Examples Of Hysteria In The Crucible

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Paranoia and Hysteria in The Crucible Society is a fragile thing. As history has proved time and time again, when emotions run high amongst people, societal order is often the first thing to dissolve. In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the society of Salem, Massachusetts collapses due to the paranoia and hysteria generated by the witch hunts. The Crucible is set against the backdrop of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Salem was a colony in Massachusetts and its government was structured as a theocracy. According to dictionary.com, the official definition of theocracy is “A form of government under which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, the God’s or deity’s laws being interpreted by ecclesiastical authority.” The purpose …show more content…

When Abigail Williams, another girl from the town, claims that Betty is ill because she and a few other girls from the town went with the slave Tituba into the forest to dance and summon spirits, the girls begin accusing others of witchcraft. The curtain falls on act one as more and more people are accused of being witches. For the next three acts, citizens of Salem are being accused of witchcraft in droves and are imprisoned and tried. In the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition of The Crucible, readers are told that “the village caesed to operate. The trials took precedence over all other activities” (Bigsby, xv). This is certainly seen in The Crucible, especially in acts three and four, which take place exclusively in a courtroom and a prison cell. The trials show no signs of stopping as panic grips the town. The contagious nature of the hysteria is exemplified in the following stage directions found in act three: “She [Abigail] and all the girls run to one wall, shielding their eyes. And now, as though cornered, they let out a gigantic scream, and Mary, as though infected, opens her mouth, and screams with them. Gradually Abigail and the girls leave off, until only Mary is left there, staring up at the “bird”, screaming madly” (109). This scene exists as a microcosm as to what is occurring in Salem as a whole—everyone succumbing to general

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