The Witches who visited Salem
The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller about a case of mass hysteria dating to 1600s Salem. During that time people were tried and hanged for supposedly being “witches.” In reality, witchcraft is and always was a myth; the real motivation for the witch hunts was probably greed or feuding between families that inhabited Salem at the time. During the trials, people really believed that there were witches and fell into a mob mentality that prevented them from seeing reason or acting logically. Initial drivers of the conflict were the desire for others’ land, desire for revenge so it fell away in favor of religious fervor and fear of the perceived unknown. The people supporting the myth of witches soon bought into their own drivel, and that was when the situation truly got out of hand and people began to die over their accusations. Within Miller’s own dramatized version of the events, several characters serve as the main causes of the incident: Abigail Williams, High Court Judge Danforth, and Reverend Hale.
Reverend Hale is one of the three individuals most responsible for the witch hunts in Salem, the only one who was not a direct cause for their beginning. Even so, he entered the proceedings with the most official power and the most ability to prevent their escalation and did not do so. Instead, he naively believes that the courts will be just and logical, and that the people of Salem are telling him the truth. He is well aware of his authority over the townspeople as a man of God, which he makes plain when he says, “No, no. Now let me instruct you. We cannot look to superstition in this. The devil is precise; the marks of his presence are as definite as stone, and I must tell you all that I shall not proceed unless you are prepared to believe me if I should find no bruise of hell upon her” (154). But even as he conducts his initial investigations into Betty’s supposed...
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