The Witchcraft Hysteria
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 accuse 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
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 a 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
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 1600's. 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.