Arthur Miller’s drama The Crucible gives insight into a tainted period of American history: the Salem witch trials. The historical incident took place in 1692 in Salem in Massachusetts. Miller took some dramatic license by combining characters in history to make the play more manageable for the stage production.
In essence, the story covers the aftermath of the Reverend Parris finding a group of girls led by a Black slave Tituba who assists the girls in dancing in the woods naked and trying to communicate with the devil and dead people. In addition, Tituba was teaching Abigail and Betty Parris about palmistry which is foretelling the future. This would have been a grievous crime to the Puritans.
Abigail Williams, Parris’ niece, becomes the leader of the accusers. It is at her whim that the girls’ have their fits and point out someone to be accused of witchery.
What binds the girls together in their actions?
The primary emotion that keeps the girls in tow is fear. Fear of what?
- The authorities
- The religious authorities
- Their parents
- The people of Salem
- Abigail Williams
- In the second scene of the play, Abigail threatens the others if they tell about the dancing in the woods.
Abigail: We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnams’ dead sisters. Let either of you breathe a word and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night, and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. I can make you wish you have never seen the sun go down…
Abigail is evil. She is willing to allow anyone to be hanged particularly the Proctors. Abigail drinks a blood potion to harm or even kill Elizabeth Proctor for turning Abigail out when she discovers the John and Abigail have an affair.
The girls know that if they are found to be worshipping the devil the punishment will be severe. To avoid any repercussions, the girls will randomly accuse people; their words will be accepted over the adults who try to prove their innocence.
Some of the girls may have enjoyed the attention which was given them when they were plagued by the spells. Many of the religious authorities firmly believed in witches and followed the behavior and actions of the girls with great curiosity.
In today’s world, it is easy to condemn the puritans for their foolishness in believing the girls. This was a different time and the presence of the devil was thought to be everywhere. The times were dark with the savage Indians on one hand and the devil lying in wait on his next victim.