Character Profile – Giles Corey


Opening Impression:

Giles Corey is first introduced to the audience as an eighty-three year old man who “is knotted with muscle, canny, inquisitive, and still powerful.” From his very first speech in the play (“I’ve not said a word. No one here can testify I’ve said a word. Is she going to fly again? I hear she flies” page 31), we can see that he has had a past with the law and a tendency to file lawsuits. Also, from the same opening speech, we can see that Giles, just like most of the villagers, is being swept into the hysteria, albeit on a much lower level as he seems to be more interested that something is finally happening in the small town of Salem then in an uproar about witchcraft such as the Putnams.


Throughout the play, we see considerable character development in Giles Corey. Even though John Proctor is the main character of the play, it seems as if Giles is also able to see through the hysteria of the town from the start. The main problem in his character is that he seems to speak before thinking. In act two we see the extent to which Giles can see through the hysteria as he is able to see the reason why his wife is accused. In the final act, when he himself is accused after having been in contempt of the court, he realizes that he would lose his land and property to the state if he were to respond which would leave his sons with no inhertiance, and therefore does not speak till the moment he dies.



Quotations and Analysis:





[Giles Corey, eighty-three, enters. He is knotted with muscle, canny, inquisitive, and still powerful]


This is a quick introduction of Giles Corey and he is revealed to have strong character despite age.


"I've not said a word. No one here can testify I've said a word. Is she going to fly again? I hear she flies."

Here Giles is immediately shown to be very protective of himself which seems to come from the experience of being sued often. It also reveals he is interested in the novelty of witchcraft in Salem but not caught up in hysteria like other villagers.



"Think on it. Wherefore is everybody suing everybody else? Think on it now, it's a deep thing, and dark as a pit.

Further reveals how Giles is able to see through the hysteria. He is able to see the real reasons why everybody is suing everybody else and therefore may be able to see why people are being blamed for witchcraft.



"I feel a sudden will to work coming on"

Reveals that he is tired of the pointless arguments and would rather do manual labor then argue further with the unmovable and stubborn Putnam. There is a down-to-Earth-ness about Corey that  is nicely reflected in his desire to do manual work and that is attractive in comparison to the hysterical absurdity of many of the other characters in Salem.



"I have some queer questions of my own to ask this fellow"

Shows how even though Giles can see through some of the hysteria, he cannot see through it all as he still asks authority figures for advise on the topic of witchcraft.



"I tried and tried but could not say my prayers" and "That she stopped his prayer is very probable, but he forgot to say that he'd only recently learned any prayers and It didn't take him much to stumble over them."


Shows how Giles is being swept into the hysteria a bit as he is unknowingly giving what the court and hysterical people would call "evidence" that his wife is a witch.


"I never said my wife were a witch, Mr. Hale; I only said she were reading books!"

Here we can see that Giles obviously can see through the hysteria which has taken grip on the village and strongly regrets having told anyone about the books and the fact that he doesn’t actually know his prayers by heart as he has only just learnt them



"That bloody mongrel... with her books!

Obviously angered at the fact that the court cannot see the truth about these accusations while he can.



"John - tell me, are we lost?"

Giles in despair shows again his grasp of the situation. Perhaps more than Proctor he realizes that nothing they can say will help them now.



"You’re hearing lies, lies!"

Giles rage echoes the frustration of the audience who may wish to shout a similar thing. The irony that he cannot show his evidence which from the modern perspective is much stronger then the accusations of the girls, further reveals the absurdity of the witch hunt and the allegations leveled against the accused.



"You're not a Boston judge yet, Hathorne. You'll not call me daft!

We see again Giles’ determination and willingness to challenge authority figures. Miller seems to be encouraging a healthy disrespect of authority.



I will give you no name. I mentioned my wife's name once and ill burn in hell long enough for that."

This line reveals a lot about his character as he refuses to repeat his past mistakes, echoing Hale’s realization. His death by pressing, however, marks him out as a more tragically heroic character than Proctor.



"He means to hang us all!"

Once again we can see Giles’ cynical insight into the situation. An insight that Proctor does not share as he still seems to believe that the truth will prevail. Perhaps Miller is using Giles to show that sometimes the only possible response in an unreasonable world is silence, a refusal to take part.



Elizabeth [quietly, factually]: He were not hanged. He would not answer aye or nay to his indictment; for if he denied the charge they'd hand him surely, and auction out his property. So he stand mute, and died Christian under the law. And so his sons will have his farm. it is the law, for he could not be condemned a wizard without he answer the indictment, aye or nay."


Reveals how Giles was a true hero till the very end as he sacrifices himself to ensure his sons their heritage. Also shows his intelligence as he is able to use the law to his own advantage in the threat of complete chaos. The barbaric nature of his death and Giles’ contemptuous response of ‘more weight’ marks him out as another heroic character in the play who refused to submit to the pressures (in this case literal) of society and valued his sense of personal integrity above his life.




Role in the Play:

Giles Corey is one of the few rational characters of the play. He sees through the deception and sees directly into the real reason why the town is crying witch, which in Putnam’s case is to take over the land of other families by destroying them through the simple accusation of witchcraft. However, he does not see through the deceptions as well as Proctor. Miller seems to use Giles to reinforce the how at times the only possible response in an unreasonable world is silence, a refusal to take part. Giles does not undergo the same heroic internal struggles as Proctor but his commitment to personal integrity even in the face of death is equally striking.