Salem Witch Trials
Superstition and witchcraft resulted in many being hanged or
in prison. In the seventeenth century, a belief in witches and
witchcraft was almost universal. In Salem Massachusetts where the
witch trials take place many people who are suspicious is accused of
witchcraft and hanged. Arthur Miller wrote a play called The Crucible.
It is based on the Salem witch trials. The Salem witch trials change
many peoples lives and even led to death for some. The power of
superstition and hearsay can distort from the truth.
Four ministers of Salem joined Matther, and they spent a whole
day in the house of the afflicted in fasting and prayer. The result
of which was the delivery of one of the family from the power of the
witch. A niece and daughter of the parish minister at Danvers were
first afflicted. Their actions frightened other young people, who soon
showed the same symptoms, such as loss of appetite and sickness. A
belief quickly spread over Salem and throughout the state that evil
spirits are being seen in Salem. Terror took possession of the minds
of nearly all the people, and the dread made the affliction spread
widely. "The afflicted, under the influence of the witchery, "admitted
to see the forms of their tormentors with their inner vision" (Miller
1082). and would immediately accuse some individual seen with the
devil. At times the afflicted and the accused became so numerous that
no one was safe from suspicion and its consequences. Even those who
were active in the prosecutions became objects of suspicion.
Revenge often impelled persons to accuse others who were
innocent and when some statement of the accused would move the court
and audience in favor of the prisoner. "I saw Goody Osborn with the
devil" (Miller 1060). The accuser would declare that they saw the
devil standing beside the victim whispering the words in his or her
ear. The absurd statement would be believed by the judges. Some,
terrified and with the hope of saving their lives or avoiding the
horrors of imprisonment, would falsely accuse their friends and
relatives, while others moved by the same hopes, would falsely confess
themselves to be witches. Many of the accusers and witnesses came
forward and published denials of the truth of their testimony, to save
their own lives. Mr. Paris in the Danver family, who was one of the
most strong prosecutors of alleged witches, was compelled to
resign his charge and leave the country.
The acknowledgments of error and pleadings for mercy, could
not restore the spirits of those who are hanged, nor make changes for
the pains' others had suffered. The trick had prevailed in greatest
desire more than six months, and it was not decreasing for more than a
year. During that time nineteen had been hanged, and Corey Giles who
is killed by the horrid process of pressing to death with stones
because he would say if was guilty or innocent. He continued to say
"more weight" (Miller 1113); until he died. In doing so, his family
could keep his land. Others had been tortured or frightened into a
confession of guilt or imprisoned.
As one can see the power of superstition and the hearsay can
distort the truth. The Salem witch trials were horrifying and it
changes many peoples lives. The belief in witches did not end with the
strange excitement. This strange episode in the history of
Massachusetts astonished the civilized world, and made an unfavorable
impression on others.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. Ellen Bowler. ed. et al.
Literature the American Experiance. Englewood cliffs:
Prentice Hall, 1994.