then, argue whether their actions throughout the drama are selfish or sacrificial. Are they heroic or villainous?
- Was Proctor’s decision not to confess foolish or noble? Is John Proctor a tragic hero? Is The Crucible as a whole a tragedy?
- How does John Proctor’s dilemma change over the course of the play?
- Can we fully blame Abigail for the events in the play?
For more about how to write effectively about the characters of The Crucible, be sure to read our article on character analysis in The Crucible.
Looking for specific character analyses from The Crucible? We’ve got detailed guides to John Proctor, Abigail Williams, Mary Warren, Giles Corey, and Rebecca Nurse on our blog.
Want a rundown of the play's action? Then be sure to read our full plot summary of The Crucible.
Are you wondering, “What themes does this play cover? Is McCarthyism somehow involved?” Find out with our discussions of The Cruciblethemes and McCarthyism in The Crucible!
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Martha Corey, wife of Salem Village farmer Giles Corey, was accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
Martha Corey, whose maiden name was Panon, had a controversial past. In 1677, she gave birth to a mixed-race son she named either Benjamin or Ben-Oni, according to the book The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide:
“Following this event, she lived a reclusive life with her apparently illegitimate child in the home of John Clifford of Salem, who continued to raise the boy to manhood. Benjamin (aka Ben-Oni) was upwards of twenty-two years of age in 1699, and still living in Salem.”
In 1684, Martha’s luck turned when she married Henry Rich of Salem and gave birth to a legitimate son named Thomas Rich.
Some sources state Martha Corey lived with her son, Benjamin, in the boarding house, separate from her husband, while other sources state Benjamin lived by himself in the boarding house while Martha lived with her husband and younger son.
The Marriage of Martha and Giles Corey:
After Henry Rich died, sometime between 1684 and 1690, Martha married Giles Corey on April 27, 1690. Martha was Giles Corey’s third wife. Giles Corey was a wealthy farmer who had a troubled past himself ever since standing trial for murdering one of his farmhands in 1676.
Although Corey was found guilty, he only paid a fine for his crime. Many residents of Salem believed Corey paid a bribe for his freedom and his reputation in Salem was forever tarnished.
“Oh Give Me Leave to Pray” illustration by Samuel S. Kilburn and John W. Ehninger of John Hathorne and Cotton Mather examining Martha Corey with Mary Walcott seated next to her. Published in “The Poetical Works of Longfellow” circa 1902
When the Salem Witch Trials began in the spring of 1692, Martha and Giles Corey were some of the first people to attend the examinations but Martha soon expressed her doubts about the legitimacy of the claims.
When Giles Corey tried to attend another examination, Martha Corey tried to persuade him not to and even hid Giles’ saddle so he couldn’t ride his horse to the examination. This apparently made her look suspicious to others, as if she were working with the witches to stop or impede the trials.
Martha Corey’s Arrest and Trial:
Shortly after this incident, Ann Putnam, Jr., claimed Martha Corey’s spirit had attacked her. It was a shocking accusation at the time because Martha Corey was a respectable woman, despite her troubled past, and was a member of the local church. No one of her social status had been accused before.
Before any formal accusation was filed, two local men, Edward Putnam and Ezekial Cheever, decided to personally investigate the accusation. On March 12, 1692, they tried to see if they could corroborate Ann Putnam, Jr.,’s story by stopping by the Putnam house first and asking Ann Putnam, Jr., what Martha Corey’s spirit was wearing at the time of the attack and then planned to visit Martha Corey to see if she was wearing the same clothes.
When asked though, Ann Putnam, Jr., claimed Martha’s spirit had temporarily blinded her so she couldn’t see what she was wearing. The men decided to go ahead anyway and pay Martha Corey a visit, according to the book Legal Executions in New England:
“Even before greetings could be exchanged Martha Corey astounded her guests by surmising their purpose. ‘I know what ye are coming for,” said she. ‘Ye are come to talk with me about being a witch.’ Her tone was annoyingly smug. Rather abashed, the men admitted that such was so. Then they spoke of what Ann Putnam had said that day. Then Martha Corey delivered another bombshell: ‘But does she tell you what clothes I have on?’ This time her tone was an intolerable blend of smugness, contempt and mockery. As far as Putnam and Cheever were concerned, this incident clinched the case against Martha Corey. Not only was she guilty in their eyes but impudent as well. Before that day was out the details of the interview were upon every tongue and few were they who dissented from Putnam or Cheever’s opinion. No one stopped to consider that Martha had been tipped off in advance about what had gone before. The only explanation that seemed reasonable was that the woman had come to such knowledge by illegal and supernatural means.”
Animosity against the defiant Martha Corey began to build during the week that followed Putnam and Cheever’s interview with her. No one came to Martha Corey’s defense and, in fact, the other afflicted girls joined in on accusing Martha Corey of bewitching them.
Martha Corey kept a brave face throughout all this, even after a warrant was issued for her arrest on Saturday, March 19, 1692. Fortunately for Martha, when the warrant was issued, there wasn’t enough time left in the day to arrest her. It was also illegal to serve warrants on a Sunday. Therefore, Martha was free until Monday and she decided to take advantage of the opportunity, according to the book Legal Executions in New England:
“Salem would long remember the events of Sunday, March 20, 1692. On that day the townsfolk gawked in disbelief as they entered the meetinghouse and there saw Martha Corey – the reputed witch – seated among the pious. Such effrontery was unparalleled. There was the nemesis of the community dressed in her Sunday best, taking part in divine worship. And there was nothing anyone could do about it. Martha was still a de facto member of the church and fully entitled to all of its privileges as long as her arrest warrant went unserved. Neither parishioners, ministers nor the governor himself could legally eject her under such circumstances. Martha knew that and she used the occasion to publicly defy her enemies.”
A firsthand account of that day in the meetinghouse was later published by Reverend Deodat Lawson, the previous Salem minister who had returned to Salem that March to find out more about the suspicious activities in the village.
Lawson was preaching that day in the meetinghouse and published his account of the events in his book, A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village:
“On Lords day, the Twentieth of March, there were sundry of the afflicted persons at meeting, as Mrs. Pope, and Goodwife Bibber, Abigail Williams, Mary Walcut [sic], Mary Lewes [sic], and Doctor Grigg’s maid. There was also at meeting, Goodwife C. [Corey] (who was afterward examined on suspicion of being a witch.) They had several sore fits in the time of public worship, which did something interrupt me in my first prayer, being so unusual…In sermon time, when Goodwife C. was present in the meeting-house, Ab. W. [Abigail Williams] called out, Look where Goodwife C. sits on the beam suckling her yellow bird betwixt her fingers! Ann Putnam, another afflicted girl, said, There was a yellow bird sat on my hat as it hang on the pin in the pulpit; but those that were by, restrained her from speaking aloud about it.”
The following day, Martha Corey was arrested and brought to the Salem Village meetinghouse to be examined by Judge John Hathorne. Hathorne badgered Martha throughout the examination and accused her of lying to the court multiple times. Almost immediately after the examination started, Hathorne demanded to know more about the day Putnam and Cheever visited her house, according to court records:
[Hathorne]: Why did you ask if the child told what clothes you wore?
[Corey]: My husband told me the others told
[Hathorne]: Who told you about the clothes? Why did you ask that question?
[Corey]: Because I heard the children told what clothes the other wore.
[Hathorne to Giles Corey]: Corey, did you tell her?
The old man denied that he told her so.
[Hathorne to Martha Corey]: Did you not say that your husband told you so? Who hurt these children? Now look upon them.
[Corey]: I cannot help it.
[Hathorne]: Did you not say you would tell the truth? Why you ask that question? How come you to the knowledge?
[Corey]: I did but ask
[Hathorne]: You dare thus lie in all this assembly? You are now before authority. I expect the truth, you promised it. Speak now and tell who told you what clothes?
[Hathorne]: How came you to know that the children would be examined what clothes you wore?
[Corey]: Because I thought the child was wiser, than anybody if she knew
[Hathorne]: Give an answer you said your husband told you
[Corey]: He told me the children said I afflicted them
[Hathorne]: How do you know what they came for, answer me this truly. Will you say how you came to know what they came for?
[Corey]: I heard speech that the children said I troubled them & thought that they might come to examine.
[Hathorne]: But how did you know it?
[Corey]: I thought they did
[Hathorne]: Did not you say you would tell the truth? Who told you what they came for?
[Hathorne]: How did you know?
[Corey]: I did think so
[Hathorne]: But you said you knew so
[One of the afflicted girls in the courtroom]: There is a man whispering in her ear
[Hathorne]: What did he say to you?
[Corey]: We must not believe all that these distracted children say
[Hathorne]: Cannot you tell me what the man whispered?
[Corey]: I saw nobody
[Hathorne]: But did not you hear?
Hathorne then urged Martha Corey to find God’s mercy by confessing, but she refused. He also asked her why she hid Giles Corey’s saddle when he tried to attend a previous examination. Corey responded: “I did not know that it would be to any benefit…” to which someone in the court shouted that she didn’t want to help find witches.
Several other questions Hathorne asked her included: did she believe there were witches in the colony, who was her God and how long has she been serving the Devil. Corey laughed at all of these questions and continued to deny any wrongdoing, stating: “I am an innocent person. I never had to do with witchcraft since I was born. I am a gospel woman.”
“Martha Corey and Her Persecutors,” illustration published in Stranger’s Guide to Boston and its Suburbs, circa 1883
Although it is not mentioned in the court records, according to Rev. Lawson’s account of the examination, the afflicted girls had a particular response to Corey’s gospel woman statement:
“She said, she had no familiarity with any such thing she was a gospel woman: which title she called herself by; and the afflicted persons told her, Ah! She was a gospel witch!”
The afflicted girls also contributed to the chaos of Martha Corey’s examination by having fits every time Martha moved or turned her head.
They also claimed to see things such as a yellow bird flying above her head and a man whispering in her ear.
At the end of the examination, Martha Corey was indicted on two counts of witchcraft against Elizabeth Hubbard and Mercy Lewis.
After the pre-trial examination, she was sent to the jail in Salem and later, due to overcrowding, transferred to the jail in Boston.
Not only did Giles Corey refuse to help his wife by corroborating the fact he was the one who told her about Putnam and Cheever’s visit, he also provided testimony against Martha on March 24, according to court records:
“The evidence of Giles Corey testifieth & saith that last Saturday in the evening. sitting by the fire my wife asked me to go to bed. I told I would go to prayer. & when I went to prayer I could not utter my desires with any sense, not open my mouth to speak. My wife did perceive it & came towards me and said she was coming to me. After this in a little space I did according to my measure attend the duty. Sometime last weak I fetched an ox well out the woods. about noon, and he laying down in the yard I went to raise him to yoke him but he could not rise but dragged his hinder parts as if he had been hip shot, but after did rise. I had a cat sometimes last week strangely taken on the sudden and did make me think she would have died presently. But my wife bid me knock her in the head. But I did not and since she is well. Another time going to duties I was interrupted for a space but afterward I was helped according to my poor measure. My wife hath been wont to sit up after I went to bed and I have perceived her to kneel down to the harth. as if she were at prayer, but heard nothing.”
From his actions, it appeared that Giles Corey, who was reportedly swept up in the mass hysteria, actually believed the accusations against his wife. But when Giles himself was accused of witchcraft and arrested in mid-April, it seemed he wasn’t cooperating with the court anymore.
During Giles Corey’s examination at the Salem Village meetinghouse on April 19, the court asked him about his previous testimony against his wife but he refused to provide anymore incriminating evidence, according to the book The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of the Salem Witch Trials:
“The magistrates produced the testimony that Giles had given about his wife on the day of Rebecca Nurse’s examination, and asked about the time he was stopped in prayer.
‘What stopped you?’
‘I cannot tell. My wife came towards me and found fault with me for saying ‘living to God and dying to sin’ (The Gospel woman had presumably corrected a quotation from the Westminster Catechism, where God’s grace enables its recipient ‘to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.’)
‘What was it frightened you in the barn?’
‘I know nothing that frightened me there.’
‘Why, here are three witnesses that heard you say so today.’
‘I do not remember it.’
Thomas Gould testified that Corey said ‘he knew enough against his wife to do her business,’ and the court wanted to know just what that knowledge was.
‘Why, that of living to God and dying to sin,’ said Corey.
Marshal George Herrick and Bibber’s daughter corroborated Gould’s claim, but Corey snapped, ‘I have said what I can say to that.’
‘What was that about your ox?’ asked the court, referring to the deposition about the lame ox.
‘I thought he was hipped.’
‘What ointment was that your wife had when she was seized? You said it was ointment she made by Major Gedney’s direction.’ Corey denied this and said it came from Goody Bibber.”
After Giles Corey’s examination he was indicted and brought to the jail in Salem, on the corner or Federal and St. Peter Street, to await trial.
Although Martha Corey was arrested in March, the court seemed to be delaying her trial. It’s believed that the court officials knew the case against her would be hard to win so they delayed it while they figured out how to build a strong case against her.
In the meantime, a handful of people provided testimony against Martha Corey in April and May. Then, when her case went to trial in September, a summons for more witnesses was called and more witnesses testified.
The witnesses included: Abigail Williams, Ephraim Sheldon, Samuel Parris, Nathaniel Ingersoll, Thomas Putnam, Edward Putnam, Elizabeth Booth, Elizabeth Hubbard and Mercy Lewis.
“There is a flock of yellow birds around her head,” illustration by Howard Pyle for “Giles Corey, Yeoman,” a play by Mary E. Wilkins, published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, circa 1893
Most of the afflicted girls testimony consisted of more stories about spectral visions of Martha Corey pinching, choking and biting them and visions of yellow birds nursing from a spot between Corey’s fingers.
During her trial in September, Edward Putnam gave his testimony, which mostly consisted of a retelling of his visit with Cheever to Martha Corey’s house on March 12, 1692:
“The deposition of Edward Putnam aged about 36 years and Ezekiel Cheever aged about 37 years testifieth and sayeth that we being often complained unto by Ann Putnam that Goody Corey did often appear to her and torture her by pinching and other ways thought it our duty to go to her and see what she would say to this com-plaint she being in church covenant with us. and accordingly upon the 12’th day of march about ten of the clock we appointed to go about the middle afternoon, and we desired Ann Putnam to take good notice of what clothes Goody Corey came in that so we might see whither she was not mistaken in the person, and accordingly we went to the house of Thomas Putnam before we went to Goody Corey to see what Ann could say about her clothes and she told us that presently after we had #[spoken] told her that we would go and talk with Goody Corey she came and blinded her but told her that her name was Corey and that she should see her no more before it was night because she should not tell us what clothes she had on and then she would come again and pay her off. then wee went both of us away from the house of Thomas Putnam to the house of Giles Corey where we found go the above said Corey all alone in her house and as soon as we came in, a smiling manner she sayeth ‘I know what you are come for you are come to talk with me about being a witch but I am none I cannot help peoples talking of me.’ Edward Putnam answered her that it was the afflicted person that did complain of her that was the occasion of our coming to her. She presently replied ‘but does she tell you what clothes I have on?’ We made her no answer to this at her first asking where upon she asked us again with very great eagerness ‘but does she tell you what clothes I have on?’ at which questions with that eagerness of mind. With which she did ask made us to think of what Ann Putnam had told us before we went to her. #[to which] and we told her ‘no she did not for she told us that you came and blinded her and told her that she should see you no more before it was night that so she might not tell us what clothes you had on.’ She made but little answer to this but seemed to smile at it as if she had showed us a pretty trick. We had a great deal of talk with her about the complaint that was of her and how greatly the name of God and religion and the church was dishonored by this means but she seemed to be no way concerned for any thing about it but only to stop the mouths of people that they might not say thus of her. She told us that she did not think that they were accused for she said if they were we could not blame the devil for making witches of them for they were idle slothfull persons and minded nothing that was good. But we had no reason to think so of her for she had made a profession of Christ and rejoiced to go and hear the word of god and the like. But we told her it was not her making an outward profession that would clear her from being a witch for it had often been so in the world that witches had crept into the churches. Much more discourse we had with her but she made her profession a cloak to cover all she further told us that the devil was come down amongst us in great rage and that God had forsaken the earth. And after much discourse with her being to much here to be related we returned to the house of the above said Thomas Putnam..”
The rest of Edward Putnam’s testimony is about witnessing the afflicted girls claims of Martha Corey’s specter mysteriously biting and pinching on their bodies.
After hearing all of the testimonies and weighing the evidence, Martha Corey was found guilty on September 8, 1692 and sentenced to death.
After her conviction, on September 11, Martha Corey was excommunicated from the First Church of Salem by Reverend Samuel Parris. Parris visited Corey in jail to tell her about the excommunication in person and described the meeting in the Salem Village church book:
“September 11. Lords day
Sister Martha Corey, taken into the church 27 April 1690, was after examination upon suspicion of witchcraft, 21 March.1691-2, committed to prison for that fact, & was condemned to the fallows for the same yesterday : And was this day in public by a general consent voted to be excommunicated out of the church; & Lft. Nathanael Putnam, & the 2 Deacons chosen to signify to her, with the pastor the mind of the Church herein. Accordingly this 14. Septr. 1692. The 3. aforcsd brethren went with the pastor to her in Salem Prison, whom we found very obdurate justifying her self, & condemning all that had done any thing to her just discovery, or condemnation. Whereupon after a little discourse (for her imperiousness would not suffer much) & after Prayer, (which she was willing to decline) the dreadful sentence of excommunication was pronounced against her.”
About a week later, on September 19, Giles Corey was tortured to death, in a field near the Salem jail, for refusing to enter a plea during his trial.
On September 22, 1692, Martha Corey was brought to the execution site at or near Gallows Hill in a cart, along with seven other convicted witches: Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Margaret Scott, Wilmot Redd, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker. Before being hanged, Corey prayed one last time, according to Robert Calef, who personally witnessed the Salem Witch Trials hangings and wrote about it in his book More Wonders of the Invisible World:
“The cart, going to the hill with these eight to execution, was for some time at a set [standstill]; the afflicted and others said, that the devil hindered it; & c. Martha Corey, wife to Giles Corey, protesting her innocency, concluded her life with an eminent prayer upon the ladder.”
Giles and Martha Corey Memorial Markers, Peabody, Mass
These were the last hangings of the Salem Witch Trials. Shortly after, the court banned spectral evidence, making most of the witchcraft accusations baseless, and the trials began to die down until they officially came to and end when the last prisoners were released in May of 1693.
Almost immediately after the trials, the residents of Salem began to feel guilty about what occurred and tried to correct their mistakes anyway they could.
On January 15, 1697, the colony held a day of prayer and fasting, known as the Day of Official Humiliation, in honor of the witch trial victims. The colony had been suffering from natural disasters since the trials ended and, fearing they had angered God by putting innocent people to death, hoped the day of prayer would be please him.
In December of 1702, Reverend Green, who replaced Samuel Parris as the Salem Village minister, told his congregation about how he found the record of Martha Corey’s excommunication in the church-book and, at the urging of Corey’s friends, “propose to the church whether it not be our duty to recall that sentence, that so it may stand against her all generations…”
Since Green did not know Corey personally, he left the matter up to the congregation, who took a vote and decided to repeal Corey’s excommunication. The record in the church-book states:
“Feb. 14, 1703 – The major part of the brethren consented to the following: ‘Whereas this church passed a vote, Sept. 11, 1692, for the excommunication of Martha Corey, and that sentence was pronounced against her Sept. 14, by Mr. Samuel Parris, formerly the pastor of this church; she being; before her excommunication, condemned, afterwards executed, for supposed witchcraft; and there being a record of this in our church-book, page 12, we being moved hereunto, do freely consent and heartily desire that the same sentence may be revoked, and that it may no longer stand against her; for we are, through God’s mercy to us, convinced that we were at that dark day under the power of those errors which then prevailed in the land; and we are sensible that we had not sufficient grounds to think her guilty of that crime for which she was condemned and executed; and that her excommunication was not according to the mind of God, and therefore we desire that this may be entered in our church-book, to take-off that odium that is cast on her name, and that so God may forgive our sin, and may be atoned for the land; and we humbly pray that God will not leave us any more to such errors and sins, but will teach and enable us always to do that which is right in his sight.’ There was a major part voted, and six or seven dissented. J. GR., Pr”
On October 17, 1711, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill clearing the names of most of the Salem Witch Trials victims. Giles and Martha Corey were named in the bill and their family was awarded restitution for their deaths.
In 1953, Martha Corey appeared as a minor character in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. In the play, Martha Corey is suspected of being a witch by her husband when he tells Reverend John Hale that she stays up late at night reading strange books. Her character is officially accused of witchcraft after she sells a pig to a neighbor and then the pig mysteriously dies.
Martha Corey’s memorial marker is located at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial in Salem, Mass. Giles and Martha Corey also have two memorial markers located near their former farm by Crystal Lake in Peabody, Mass.
Martha Corey’s Memorial Marker, Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem, Mass, November 2015. Photo Credit: Rebecca Brooks
Martha Corey Historical Sites:
Salem Witch Trials Memorial:
Address: Liberty Street, Salem, Mass
Site of the Salem Witch Trials Executions:
Address: Proctor’s Ledge, wooded area between Proctor Street and Pope Street, Salem, Mass
Former Site of the Salem Courthouse:
Address: Washington Street (about 100 feet south of Lynde Street), opposite the Masonic Temple, Salem, Mass. Memorial plaque located on Masonic Temple.
Site of Giles Corey’s death:
Address: Howard Street Cemetery, Howard Street, Salem, Mass
Former Site of the Salem Village Meetinghouse:
Address: Near corner of Hobart and Forest Street, Danvers, Mass. Historical marker on site.
Giles and Martha Corey Memorial Markers:
Address: off of Lowell Street, near Crystal Lake in Peabody, Mass
Mather, John Cotton. The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Tryals of Several Witches Lately Executed in New-England. John Dunton, 1693.
Lawson, Deodat. A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village: Which happened from the Nineteenth of March, to the Fifth of April, 1692. Benjamin Harris, 1692.
Calef, Robert. More Wonders of the Invisible World. 1700
Hearn, Daniel Allen. Legal Executions in New England: A Comprehensive Reference, 1623-1960. McFarland & Company, Inc, 1999.
Goss, K. David. The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide. Greenwood Press, 2008.
Roach, Marilynne K. The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege. Taylor Trade Publishing, 2002.
Osgood, Charles Stuart and Henry Morrill Batchelder. Historical Sketch of Salem, 1626-1879. Essex Institute, 1879.
“Martha Corey, Executed, September 22, 1692.” The Salem Witchcraft Papers, Volume 1: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692, University of Virginia, n.d., salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/BoySal1R?div_id=n38
About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks
Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the writer and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance writer and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.
View all posts by Rebecca Beatrice Brooks →