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In 1692, in Salem Massachusetts, the superstition of witches existed in a society of strong Christian beliefs. Anybody who acted out of the ordinary was accused of being a witch and then the accused would actually be forgiven if the blamed their accusations on another individual. This was the main idea of a play entitled, “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller. In this play a group of young girls act up and are then accused of being witches. These girls then blame other people in order to get out of trouble and even pretend to be bewitched in front of the court during a trial. This leads into the deaths of some innocent people who were accused and automatically found guilty. I believe, in many ways the people of Salem were responsible for the witch hysteria.
The person with the most influence was the character, Abigail. Abigail had an affair with a man by the name of John Proctor. Proctor broke contact with Abigail and spent time and interest in his wife, Elizabeth. Abigail gets jealous because of this and Abigail, a few other girls, and a servant from the Caribbean named Tituba dance around in an order that they believe it will kill Proctor’s wife. Rev. Parris, Abigail’s uncle, sees this and reports it. When Abigail is questioned about this, she denies everything and doesn’t tell the truth about what really happened. The news of her and the other girl’s strange actions gets around and the hysteria starts. Without Abigail’s superstition, and her fear or telling the truth, I think the events in The Crucible wouldn’t have gotten as serious as they did or even started.
John Proctor was another catalyst to the witch hysteria in Salem.
John Proctor has an affair with Abigail, but he and his wife do make up and
get along well. John Proctor adds to the hysteria when he and his wife are talking about Abigail and why she is acting so oddly. Although John Proctor
knows she is making up everything and blaming innocent people, he is reluctant to travel to Salem and testify her as a fraud to the court. If he would have done this, the witch trials could have stopped there. Another way John Proctor could have contributed to this madness but his moral didn’t let him occurs when at the end of Act IV he says he will confess to the law who he saw with the devil in order to save himself from dying or from imprisonment.
Fortunately, John Proctor realizes this is wrong and he does not give the
confession and he hangs because of it. Although eventually John Proctor did
add to the hysteria a little, he still helped it stop.
The last person I think was played a big part in the spirit of the
witch hysteria is Governor Danforth. Danforth was a big part of the actual
trials and his court system was very brutal and uncivilized, in fact he said,
If you are not with the court, you are against it which basically means in
my opinion, if you are on trial and you don’t believe what the court believes
then you are guilty. His words in this sentence where a huge part of the
conclusion on what eventually happened to the girls and all that were involved. The court believed they were all witches and they really had no
chance to prove them wrong. Danforth contributed to the hysteria another way in the method that he used to judge who was guilty in terms of evidence.
He believed word of mouth more than actual proven evidence, mostly because he wanted these trials over fast and he wanted it to turn out the way he wanted the trails to end. Without Danforth's ignorant court procedures and weak justice system, the trails would have gone much better and the truth of the hysteria would have most likely been uncovered.
The ignorance and superstition of the people of Salem were responsible for the witch hysteria. I believe that this kind of hysteria
could never exist in a society like I live in today. Today’s courts are much
better than the theocratic church/courts of the late 1600s. Another thing to
consider is that our Declaration of Independence and our freedom states that
we have freedom of religion. So even if somebody was a witch and didn’t harm anybody they would receive more trouble from today’s media than from the law. I am glad I didn’t have to go through that horror and I’m happy I never will.
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