Salem has reached a point where the distinction between innocent and guilty is obscure. Even those who are clearly innocent, for example Rebecca Nurse, are labeled guilty. The mass prosecutions over such a short period of time has left the citizens and even authorities of the court in a state of confusion as to who has in fact, committed an offence. Danforth, as the head of the court is expected to who possess good judgment even at the face of conflict. Ironically, his judgment is easily clouded by the hysteria encapsulating the town. Even though Abigail is an essential part of the trials, when Proctor asserts that she is a fraud who is manipulating the court to pursue her own motives, Danforth’s following interrogation of Abigail demonstrates his uncertainty of the truth. It is clear he is in a state of ambiguity since he attempts to obtain the truth from Proctor, Abigail and Mary. This state of doubt only perpetrates the conflict further, since denial and revile is the only form of protection under Salem’s theocracy.
Contrastingly, Hale’s growing coherence propels him to aid those suffering from the pain and loss they have endured during the trials. When Danforth dismisses Giles’s testimony, Hale objects in an attempt to explain why Giles refuses to name his informant. Although snubbed by Danforth, Hale later insists that Danforth listen to Proctor. At the start of the play, Hale was quick to condemn civilians to incarceration, however he now ‘dares not take a life without there be a proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it.’ [pg 89] The new reason and clarity in his vision demonstrates how conflict has altered his perspective. When Proctor is arrested for condemning himself, ‘I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face!’, [pg 105] Out of shame of the terror he has helped to create, Hale’s animosity towards the court is evident as he quits the court.
While Hale intends to repair the damage he has inflicted, Abigail’s clarity drives her to exploit the town. Her unscrupulous construction of Mary’s supernatural ‘bird’ demonstrates her ability to take advantage of people’s frenzied state; knowing that the court will believe her because she is just a child. Her cunning ability to easily convince Danforth that the girls are victims of the situation highlights her callousness towards the distress she has created throughout Salem.
During the conflict, others apart from Abigail also behave in their best interest. While there are hints that Danforth can see through his unfounded sentences, he is unwilling to acknowledge his mistake by trusting the girls. In order to maintain authority, Danforth continues with his barbaric court proceedings since he recognizes that admitting a failure on behalf of the court will cause a substantial backlash. His desperation in protecting the court and himself is shown when he questions Proctor on his religious devotion in order to find some excuse to dismiss Proctor’s objection to court proceedings. Parris likewise, is still concerned about his reputation in Salem amidst the conflict. His attempts to undermine Proctor’s evidence demonstrate his interest in defending the theocracy.