Rebecca Nurse: Fact vs. Fiction

Topics: Salem witch trials, The Crucible, Witchcraft Pages: 4 (1413 words) Published: October 8, 1999
In his article, "Why I Wrote The Crucible," Arthur Miller speaks of the 1950's "which nobody seems to remember clearly"- a time of fearful insanity and unrest. Anyone could be accused. Showing excessive opposition ensured prosecution. Most shrunk back from disputing the McCarthy hearings for fear of their safety. Now, this period of panic is viewed as absurd. As Miller describes Hitler as being almost comical to his generation, the modern generation sees the Salem witch trials as foolish scuffles between ignorant people. The actual events were much different as perceived. Just as a feud with a neighbor seems trivial to those not involved but of intense frustration to the embroiled , the trials were not silly and insignificant. The trials were more about personal issues between rivals than witchcraft itself- the witchcraft was a weapon for Salemites to obtain revenge on their enemies. A tool Miller uses to show the reader this emotion is Rebecca Nurse, seventy-year-old grandmother, wife, and respected member of Salem society. Miller modifies her character in his play. Some facts remain true in the play, others are altered, and some have been neglected altogether. What did he change, and what did he regret to? Why did Miller take such liberties with Rebecca's character in his play?

Rebecca Nurse and her husband, Francis, were both well-respected people in the town of Salem Miller describes. They owned about three hundred acres, and after a land dispute with the Putnams, they broke away from Salem and founded Topsfield. Miller mentions that the founding of Topsfield upset the old Salemites. This is true - aberration was resented in Puritan society. The essence of Puritanism is in the intensity of the Puritan's commitment to a morality, a form of worship, and a civil society strictly conforming to God's commandments . Certain Puritans were "saved" despite their sins, while the remainder of society led lives strictly following the saved clergy's...
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