The history of Salem, a small town in Massachusetts America, has forever been scarred with hysteria lies and murder, all brought about by the fanatical beliefs of an extreme puritan society filled with idealist conforms and rigid rules. The year of 1692 played host to many strange events, which in turn led to many horrendous unlawful deaths. These events all revolved around witchcraft and the hysteria brought about by the fear of it. Hysteria is defined as a crazed state of violent mental agitation, a nervous affliction occurring almost exclusively in women.
How much was hysteria to blame for the violent events of 1692? Famous Author and play write, Arthur Miller, responsible for the creation of the world renowned play ‘The Crucible’ characterized and dramatised the events of 1692. We can use this play to apply a realistic lifelike account of 1692’s events and help us to find how much these events can be blamed on hysteria. The beginning of The Crucible opens with a scene in which Betty, the young daughter of the Reverend Parris, is lying lifeless in what seems to be a self induced coma.
At this stage it is hard to determine whether the coma’s cause is in-fact the physical effects of hysteria or just Betty’s way of escaping from the consequences of her actions. Nevertheless the coma was brought about by the events which had taken place in the woods the previous day, in which the girls jokingly dabbled with the supernatural then ran and danced naked. These acts were harshly forbidden in a strict Puritan community where whitchcraft and ‘pacts with the devil’ were punishable by death. Adopted cousin of Betty, Abigail Williams, was with the girls when they were discovered dancing naked and practising demonic acts.
Abigail could be largely to blame for the harrowing acts of 1692, catalysing the hysteria and condemning innocent people to death, heartlessly. To save her own back Abigail begins to lie and worm herself out of trouble “No one was naked! You mistake yourself, uncle! ” Knowing what it would result in if people were to know the girls danced naked Abigail lies, convincingly, even persuading Reverend Parris who saw the events to disbelieve his own eyes, proving her skills as a manipulating liar to be unrivalled.
Once the adults leave and the girls are alone with Betty she ‘awakes’ and the truth begins to come out, behaving erratically with hysteria betty “darts of the bed” in fright of Abigail and cries for her “mama” worried of what Betty is saying and what is being heard by others, Abigail hits her across the face and violently threatens her “I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you” feeling the need to prove her psychotic threat Abigail tells Betty “… you know I can do it: I saw Indians smash my dear parent’s heads on the pillow next to mine”.