Character Profile – Mary Warren



Opening impression:

Mary Warren is Proctor’s servant and a friend of Abigail’s. She is introduced as a seventeen-year-old “subservient, naïve, lonely girl”. Her submissive nature becomes clear from the beginning of the play, when she tries desperately to convince Abigail that they “got to tell… [they] must tell the truth!”. Her initial stage directions all include the word “fright” further highlighting her fearful and easily influenced nature.



Quotations & Analysis:





[She is seventeen, a subservient, naïve, lonely girl.]

Immediately introduced Mary Warren's character. This quotation lets us know immediately that she is extremely timid, and very naïve. The fact that this description is provided in the stage directions illustrates that this is Mary Warren's true character, as opposed to Abigail, who puts on a show as an innocent little girl. Mary's stark contrast to Abigail highlights Abby's manipulative nature, as she constantly takes advantage of those around her, especially Mary Warren.



"I am amazed you do not see what weighty work we do."

& "it's God's work we do… I am an official of the court…"

This quotation clearly demonstrates the fact that the witch trials give Mary Warren status and sense of purpose in society. Whereas she used to be near the bottom of Salem's social hierarchy as a 17 year old servant girl, she has now become an official of the court. This is similar to Reverend Hale, who on page 40, describes his books as being "weighted with authority". It is clear that both of these characters enjoy the status and sense of purpose they seem to have inherited along with the witch trials. The quotation also shows that Mary Warren, again similar to Hale, has good intentions but is merely misinformed, and too caught up in the hysteria to see the superficiality of her work as a court official.



[pointing at Elizabeth]: “I saved her life today… I said I never see no sign you ever sent your spirit out to hurt no one… they dismissed it.”

This quotation depicts Mary Warren attempting to assert her newfound “authority” over Proctor, to undermine the existing social hierarchy. This shows us that Mary Warren enjoys the sense of power she gets from the trials, and makes her seem similar to Abigail in that she appears to be using this power, and the fact that she protected Elizabeth in order to defy Proctor. Although Mary Warren and Abigail share this similarity, they are different in the sense that Abigail’s only intention is to remove Elizabeth from Proctor’s life so that she can have him to herself, whereas in this situation, Mary Warren is only trying to do the “right” thing, and it could be suggested that she is merely looking for approval or recognition from Proctor. We already know that Mary is a character that is very reliant on the support and approval of other characters, therefore it could be said that rather than wanting only to defy Proctor, she is merely searching for his approval since she helped to protect his wife from being wrongly convicted of witchcraft.



Proctor: Go to bed. Mary Warren: "I will not be ordered to bed no more… I am eighteen and a woman, however single!" Proctor: Do you wish to sit up? Then sit up. Mary Warren: "I wish to go to bed!"


This interaction between Mary Warren and Procter is key as it illustrates the superficiality of Mary Warren's status and power in society. This is again similar to Hale, as his books are described as "heavy" (page 40). This is ironic, as books should represent knowledge, however they are judged by their weight as opposed to their actual content. In this interaction between Mary and Proctor illustrates how superficial her status actually is, as she tries to exert her authority on Proctor, but ultimately ends up doing what he originally tells her to.


[not understanding the direction of this] & [bewildered]

These two quotations clearly separate Mary Warren from Abigail. Although they both enjoy the sense of power and status they appear to be getting from the witch trials, Abigail is manipulative and takes advantage of this power. On the other hand, Mary is just misinformed, and so wrapped up in the hysteria that she can't see the ridiculousness and superficiality of the events that are occurring before her eyes. It also allows the audience to feel sympathy for Mary Warren that would not be felt for Abigail, because of her blatant vulnerability.






[hardly audible]


[almost inaudibly] [faintly]

& [very faintly]

These stage directions clearly convey Mary Warren’s character as an extremely passive and meek one. She seems to be extremely frightened of confessing to lying about the witchcraft. This could be in part because she fears the consequences of her actions, but it is also likely that she fears what Abigail will do to her. This further emphasizes the difference between the two characters, thus exaggerating Abigail's relentlessly cruel character.





[bursts into sobs]

[sobs once]

& [she breaks into sobs]

These stage directions once again highlight Mary Warren's docile nature. It also depicts her as childish and naïve, because of her failure to stand up for herself and maintain her composure. She seems to sob at almost everything, which generates a sense of sympathy in the audience, because unlike Abigail, it is clear that Mary Warren is not only confused, but also horrified by what is happening, and by what the consequences of what she did may be.



[she looks up at Abigail who is staring down at her remorselessly. Then, turning to Proctor]

This stage direction clearly depicts Mary Warren as vulnerable and subservient. She never seems to be fully confident in herself or what she is saying, which again highlights the extent of the hysteria in Salem. Furthermore, the fact that she is looked [down] on, emphasizes her powerlessness in the situation. The stage direction also portrays her as reliant on other people. She doesn't seem to be able to think for herself, always needing the approval of another (firstly Abigail, and now Proctor). The quotation also illustrates the social hierarchy in Salem, in that Mary Warren looks to Proctor, someone of a higher social standing than her for guidance and approval.



[almost collapsing] "let me go, Mr. Proctor. I cannot, I cannot-"

Both the quotation and stage direction emphasize Mary Warren's meek character. She appears to be incapable of standing her ground, and is extremely malleable, as it appears to be so easy for other characters to change her opinions in an instant. It also shows that she is weak, in the sense that once she is faced with any contest to what she is saying, she will immediately change her stance. This emphasizes her childish nature, as it could be said that she seems to be avoiding the blame as best she can by constantly changing her statements.



Mary Warren: "They're sporting. They - !"' Girls: "They're sporting!" Mary Warren [hysterically… stamping her feet]: "Abby, stop it!" Girls [stamping their feet]: "Stop it!" Mary Warren [screaming… and raising her fists]: Stop it!! Girls [raising their fists]: Stop it!!

This interaction between Mary Warren and the girls is a clear example of both the extent to which hysteria appears to have engrained itself in society, but also of Mary Warren's childish nature. Firstly, the fact that Mary Warren gets so involved in this interaction with the girls shows how deeply the hysteria appears to be engrained in her mind. The interaction confuses and scares her, which leads to her immature actions of shouting and stomping her feet. The interaction is ridiculous and also extremely childish, with the screaming, stomping of feet and the back and forth repetition. This highlights the absurdity of the witchcraft accusations, and also the childishness of all those involved, including Abigail's intricate plan for revenge on John and Elizabeth Proctor.



[Mary utters somethings unintelligible]

This stage direction illustrates Mary's meek character, as she is not speaking in a loud and confident tone. Her voice is always [faint], [inaudible] or [unintelligible]. This not only portrays her as a subservient character, but could also highlight her lack of power - both in society in general, but also in this situation. This undermines her sense of authority mentioned on page 58, and shows that this "authority" was ultimately false. In this particular scene, Mary's unintelligible muttering also increases the tension as the audience strain to hear what she says and anticipate what effect it will have on the events of the play.



[staring up at the 'bird', screaming madly]

This particular stage direction is key in illustrating the extent to which the hysteria affects the people of Salem. The hysterical reaction of Mary Warren exaggerates the situation, making it obvious to the audience that she truly believes in the witchcraft. The fact that the word "bird" is placed in quotation marks emphasizes the absurdity of the situation, as the bird does not actually exist. This further highlights how deeply the hysteria runs, as Mary Warren has become so consumed by it she is seeing things that aren't actually there.



"You're the Devil's man… Abby, I'll never hurt you more!"

The quotation clearly illustrates how malleable Mary Warren's character actually is, as she has completely revoked her confession, even though she knows that Abigail is lying. It also again shows how deeply the hysteria is engrained in her mind, as she is able to completely reverse her statement so quickly. Furthermore, it demonstrates her lack of independence, and an apparent need for approval, be it from Proctor or in this case, Abigail. It is also a good example of how many people respond under the real pressure of the Communist Witch Hunts in 1950s America: under threat and in fear of imprisonment, people side with those that they know to be wrong to avoid the condemnation of the rest of society.




Role in the play:

Mary Warren is used as a tool by Miller to convey the extent of the hysteria in Salem during the witch trials. This is conveyed through her subservient nature. She begins doing as Abigail tells her to, however when Proctor is angered after Elizabeth’s arrest, she agrees to confess to lying about the witchcraft. Later still in the play, Abigail accuses Proctor of witchcraft, and manages to convince Mary Warren to revoke her confession. Mary Warren’s malleability emphasizes how weak most people in Salem are, buffeted first one way and then another by whichever is the most powerful force at the time. The fact that Mary also seems to really believe in witchcraft reveals how deeply ingrained in people the nonsensical belief in witchcraft (the Communist threat) is.


She is also used as a stark contrast to Abigail in order to emphasize Abigail’s manipulative nature. The fact that Abigail has such a strong control over Mary Warren highlights how scheming she really is. Mary does, however, also share some similar traits to Abigail Williams. She is similar to Abigail in that she uses her “authority” from the witch trials in an attempt to defy Proctor. She asserts the fact that she helped protect Goody Proctor from being arrested in an attempt to undermine the existing social hierarchy. However this power is superficial. Nonetheless, Mary Warren is different to Abigail as it is clear that she does become very confused during the course of the play. Additionally, unlike Abigail, her intentions are not to exact revenge upon people in the town, but rather to do the “right” thing.


Mary Warren also possesses character traits similar to Reverend Hale. She is similar to Hale, in that she has good intentions but is merely misinformed about the events that are occurring in Salem. She is also a torn and confused character, like Hale, trying to figure out what is true and what is false amongst all the hysteria. Additionally, like Hale, Mary Warren gets a status and sense of purpose (although superficial) from the witch trials, and she enjoys this status, as prior to the trials, she was near the bottom of the social hierarchy as a young servant girl. However, unlike Hale, Mary Warren appears to be unable to ultimately make the realisation that the accusations of witchcraft are a false plot by Abigail to exact revenge on John Proctor and his wife.


Mary Warren is also used by Miller to create tension, as she is constantly changing her story/opinion, which leads to the audience anticipating what will happen next.