Salem was a theocracy. What are the implications of this in the drama?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One critical element that is brought out about the theocracy of Salem is the lack of institutional checks to its power.  Essentially, the theocracy enabled spiritual and political ends to be merged into one entity.  This meant that legal proceedings were guided by spiritual constructs.  It is here where the greatest challenge lies.  In legal proceedings, the question of guilt is substantiated by the meeting of an evidential burden as well as a presumption of innocence in which an accused individual is proven guilty or not guilty.  This flies in the face of spiritual purity, where one is seen in the construction of either "saint" or "sinner."  The theocratic political setting created a condition where spiritual pursuits, as part of the theocratic ruling order, flew in direct opposition of the legal ends.  It is for this reason that the theocracy was exposed as insufficient during the trials, and also part of the alluded reason why people in Andover turned against the trials.  The implications of the theocracy ended up displaying how the legal pursuit of justice is near impossible, and part of the reason why the theocracy in Massachusetts never quite retained its hold on American political society again.

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