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The Historical Background to the Crucible

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Introduction 'Thus stands the cause between God and us; we are entered into covenant with Him for this work; we have taken out a commission; the Lord hath given us leave to draw our own articles . . . Now if the Lord shall be pleased to hear us and bring us in peace to the place we desire, then hath He ratified this covenant and sealed our Commission, [and] will expect a strict performance of the articles contained in it.' This was the speech given by the governor John Winthrop in is sermon aboard 'The Arbella', shortly before the colonist landed in Massachusetts Bay; and the case by which the Puritans led their lives. The Puritans were descendants of the Church of England, who left England and sought to purify the catholic ways. Puritans were extraordinarily firm, and held a set of rules to which everyone was to abide by. Pleasures and fun such as singing and dancing were forbidden, yet they believed they were better than everyone else. Puritans constantly lived in fear of the outside world's influence on their ways of life; it was partially due to these factors that the girls' stories were believed. There was an era of witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, the result of child play with 'supernatural forces'. Puritans believed it was essential to believe in and be wary of the Devil and his 'agents'. Thus, the belief of unnatural activities was not unusual. ...read more.


Many others had disputes over the ownership of land, mostly the wealthy landowners looking to expand territory. All of this acrimony contributed to the girls' stories being believed; because people wanted to victimise others out of spite; the citizens were awfully malicious and sadistic. Part 3 The Salem society was also very oppressive. They had many rules, and those who broke them were liable to face severe punishment, possibly even death. One of these rules was based around the forbiddance of pleasure and fun, including activities such as singing and dancing. Though not in this category, the casting of spell and spirits was also strictly forbidden. Anyone found doing so would be accused of being a witch. Thus, when the girls were caught by Reverend Parris, dancing and conjuring spirits, they were all terrified of the punishments that awaited them - they were adamant that Parris would not hesitate to report the incident to the authorities, as he was a man of the Church who believed in honesty; a reverend in fact. When questioned, they did not think twice about lying and blaming others for their deeds. As Abigail Williams seemed to be the group ringleader, she made the first moves, and the rest followed like a flock of sheep. For example, at the end of act one, Abigail realises that Tituba has been forgiven for confessing her sin and giving the names of 'witches' - members of Salem, so she progresses to do the same. ...read more.


Most people were willing to believe that the girls were conjured to cast spirits because of the known results, and the opinion that young girls would not voluntarily take part in such activities. Also, the circumstances in Salem aided people to take vengeance over enemies. People would give names of those who were despised, and accuse them of witchcraft or sending out the spirit. The same would happen if someone was accused. They would confess to the lie to obtain 'forgiveness' from the town, and supposedly from God, then give the names of the hated. Sinners would also use witchcraft as an excuse to explain their own mistakes. As the witch-trials continued, the integrity of the townsfolk decreased to the point where everyone knew that a huge mistake had been made. But still, pride prevented them from attempting to put right the many wrongs that had been made. By this time, it was too late. Seventy-two people had already been arrested, and several people had been hung. Circumstances, and factors are crucial towards the belief of anything, as the play shows, and only common sense, or raw, primary sources can be used to alter outcomes. On the whole, the girls were believed because they created such a convincing false reality. The oppressiveness of the village aided the success of their pretence because their actions were seen to be too dangerous for the girls to have wished to participate in. Also, the truth was probably obtained halfway through the trauma, but pride prevented the release of information. The girls used these factors to their advantage, and gained what they originally sought, secrecy. ...read more.

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