The Salem Witch Trials

This is a short message for my Higher/ Int 2 class.

We are moving on to look at a play called “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller. The play focuses on a famous seventeenth century hysteria from the United States, the Salem Witch Trials.

In 1692, a small village in Massachusetts was whipped into a hysteria based on the accusations of witchcraft made by a group of teenage girls. The way in which the accusations, insinuations and local rivalries and grievances coalesced into such hysteria (ultimately leading to nineteen hangings) has become a famous cautionary tale.

Miller used the trials to make a comparison with the anti-communist investigations of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, where many individuals were convicted of so-called “un-American” activities, based on little or no real evidence.

The original 1692 trials, I think, are a fascinating demonstration of what happens when proper, considered legal process is abandoned by a social group, and superstition and personal grievances take control.

As such, I would strongly recommend you have a look at some of the following books. Speak to our excellent librarians and see if they can order texts in for you. A broader understanding of the events themselves will put you in a far stronger position when it comes to looking at the drama. You will also find them entrancingly interesting. Dare I say it, “bewitching”? (-groan-)

Worth a look

The Afflicted Girls by Suzy Witten
Justice at Salem by William Cooke
The Salem Witch Trials Reader by Francis Hill
Death in Salem by Diane Foulds
A Fever in Salem by Laurie Carlson
Hunting for Witches by Francis Hill

There are hundreds of books on the subject, so please have a look for some extra reading – it is GUARANTEED to improve your understanding of the play.

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