Witch Hunt Structured Essay Assignment

Posted on 19/03/2011


During the late 17th Century in Massachusetts Bay British Colony, mass hysteria broke out due to fear of the practice of witchcraft in America. This led to a major effort by the magistrates to hunt out suspected witches. By 1692 twenty people were executed and at least 150 other were jailed.

In the Massachusetts Bay Colony people were considered witches for several reasons. These include the accused not being able to recite the Lord’s Prayer accurately, having marks on the body, or spectral evidence, which is evidence that cannot be seen or only seen in dreams or visions. In other words if the accused could not recite the lords prayer, they would be punished even if the accused cannot speak English properly because he/she is not born in the country or he/she is illiterate.

If someone was determined a witch due to spectral evidence, the individual asked to confess to serving the devil. If the person confessed and provided names of other suspected witches, he or she was not punished Those who refused to confess or refused to name names were punished by hanging in front of a group of people, pressed to death such as putting blocks of stones until the accused confesses, or jailed if the accused confessed and said names of other witches.

One of the accused witches was Tituba. Tituba was a slave of Samuel Parris of Salem, Massachusetts. She is a very helpful, caring slave who tried to solve the witch bewitching the children. When Tituba was accused, she first denied about bewitching the girls but then she instantly confessed of having seen the Devil. In her confession, she mentioned other two females who used witchcraft and talked about black dogs, a yellow bird, red and black rats, a wolf, and hogs. Tituba was the first to confessed among the others who were accused. Her confession led her to go to jail instead of being hung. After getting out of jail, she was nowhere to be found.

On May 27, 1692 a special court session was held to try the accused witches. On of the accused witches was Giles Corey who refused to deny or confess about witchcraft, which led him to being pressed to death by blocks of stones. Another who was accused was George Barrough, a preacher who wouldn’t confessed to being a witch and at the time of getting hanged, he recited the Lord’s prayer accurately where the people watching were shocked but Cotton Mather insisted to still kill George Barrough. Bridget Bishop was another person who was accused because she was in someone’s dream where she attacked him or her or sat on him or her. Bridget was accused twelve years before and was found innocent but this time, she was accused by a few men and was executed because she refused to confess. The inequality of the system affected the accused due to the fact that they have no choice, it was either confess or get killed. Some of the inequalities of the system are; the accused are guilty until proven innocent, spectral evidence is allowed, and if one is accused, they were believed to be guilty because of witchcraft. Although, the accused were allowed to act out because they have no representatives, and they were allowed to use their religious beliefs as a system to justify their decision even when judges think they are automatically lying.

This dark event in American history became the subject of Arthur Miller’s 1953 play, The Crucible. The playwright used the play as a way of attacking the anti-communists “witch hunts” in Congress in 1950. Miller believed that the delirium of the witchcraft trials in Puritan New England, which paralleled McCarthyism, which was about Senator Joseph McCarthy’s research to look deeper into the Communist party. During the production of The Crucible, Miller was considered to be a part of the Communist Party because of the actions taken and the activities he took part in.  Although he was never a part of the Communist party, he was found guilty due to his refusal of talking about his experiences, colleagues, and associates. This connects to the witchcraft trials in 1692 because if the accused refused to confess, he or she is found guilty.

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