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Nineteen were hanged, seventeen died in prison, 150 were imprisoned
and one was crushed to death. All of them were accused, by a group of
seemingly innocent young girls, of witchcraft and wizardry.
The cry of witchcraft all began in the January of 1692 in the town of
Salem. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria, that swept
through Puritan Massachusetts ended. The Reverend Parris speculated
that witchcraft had aroused after the strange illness and behaviour of
his daughter, Betty and niece, Abigail.
Salem was already a god-fearing town, they had the stresses of
everyday life in the 17th Century and witchcraft was a good excuse to
By the summer of 1692, the Salem witch trails began. After the poor
evidence and lies were given, a total of thirteen women and five men
were hanged. One was even crushed to death. All were innocent. The
spectres, that the "supposed victims" claimed to see, were all the
court needed to charge someone with witchcraft. Later into the trials,
the Superior Court of Judicature replaced the current Oyer and
Terminer court and ruled out the spectres as hard solid proof. It was
not until then, that the trials stopped and the truth was revealed.
Salem witch trial
The girls that accused the innocent were the actual witches
themselves. Story goes, that it was the Reverend Parris' slave Tituba,
from the West Indies, was responsible for indoctrinating the young
girl's minds with spells and rituals.
The question I like to answer is, why did these girls accuse others of
witchcraft and lost the lives of many? Some say it's because the girls
had eaten bread, which was contaminated with a fungus and could've
given the girls hallucinations. Others say it is because the girls
were seeking revenge from other townsfolk over past jealousies. Others
say it is because the girls were adolescents seeking attention. The
girls might have enjoyed all the attention and benefits.
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say that the Puritan Clergy had used the "hysteria" to reclaim their
declining power in the community.
The most famous of these trials had to be the trail of Rebecca Nurse.
She was tried and eventually hanged. Her accusation was widely known
because she was a well-respected character within the community and
they would've never dreamt that she would lead herself to pact with
Trial of Rebecca Nurse
A declaration, signed by forty members of the community, was signed in
her defence. Still she was hanged on July 19th 1692 at Gallows hill, a
barren slope near the village, where all the hangings took place.
There is a mystery still, where are the victims buried? They were not
to be buried in sacred ground. Some say that their relatives took the
body home and buried it elsewhere.
Arthur Miller adapted the tragic events of the Salem Witch trials into
a play, called "The Crucible". There have been positive and negative
comments made about his version of the events.
How close is it to the actual events? We must consider in mind, that
Miller was turning it into a play, subsequently changing some parts of
it or in a way, "twisting the truth" to make it entertaining for an
audience to view. He was fictionalising the event.
The play is mainly based on the love affair between John Proctor and
Abigail Williams. In actual fact, Proctor was about 60 and Abigail was
only 11, this makes the whole love affair sound absurd! Also they
lived eight miles apart making it difficult to make contact. Miller
perhaps turned these two characters into having a love affair to make
the play more interesting. Also Elizabeth was Proctor's third wife. If
this was contemplated into the play, it would have blackened Proctor's
name in the village, where as Miller wanted his name clean within in
Miller exaggerates the truth a little by having the girls supposedly
dancing in the woods, this adds more interest and it also creates
tension between the girls. The truth is, that there were no spiritual
happenings in the woods.
I have intensely researched into the Salem witch trials and I have
found out that one particular person is more famous in actual history
than for her part in Miller's play, Rebecca Nurse. She was accused and
hanged. In history, she is well known for her bravery and will to
speak the truth. She would not lie and say that she had compacted with
the devil, when she did not. In Miller's play, she is little of
There are other minor details, which I have found out that differ from
what happened in history to Miller's play. There were in actual fact
more judges present at court than stated in Miller's play. This allows
Miller to develop the characters more. More Putnam children survived
than stated in the Crucible.
The "important theme" that Miller was writing about was clear to many
observers in 1953 at the play's opening. It was written in response to
Senator McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee's
crusade against supposed communist sympathizers.
An unfortunate combination of economic conditions, congregational
strife, teenage boredom, and personal jealousies can account for the
spiraling accusations, trials, and executions that occurred in the
spring and summer of 1692.
The first hanging of the first victim, Bridget Bishop on 10TH June
So many were traumatised and killed by this tragedy. Abigail was later
seen in Boston as a prostitute, Parris left Salem and was never to be
seen again. Tituba was sold to get out of jail and Betty married and
had children of her own. Condolences were made out to the families of
the affected after the Court realised they had accused the innocent.
This tragedy has left a scar in the town and Salem still remembers it
today. A memorial is made out to all those who died in the hands of