The Power Of Hysteria In Arthur Miller's The Crucible

Hysteria is uncontrollable and often exaggerated feelings that control groups of people for reasons that most often stem from fear. The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, which is set in the Puritan town of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 depicts the story of the Salem Witch Hunts, a wave of hysteria that spread through the town. It exposes the power of an individual to influence and change society, such as the character Abigail Williams who is the most well-known accuser in the story and John Proctor who acts against the court in order to try to bring rational thinking to the society. The characters of the play are motivated by fear, jealousy, and desire for power or revenge which is only accelerated by the society’s willingness to go with it. …show more content…
Because of the strict religious views of the Puritans, there was suspicion between all of the people and a strong base of fear of the Devil, God, and going to Hell. In The Crucible, Abigail Williams is the leader of a group of girls who accuse many of the women in Salem of working with the Devil. As seen in Abigail’s line, “Let you beware, Mr. Danforth. Think you to be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits? Beware of it!” she accuses even those in the high court of being disloyal to God (108). She recognizes that the worst thing to happen at this time is to be accused of consorting with the Devil, and uses this to her advantage by bringing it up in order to get her way. By creating the fear in people that they too might be charged for witchcraft, since the consequences are so severe, Abigail is able to convince people to go along with or support her claims. She and her following of young girls use fits of screaming and fainting to gain attention and create an attacker and victim setting. While Marry Warren is in court testifying against Abigail and claiming the whole thing was false, she is asked to faint in order to prove that she was merely acting. When she cannot do this, Hathorne questions her and she states, “I - I cannot tell how, but I did. I - I heard the other girls screaming, and you, Your …show more content…
It is shown that in The Crucible, an individual such as Abigail Williams is able to bring the entire town of Salem, Massachusetts into a wave of hysteria and fear by accusing people of working with the Devil. She able to gather a following of believers who assist her in convincing the court of peoples’ guilt. The many accusers of the play are motivated by feelings of anger, fear, and resentment for each other and only work to strengthen the fear that has spread through the village. The underlying motivations and influences that individuals have is important in being able to understand the events that took place in the play as well as in history. It goes to represent the power a person can achieve especially when playing off of fear and in extreme cases such as the Witch Trials, can cause mass

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