What are some examples of hysteria in The Crucible?

The Crucible explores how mass hysteria can devastate a community. Hysteria is most clearly seen in the villagers' irrational acceptance of the girls’ fabricated claims of witchcraft. One specific example of hysteria occurs in Act III when the girls, led by Abigail, accuse Mary Warren of witchcraft to prevent her from testifying against them. Though multiple people (including Mary) have claimed that the witchcraft accusations are false, the court refuses to be swayed.

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"Hysteria" is a term that can be used with varying degrees of precision, from a psychiatric diagnosis at one end of the spectrum to any type of general panic at the other. In the vaguest sense, all of The Crucible records an outbreak of hysteria, which soon came to be regarded as such. Within weeks of the trials, practically all those who participated in them were trying to distance themselves from the proceedings. The witch-trials quickly came to be regarded as an episode of temporary insanity.

Although, there is no evidence that any of the characters in the play suffer from hysteria in its most technical sense, something close to this does appear at the end of act 1 and again in act 3. In act 1, Betty Parris is described as "calling out hysterically" when she awakes. She, Abigail, and Tituba are all apparently enraptured and hysterical at this point, as they begin their accusations, though we may assume that Abigail, at any rate, is feigning her hysteria.

In act 3, Mary Warren is...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 821 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 12, 2019