Act I - An Overture
Describe the personality of Reverend Samuel Parris. Reverend Parris believed he was being persecuted wherever he went, despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side. He was a widower with no interest in children, or talent in them. He never conceived that they were anything but thankful for being permitted to walk straight, eyes slightly lowered, arms at the sides, and mouths shut until bidden to speak. He is described to have cut a “villainous path, and there is very little good to be said for him.” Describe the life in the town of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Salem was a barbaric frontier inhabited by a sect of fanatics who were shipping out products of slowly increasing quantity and value to the European world. Salem’s creed forbade anything resembling a theater or “vain enjoyment.” The town was very centered around the idea of prayer. Hard work kept the town’s morals from spoiling, for the people were forced to fight the land like heroes for every grain of corn, and no man had very much time for fooling around. Personal privacy was taken quite lightly in Salem, for the people believed that it was their duty to mind people’s business. How did the men who settled Salem differ from those who settled in Virginia? The people and church of Salem found it necessary to deny any other sect its freedom (their fathers had been persecuted in England) lest their New Jerusalem be defiled and corrupted by wrong ways and deceitful ideas. They believed that they held the candle that would light the world. They were dedicated folk and they had to be to survive the life they had chosen or been born into in this country. People of Jamestown in Virginia were the complete opposite. The Englishmen who landed there were motivated mainly by a hunt for profit. They had thought to pick off the wealth of the new country and then return rich to England. They were individualists and tried to kill off the Puritans, but they combined and set up a communal society which was little more than an armed camp with an autocratic and very devoted leadership. How did the government in Salem in 1692 contribute to the situation as the play begins? The people of Salem in 1692 were not quite the dedicated folk that arrived on the Mayflower. A vast differentiation took place, and in their own time a revolution had unseated the royal government and substituted a junta (a military or political group that rules a country after taking power by force) which was at this moment in power. What was the paradox which contributed to the Salem witch hunt? For good purposes, even high purposes, the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies. The witch hunt was more than a repression. What opportunity did it offer for those who participated? The witch hunts gave the opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly his guilt and sins, under the cover of accusations against victims. Long-held hatreds of neighbors could now be openly expressed, and vengeance taken, despite the Bible’s charitable injunctions.
What had Reverend Parris seen in the forest? Reverend Parris saw Betty and Abigail dancing in the forest. He also saw Tituba waving her arms about over a fire and mumbling something. Also, he saw a dress lying on the grass and presumed that he saw someone naked running through the trees. What actually had happened in the forest? Tituba conjured Ruth’s sisters to come out of the grave. Mercy was running around naked. Abigail drank blood as a charm in order to kill Goody Proctor. Why is Reverend Parris so impassioned that witchcraft not be charged by society? Reverend Parris is the minister of Salem’s church, so any indication of witchcraft would taint the reputation of his leading role in...