In act 3 of The Crucible, what is an example of mass hysteria, fear, and guilt?

Examples of mass hysteria, fear, and guilt in act 3 of The Crucible include the response Abigail gets when she points to an imaginary yellow bird. The girls whimper and the men become frightened in an example of mass hysteria and fear. Giles displays guilt, as he feels responsible for his wife being accused of witchcraft. He pleads with Danforth and “is openly weeping.” Mary Warren fears that Abigail will harm her and recants her deposition.

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Act 3 of The Crucible is the scene in the courtroom when the judge is hearing testimony from different witnesses and deciding whether to admit Mary Warren’s deposition. There are examples of mass hysteria, fear, and guilt. The fact that the girls have whipped the entire town up into a frenzy about witches is one example of mass hysteria. Within the scene, when Abigail points to an imaginary yellow bird flying overhead and whips the other girls into a near trance, this is an example of mass hysteria induced by Abigail’s lies.

But Abigail, pointing with fear, is now raising up her frightened eyes, her awed face, toward the ceiling—the girls are doing the same.

The girls and she are all whimpering and staring at the ceiling where they claim the imaginary bird is hiding. The girls might be pretending. They probably are, but it is also possible that they have almost come under a spell that Abigail casts.

Regardless of the girls' motivation, it is clear that Abigail is able to strike fear in the men in the courtroom, which is an example of mass hysteria and fear. Miller notes that “Hawthorne, Hale, Putnam, Cheever, Herrick, and Danforth do the same.” In other words, they follow Abigail’s eyes and stare at the ceiling. Although they do not see the bird, they become frightened as well.

Giles provides an example of guilt, as we can see through his pleadings with the judge and the court. He feels responsible for his wife being arrested and accused of being witch because he questioned why she spent so much time reading. Sobbing, he tells Danforth that

It is my third wife, sir; I never had no wife that be so taken with books, and I thought to find the cause of it.

However, he prevails on the judge to recognize that his wife is not a witch. Then, he “is openly weeping” over his guilt for having brought this situation on her.

Mary Warren provides an example of fear. She wants to tell the truth and has sworn out a deposition denying her earlier accusations. However, when Abigail and the other girls stand together firmly against her, she becomes fearful and reverts back to stand with them. In response to Mary Warren, Abigail looks about and begins "clasping her arms about her as though cold." She says,

—I know not. A wind, a cold wind, has come. Her eyes fall on Mary Warren.

Mary Warren, terrified, pleading: Abby!

Mercy Lewis, shivering: Your Honor, I freeze!

After this trickery from Abigail and Mercy Lewis following suit, Mary Warren recants her deposition in fear for her own life, knowing the harm that Abigail could cause her.

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In reference to hysteria, when Deputy Governor Danforth and Judge Hathorne request that Mary Warren faint on command to prove that she can actually do so, and there were no loose spirits that prompted her before, she cannot. She says, "I—have no sense of it now, I . . ." She cannot faint on cue now because she is not suffering under the effects of the mass hysteria prompted by Abigail's leadership as she was then. Mary continues, "I—I heard the other girls screaming, and you, Your Honor, you seemed to believe them, and I—It were only sport in the beginning, sir, but then the whole world cried spirits, spirits . . ." We see that it was the effects of hysteria that prompted Mary to think she felt bewitched, but—as the hysteria has passed for now—she can no longer produce the same behaviors she did then.

Regarding fear, Danforth tells Reverend Hale that "No uncorrupted man may fear this court, Mr. Hale! None!" He believes that the residents of Salem have nothing to fear if they have nothing to hide. If, on the other hand, they do fear the court, then it must mean that they are afraid the court will find out about their corruption.  

We see a good example of guilt when Giles Corey speaks with Danforth about his wife, Martha, against whom Giles actually provided evidence. He says, "I have broke charity with the woman, I have broke charity with her." He told officials that she read a lot of strange books, and she ended up being arrested and condemned for witchcraft. Giles clearly feels very guilty about the role he played in her fate. Later, when Giles refuses to name the man who heard Thomas Putnam talk about the gift of land her daughter gave him when she accused George Jacobs, he tells Danforth, "I will not give you no name. I mentioned my wife's name once and I'll burn in hell long enough for that. I stand mute." Again, we see his guilt over his wife's fate and his role in it.

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Mass hysteria. The girl's behavior in the courtroom when they are accusing the townspeople of witchcraft represents  the psychological phenomena of mass hysteria. For example, mass hysteria can be seen when Abigail and the other girls begin repeating what Mary Warren says and pretending to feel a cold wind in the air.

Applicable quote: "Mary Warren: I-I cannot tell how, but I did. I-I heard the other girls screaming, and you, Your Honor, you seemed to believe them, and I- It were only sport in the beginning, sir, but then the whole world cried spirits, spirits, and I- I promise you, Mr. Danforth, I only thought I saw them but I did not." - Act 3

Fear. One example of the power of fear in The Crucible is where Abigail becomes almost like a saint in the community. She uses fear of accusation of witchcraft to build her reputation.

Applicable Quote: "Elizabeth: The Deputy Governor promise hangin' if they'll not confess, John. The Town's gone wild, I think. She speak of Abigail , and I thought she were a saint, to hear her. Abigail brings the other girls into the court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel." - Act 2

Guilt. The most recognizable guilt in The Crucible is from John Proctor concerning his affair with Abigail. When discussing the affair with his wife, Proctor reveals his guilt and that he is pricked constantly by his conscience.

Applicable Quote: "Elizabeth: "The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you." - Act 2

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