The Crucible serves as a story about the downfalls of human nature, recreating the horrors of the Salem Witch Trials, one of the darkest events in history. Many would argue that the fault of the deaths rests in the hands of Abigail Williams, a manipulative young girl seeking revenge after being rejected by her love interest, John Proctor. However, although Abigail is certainly not without some blame for her actions, the authority figure that oversaw the trials and convicted so many innocent people to death should certainly hold the majority of responsibility. Judge Danforth acted as an enemy to justice, only seeking to uphold his reputation. Danforth was ultimately liable for the events that happened in the story; he continued to lie even after realizing that the girls were being dishonest, he did nothing to intervene when innocents were being put to death, and in the end was only bothered by the threat of his reputation being destroyed.
The first and probably most important reason that Danforth is to blame for the outcome of the trials is the fact that even after the treachery of Abigail and her followers was made clear to him, he still sided with them and continued to argue for their side. Any decent person would have punished the girls for their actions and freed those whose lives were on the line, but not Danforth, who continued to encourage the lies in order to cover his own mistakes. In a time where such a man is in a position of power, what hope is there for peace and goodwill to triumph? When it comes to this story, this retelling of a horrific reality that once was, those who keep dishonesty for such values only suffer in the final outcome, with Danforth, the head of a corrupt legal system, to blame.
To make matters worse, in addition to contributing to the lies which set great tragedy during the Salem Witch Trials, Danforth, being in a position of a power to change the situation, allowed innocent people to pay for his mistakes with their lives. In a desperate attempt to protect his precious reputation, he ignored any bit of a conscience he may or may not have had and used his authority to declare the tragic and needless deaths just. And even when he knew that the girls were frauds, he did not use his influence to prevent the deaths he still could have prevented. Abigail made the accusations, yes, but he gave her the power to murder people with his golden seal of approval, which ended up being the kiss of death to so many who had done nothing wrong.
As proven in the above examples of his conduct, one thing is on Judge Danforth's mind: maintaining his good reputation. Reputation was known to be a very important aspect of one's life in these times, as taken to the extreme in the case of this judge, who was willing to let people die to protect his. If it weren't for his selfishness, his obsession with other people's perception of his actions, perhaps he could have swallowed his pride and ended the madness as soon as he suspected that it was just that, and history could be spared a tragedy.
In The Crucible, Judge Danforth is a man who is more interested in preserving the dignity and stature of the court than executing justice or having any sense of fairness. Danforth continued to side with his original beliefs even after realizing the truth of what was going on, he did nothing when innocent people were being sentenced to death, and was only concerned with threat of his reputation. He would rather have many men die than to have his reputation tarnished, ultimately causing him to be the number one cause of the tragic witch hunt today we know as the Salem Witch Trials.