Grade Level: 10th
Date Created: September 18, 1995
Grade Received: B
Subject: Superstition in the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller.
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SALEM WITCH TRIALS
Superstition and witchcraft resulted in many being hanged or in prison. In the seventeenth century, a belief in witches and witchcraft was almost universal. In Salem Massachusetts where the witch trials take place many people who are suspicious is accused of witchcraft and hanged. Arthur Miller wrote a play called The Crucible. It is based on the Salem witch trials. The Salem witch trials change many peoples lives and even led to death for some. The power of superstition and hearsay can distort from the truth.
Four ministers of Salem joined Matther, and they spent a whole day in the house of the afflicted in fasting and prayer. The result of which was the delivery of one of the family from the power of the witch. A niece and daughter of the parish minister at Danvers were first afflicted. Their actions frightened other young people, who soon showed the same symptoms, such as loss of appetite and sickness. A belief quickly spread over Salem and throughout the state that evil spirits are being seen in Salem. Terror took possession of the minds of nearly all the people, and the dread made the affliction spread widely. "The afflicted, under the influence of the witchery, "admitted to see the forms of their tormentors with their inner vision" (Miller 1082). and would immediately accuse some individual seen with the devil. At times the afflicted and the accused became so numerous that no one was safe from suspicion and its consequences. Even those who were active in the prosecutions became objects of suspicion.
Revenge often impelled persons to accuse others who were innocent and when some statement of the accused would move the court and audience in favor of the prisoner. "I saw Goody Osborn with the devil" (Miller 1060). The accuser would declare that they saw the devil standing beside the victim whispering the words in his or her ear. The absurd statement would be believed by the judges. Some, terrified and with the hope of saving their lives or avoiding the horrors of imprisonment, would falsely accuse their friends and relatives, while others moved by the same hopes, would falsely confess themselves to be witches. Many of the accusers and witnesses came forward and published denials of the truth of their testimony, to save their own lives. Mr. Paris in the Danver family, who was one of the most strong prosecutors of alleged witches, was compelled to resign his charge and leave the country.
The acknowledgments of error and pleadings for mercy, could not restore the spirits of those who are hanged, nor make changes for the pains' others had suffered. The trick had prevailed in greatest desire more than six months, and it was not decreasing for more than a year. During that time nineteen had been hanged, and Corey Giles who is killed by the horrid process of pressing to death with stones because he would say if was guilty or innocent. He continued to say "more weight" (Miller 1113); until he died. In doing so, his family could keep his land. Others had been tortured or frightened into a confession of guilt or imprisoned.
As one can see the power of superstition and the hearsay can distort the truth. The Salem witch trials were horrifying and it changes many peoples lives. The belief in witches did not end with the strange excitement. This strange episode in the history of Massachusetts astonished the civilized world, and made an unfavorable impression on others.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. Ellen Bowler. ed. et al.
Literature the American Experiance. Englewood cliffs:
Prentice Hall, 1994.
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