This article contains plot details.
|“||My father told me that there was no time in Hell no past, no future, only all of time in an eternal present. And that I was already there burning beside him. I have tormented myself ever since, wondering what crime I could possibly commit that would so consign myself to Hell. I am relieved. It was no crime, but a choice. I will choose to be in Hell, so that others may not.||”|
— Cotton Mather
Reverend Cotton Mather is a major character in Salem. The reverend was sent to investigate a case of a spectral attack in Salem, Massachusetts, and ended up getting involved in a crossfire of witch-panic hysteria leading to full-blown witch trials. During his stay in Salem, Cotton became romantically involved with Gloriana, a local "fallen woman." Cotton tried to lead the citizens to safety, but came to have doubts about his father's extremist methods. After Gloriana was banished, he was enticed by Anne Hale's spell, a love that led him to infernal turmoil.
He is portrayed by American actor Seth Gabel.
"Driven by secret obsessions and desire, Cotton Mather is the well-educated local aristocrat who fans the flames of Salem’s witch hunt. The foremost expert on witches and malice, Cotton Mather is a Puritan Reverend, son of the infamous witch hunter Increase Mather. But even as he is hunting witches, he lives under the shadow of his very famous father and agonizes about living up to him. Cotton is a man of contradiction. He is a God-fearing believer that strives to uphold the law, and yet he has demons inside himself that he is too afraid to exorcise."
"Well educated aristocrat and former reverend, Cotton Mather finds himself married to a witch and is trying to find a way to escape, which is hard to do with Brown Jenkins eating his insides every time he does something wrong."
Born in Boston, Massachusetts from the union of two of the most prominent Puritan families, Cotton and Mather. For that reason, he was baptized to live up to his heritage. Deprived very early of his mother's love, Cotton was harshly raised by his father to achieve a glorious political career. An excellent student, Cotton was sent away to study theology at Harvard. However, he became fascinated by science and "the invisible wonders" of the earth but lacked the courage to pursue such studies. While his peers went to war or built a career, Cotton became an avid reader and scholar, as well as a great expert of witchcraft from the hunters' point of view. At some point in his youth, he developed an addiction to alcohol.
After at least seven years of separation, Captain John Alden saw his old acquaintance assist the construction of a gallows and later, during a conversation with Giles Corey, John Alden recalled of how Cotton wore "feminine" clothing when he was a child and of his rather puny constitution.
Cotton Mather is a handsome man in his twenties, with brown hair, green eyes, and fair complexion. His body is athletic as it could be to his own age, whose activities do not require much physical prowess as that of the militia. From nude scenes at the brothel, it is possible to notice a hairy chest and barely sculpted abdominal muscles and biceps. His black dress is those of a high social class, with starched shirts, redingote, and expensive shoes, suitable for the office of governor and Reverend. During the second season, his clothes are less sophisticated and more colourful, being made of a simple shirt, pants, and boots.
|“||John: I remember when we were kids he used to dress like a girl. Fought like one, too.
Giles: Well, he's all grown-up now. A fine fool in fine silk clothes, and not just any fool, the most dangerous kind the kind that thinks he knows everything.
— describing Cotton Mather
Cotton Mather is a man with a multi-faceted personality since he is responsible for both horrible and severe gestures and loving compassion. His childhood has undoubtedly marked him, having grown up with a despotic father who took all the decisions for their child, even resorting to physical punishment and psychological terror. The education he received made him a skilled orator, able to agitate and control the masses at will, thus showing to be more adept at taming the demons of other people, and not his own. Raised according to Puritans precepts, Cotton is a fervent believer in the Almighty's plan, however, the closeness to real evil in Salem made him aware of the discrepancies and probably false beliefs, prompting him to seek not exactly orthodox answers to his questions. Emotionally, Cotton constantly needs reassurance and comfort, whether they come from God, from a woman or the bottom of a liquor bottle, is irrelevant. He is also on a perennial search for his father's approval. On a romantic level, Cotton shows again a split personality, as he can be so loving and kind, but also jealous and violent, using as an excuse the fact of being an only child not used to sharing. On several occasions, Cotton showed paranoid behaviour, as well as depressed as he tried to take his own life.
Throughout The Salem series
Skills and abilities
- Theological knowledge: as Protestant Reverend, Cotton possesses extensive knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. His interest in religion is, however, almost totally focused on the subject of Witchcraft, of which is one of the greatest connoisseurs, at least from the point of view of a witch hunter, as he showed ignorance on some rituals used by witches and their nature (ignoring, for example, the exact difference between a born witch and a contract witch).
- Knowledge of the classical languages: due to his education, Cotton knows the classical languages such as Latin and Greek, which are also two of the three Christian language par excellence used in the writing of the Holy Scriptures.
- Scientific knowledge: even in a rough and patchy way, Cotton has a scientific knowledge, or at least empirical knowledge of medical science and the use of herbs in the preparation of specific potions and poisons. He also knows how to calculate the motion of the stars.
- Melee combat: Cotton Mather is a decent swordsman, discipline learned at Harvard while studying theology. His alcoholism is not helpful for the accuracy required by this discipline. Cotton Mather proved to be a decent fighter, though again alcoholism is not helpful to him in his movements, as he is weakened by alcohol.
Main article: Cotton and Increase
|“||Imagine how proud I am to have raised a son so steadfast in his ability to consistently make the wrong decisions.||”|
— Increase to Cotton in Cat And Mouse
Main Article: Cotton and John
|“||I admire your sangfroid-- It's French for cold blood. It's a compliment.||”|
— Cotton to John in The Red Rose and the Briar
Main Article: Cotton and Gloriana
|“||Nothing is going to happen to you.||”|
— Cotton to Gloriana in In Vain
Main Article: Cotton and Isaac Walton
|“||Half of Salem takes you for a fool, the rest dismiss you as a pervert. Am I mad to think I saw something in you? Something of a man. Just the sort Salem needs to fight the Devil.||”|
— Cotton to Isaac in In Vain
Not much is known about their past history but it is presumed they first met when Cotton came to Salem on Mary Sibley's behest to oversee the witch trials. In the course of events, they become friends and allies in the fight against witches, both stifled by the despotism of Increase Mather.When Cotton is deprived of all his possessions from his father and John Alden is accused of Witchcraft, Isaac reminds Cotton the value of friendship spurring him not to give up.
Main Article: Cotton and Mary Sibley
|“||What luck for Salem that your father was unavailable. We will owe our future to you, Reverend.||”|
— Mary Sibley to Cotton in Lies
Main Article: Anne and Cotton
|“||We are a father's children and we can no more control who they be and how they come to form us than we can the rise and setting of the sun.||”|
— Anne Hale to Cotton Mather in Children Be Afraid
|The Stone Child||Appears|
|The Red Rose and the Briar||Appears|
|Our Own Private America||Appears|
|Children Be Afraid||Absent|
|The House of Pain||Appears|
|Cat And Mouse||Absent|
|All Fall Down||Appears|
|Book of Shadows||Appears|
|The Wine Dark Sea||Appears|
|Ill Met by Moonlight||Appears|
|The Beckoning Fair One||Appears|
|Wages of Sin||Appears|
|Til Death Do Us Part||Appears|
|On Earth as in Hell||Appears|
|Midnight Never Come||Appears|
|The Witching Hour||Appears|
|After the Fall||Appears|
|The Heart Is A Devil||Appears|
|Night's Black Agents||Appears|
|The Commonwealth of Hell||Appears|
|The Man Who Was Thursday||Appears|
- Cotton Mather: "Fear no man's war. For only a war from hell could destroy Salem. The Devil was never going to let a promised land be built here without a fight, without a battle! And witches armed with deadly malice are the most malignant and insidious weapons in that battle In that war. Even a single witch in Salem is enough to destroy everything we have built and ever hope to build here! Now, we have already killed three of them, and yet their malice continues unabated. Why? Because there are still witches here among us! Perhaps in this very hall!"
- — The Vow
- Cotton (to Salem citizens gathered in church): "Imagine a foe you can't see armed with weapons unknown and the ability to appear as any one of us!"
- — The Vow
- Cotton Mather (to Giles Corey): "Are you guilty or not?"
- — The Vow
- Cotton Mather: "Most of those who have ever lived are now dead. All but very few must surely burn in hell. We may someday over people this vast, empty new land, but I fear that we have already over-peopled hell. So that, as it is written in Isaiah, "Hell hath enlarged itself" and is now called America. I have been in Salem a fortnight, and I have already hung three witches. Is this the price of building heaven on earth? I have laid my hands upon his most deadly servants, the witches. Or have I? I obeyed every one of your instructions. I even pressed a possibly innocent man to death. I still taste his spattered blood on my lips."
- — The Stone Child
- Cotton Mather: "Please, Lord, I beg thee. Give me a sign."
- — The Stone Child
- Cotton Mather (to Isaac Walton): "Half of Salem takes you for a fool, the rest dismiss you as a pervert. Am I mad to think I saw something in you? Something of a man. Just the sort Salem needs to fight the devil."
- — In Vain
- Cotton: "I've been expecting the angel of death since I was ten. I didn't see him myself, but I knew from the look in grandfather's eyes just before he went, the angel bore a most terrible face. Quite like yours, I expect. So come, angel. You find me fully prepared to burn like a human candle for eternity in a pit of burning black tar with all the other damned."
- — The Stone Child
- Cotton (to John Alden): "Every morning, we have a choice. Forget our dreams, or live them."
- — Our Own Private America
- Cotton (to Increase Mather): "But should the people of Salem not question who you are? For how else would the Devil appear but in the cloak of the Lord?"
- — Cat and Mouse
- Anne Hale "Am I intruding, Reverend?"
- Cotton "I was just about to enjoy my late afternoon drink, not to be confused, of course, with my early evening drink, which I anticipate taking place shortly as well. Perhaps?" [He offers her the bottle.]
- — Cat and Mouse
- Cotton Mather: "What is the opposite of a miracle? A force beyond human or natural power, but not, as in a miracle, for good, but for evil. Not to spread faith, but to spread terror. Inexplicable flames that blackened this Meeting House, the very heart of Salem, was just that a miracle of evil, an act of terror, a warning shot from an enemy far darker than Salem has yet seen."
- — The Heart Is A Devil
- Cotton Mather (to Anne Hale): "Anne whatever your hatred for me, do not let that be hatred for all the people of Salem. In minutes, they will all die."
- — Black Sunday
- Cotton Mather (to the Dark Lord): "I am no great soul. I am just another miserable sinner. I beg you, by the glory you once knew, by the Heaven you once dwelled in, do not use the innocent people of Salem as pawns in a chess game against your Father."
- — Black Sunday
- Cotton Mather: "My father told me that there was no time in Hell no past, no future, only all of time in an eternal present. And that I was already there burning beside him. I have tormented myself ever since, wondering what crime I could possibly commit that would so consign myself to Hell. I am relieved. It was no crime, but a choice. I will choose to be in Hell, so that others may not."
- — Black Sunday
- Cotton Mather (to Anne Hale): "I am truly, deeply sorry that I ever laid eyes on you."
- — Black Sunday
- Cotton: From the English word "cotton" referring to the "plant encased in a thin fiber that is harvested to make cloth or fabric". A noted bearer is, indeed, the New England Puritan minister Cotton Mather on whom this character is based on. Mather was born in Boston, the son of Maria (née Cotton) and Increase Mather, and grandson of both John Cotton and Richard Mather, all also prominent Puritan ministers. Mather was named after his maternal grandfather, John Cotton.
- Mather: an English medieval surname of occupational origins. It usually derives from the pre 7th century Olde English word "moethere", meaning one who mowed or who possibly operated a primitive form of mowing machine. Alternative spellings are Madder and Mathere.
Status and Rank
- Reverend, member of the Protestant clergy. In some situations, the title "reverend" is used synonymously with a pastor (as a priest of a church), but more properly denotes the ministerial office.
- Governor, as head of a public institution. Mab addressed Cotton Mather as "Governor" in The Vow.
- Cotton Mather is based on the real Cotton Mather, who was a socially and politically influential New England Puritan minister, prolific author, and pamphleteer. Noted for fostering the Salem witch trials, Cotton Mather also has a scientific legacy due to his hybridization experiments and his promotion of inoculation for disease prevention.
- Cotton has extensive knowledge of Witchcraft, learned from the many books in different languages he studied over the years.
- Cotton suffers from an inferiority complex toward his father.
- Ironically, the real Cotton Mather was an erudite connoisseur of languages, including some indigenous dialects, while in the WGN's Salem series is John Alden who know the language of Native Americans.
- His name comes from the last names of his parents; his mother, in fact, was a Cotton, while his father was a Mather. Cotton Mather is the heir of two prominent Puritan families.
- Season Three Character Description released on the Salem's official Instagram, reads as follows:
"Cotton Mather: the reverend of a people destined for Hell."
- During Ask Salem interview, Seth Gabel stated that the Witch's shaft is his favorite prop. If he could choose to play another character, he would like to be a witch. Seth Gabel is the only main actor not to have suffered accidents during the filming of the first season. After long days of shooting, Seth Gabel finds it difficult to shake off the character and creepy situations filmed on sets and to relax, he watches Futurama episodes.
- Seth Gabel studied and read books about the Colonial period and, above all, books written by Cotton Mather himself for a better rendering and understanding of his character.
- In Cry Havoc, Cotton is writing notes on his journal, including the words "Wonders of the Invisible World". That's the title of a book written by historical Cotton Mather and published in 1693. The book is an apology to the Salem witch trials, as well as a treatise on witchcraft and demonology.
- After Cotton's descent into Hell alive on Black Sunday, many fans have wondered about the possibility that he could return alive. Adam Simon explained in an interview that while Dr. Samuel Wainwright, like Cotton, was shoved into Hell alive, there were plans to have him escape and return to the world of the living, albeit extremely mentally damaged and possibly insane. The same may very well be possible for Cotton.
- Cotton Mather Official Description - Season 1 - WGN America
- Cotton Mather Official Description - Season 3 - WGN America
- Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Richard Shepard (director). April 20, 2014. "The Vow". Salem. Season 1. Episode 1. WGN.
- Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & David Von Ancken (director). April 27, 2014. "The Stone Child". Salem. Season 1. Episode 2. WGN.
- Elizabeth Sarnoff, Tricia Small (writer) & Alex Zakrzewski (director). May 4, 2014, 2014. "In Vain". Salem. Season 1. Episode 3. WGN.
- Jon Harmon Feldman (writer) & David Von Ancken (director). May 11, 2014. "Survivors". Salem. Season 1. Episode 4. WGN.
- Tricia Small & Elizabeth Sarnoff (writer) & Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (director). May 18, 2014. "Lies". Salem. Season 1. Episode 5. WGN.
- Joe Menosky & Adam Simon (writer) & P.J. Pesce (director). May 25, 2014. "The Red Rose and the Briar". Salem. Season 1. Episode 6. WGN.
- Jon Harmon Feldman (writer) & Alex Zakrzewski (director). June 8, 2014. "Departures". Salem. Season 1. Episode 8. WGN.
- Adam Simon & Joe Menosky (writer) & David Von Ancken (director). June 22, 2014. "The House of Pain". Salem. Season 1. Episode 10. WGN.
- Jon Harmon Feldman (writer) & Tricia Brock (director). June 29, 2014. "Cat and Mouse". Salem. Season 1. Episode 11. WGN
- Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Bill Johnson (director). July 6, 2014. "Ashes, Ashes". Salem. Season 1. Episode 12. WGN.
- Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & David Von Ancken (director). July 13, 2014. "All Fall Down". Salem. Season 1. Episode 13. WGN.
- Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Nick Copus (director). July 13, 2014. "Cry Havoc". Salem. Season 2. Episode 1. WGN.
- Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Allan Arkush (director). July 13, 2014. "Blood Kiss". Salem. Season 2. Episode 2. WGN.
- Kelly Souders & Brian Peterson (writer) & Alex Zakrzewski (director). July 13, 2014. "From Within". Salem. Season 2. Episode 3. WGN.
- Joe Menosky & Adam Simon (writer) & Allan Kroeker (director). July 13, 2014. "Book of Shadows". Salem. Season 2. Episode 4. WGN.
- Turi Meyer & Al Septien (writer) & Peter Weller (director). July 13, 2014. "The Wine Dark Sea". Salem. Season 2. Episode 5. WGN.
- Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders (writer) & Nick Copus (director). July 13, 2014. "Ill Met by Moonlight". Salem. Season 2. Episode 6. WGN.
- Donna Thorland & Adam Simon (writer) & Joe Dante (director). July 13, 2014. "The Beckoning Fair One". Salem. Season 2. Episode 7. WGN.
- Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Nick Copus (director). November 2, 2016. "After the Fall". Salem. Season 3. Episode 1. WGN.
- Adam Simon (writer) & Tim Andrews (director). November 9, 2016. "The Heart Is A Devil". Salem. Season 3. Episode 2. WGN.
- Kelly Souders & Brian Peterson (writer) & Wayne Yip (director). November 16, 2016. "The Reckoning". Salem. Season 3. Episode 3. WGN.
- Brannon Braga & Adam Simon (writer) & Joe Dante (director). November 30, 2016. "Night's Black Agents". Salem. Season 3. Episode 4. WGN.
- Adam Simon (writer) & Nick Copus (director). December 7, 2016. "The Commonwealth of Hell". Salem. Season 3. Episode 5. WGN.
- Adam Simon & Donna Thorland (writer) & Peter Weller (director). December 14, 2016. "Wednesday's Child". Salem. Season 3. Episode 6. WGN.
- Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders (writer) & Jennifer Lynch (director). January 4, 2017. "The Man Who Was Thursday". Salem. Season 3. Episode 7. WGN.
- Adam Simon & Donna Thorland (writer) & Nick Copus (director). January 11, 2017. "Friday's Knights". Salem. Season 3. Episode 8. WGN.
- Brian Peterson & Kelly Souders (writer) & Jennifer Lynch (director). January 18, 2017. "Saturday Mourning". Salem. Season 3. Episode 9. WGN.
- Adam Simon (writer) & Brannon Braga (director). January 25, 2017. "Black Sunday". Salem. Season 3. Episode 10. WGN.