Roger Chillingworth

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Roger Prynne is a fictional character and primary antagonist in the 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He is an English scholar who moves to the New World with his wife Hester Prynne and assumes the name Roger Chillingworth.

Chillingworth, a doctor and student of alchemy, (initially Roger Prynne) attempts emigrate from England to Puritan Boston, sending with his wife ahead to set up a quiet life in Boston. He is delayed by problems at sea and being held captive by Indians for a year. When he finally arrives in Boston, he finds his wife on a scaffold, being shamed for committing adultery. He assumes the name Roger Chillingworth to disguise his relationship to Hester (Hawthorne's choice of "Chillingworth" suggests coldness of character). Meeting Hester in jail, Chillingworth presses her to divulge the name of her partner in adultery, but she refuses. Searching without her help, he eventually discovers that her lover is the town minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. Using his position as a doctor, and under the guise of treating Dimmesdale's unexplained sickness, Chillingworth manipulates Dimmesdale into insanity and a confession of sin before the entire community before dying. Chillingworth then also dies. Throughout the book Chillingworth is referred to as "The Leech", which was a term at the time for a doctor, and then he dies once he no longer has a victim to harm.[1]


Chillingworth was portrayed by Henry B. Walthall in Victor Seastrom's 1926 film adaptation, starring Lillian Gish. He repeated the role opposite Colleen Moore in the 1934 adaptation.[2]


  1. ^ Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Champaign, Ill.: Project Gutenberg, 199. Print.
  2. ^ "Henry B. Walthall". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2014-12-23.