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If the readers are familiar with the historic event upon which this play has been written, then they are certainly aware of the hysteria which developed that led to the testing of the belief system of all involved. Of course, Arthur Miller is himself concerned with the concept of group hysteria as he creates his drama that allegorizes the House Un-American Activities Committee led by Joseph McCarthy.
In Acts I-II of The Crucible, when the girls, in their embarrassment at being caught dancing nude in the forest, feign illness, not responding to medical attention, rumors of witchcraft evolve. Some of these girls, though, have previous grievances, and when they are encouraged to name others, they falsely accuse people against whom they hold grudges. Certainly, Abigail and other girls make condemnations in order to save themselves. Led by Abigail, these girls grasp this new power at the end of Act I by naming people in the town, who are, then, accused of witchcraft.
In addition to this, many involved have other ulterior motives. For example, Parris, who fears how his daughter Abigail's actions and how the rumors about her comatose state will affect his own social standing, acts in a self-serving manner. So, too, does John Proctor. who, when he has the opportunity to denounce Abigail during the initial accusations, but because he has committed adultery with her, he hides his own sin by not testifying against Abigail. Then, at the beginning of Act III, it becomes obvious that more than witchcraft is involved in the trials; that are personal and land disputes tied into the trials. When Giles interrupts, "I have evidence. Why will you not hear my evidence?" something is awry.
When, for instance, Giles breaks in to try and save his wife, Hathorne demands, "Arrest him your excellency," and chaos ensues. Nevertheless, there is no pause before the court decides that he must be arrested. He shouts out significant charges, for instance, that "Thomas Putnam is killing his neighbors for their land," and they immediately turn on Giles, who owns six hundred acres, not Thomas. Above all, the Reverend Parris is not worthy of his reputation, and is too pusillanimous to tell his congregation that they are wrong about witchcraft. Instead, he acquiesces to the mounting hysteria and exacerbates it further by calling upon Reverend Hale. Therefore, judging from the evidence of pettiness, things will not go well for certain characters in this play.
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