The witch trials in the play The Crucible, take place in a setting of a deeply religious yet highly superstitious and easily deceived society. Being so superstitious, the characters believe in witchcraft. At the beginning of the play, teenage girls are seen dancing in the woods. They are immediately suspected of witchcraft. These suspicions lead to accusations among the townspeople, which lead to the witch trials.
However, there are many rivalries, jealousies, and feuds in the small town that do not pertain to religion or witchcraft. Many residents of Salem take advantage of the trials to express their hatred towards neighbors and enemies that they could not express before due to such a strict religious society. The trials were a way for the people of Salem to seek revenge on each other without contradicting the values of the religious society they lived in. Arthur Miller creates numerous motives and reasons for the characters to plot against each other and seek revenge.
Several characters find great profit in the chaos of the witch trials. One of these characters is Thomas Putnam, the richest and greediest man in town. By having his daughter, Ruth, accuse his neighbors of witchcraft, Putnam acquires more land and property. Putnam also accomplishes sweet revenge on the respectable Rebecca and Francis Nurse by using his daughter.
Francis Nurse and Thomas Putnam bitterly disputed a matter of land boundaries. The following is an example from the play about their disputes, Putnam: Why, we are surely gone wild this year. What anarchy is this? That tract is in my bounds, it s in my bounds, Mr. Proctor.
Proctor: In your bounds! Indicating Rebecca: I bought that tract from Goody Nurse s husband five months ago. Putnam: He had no right to sell it. It stands clear in my grandfather s will that all that land between the river and- Proctor: Your grandfather had a habit of willing land that never belonged to him, if I may say it plainly. (Miller 32). Adding to Putnam s motives, Francis belonged to the group that prevented Putnam's brother-in-law from winning the Salem ministry. Ruth and Mrs.
Putnam both made accusations about Goody Nurse... Thomas Putnam s little daughter was the one who fell into a fit at the hearing and pointed to Rebecca as her attacker. (Miller 26). When Rebecca is arrested she is charged with the marvelous and supernatural murder of Goody Putnam s babies. (Miller 71). However, Rebecca and Francis Nurse are not the only victims of the Putnam s greed.
Putnam also prompted his daughter to cry out against George Jacobs. Putnam s reason for this was that if Jacobs should hang, he would forfeit his property, and Putnam is the only person in Salem with money to purchase such a tract. Although Miller creates numerous acts of revenge, the central conflict of revenge is Abigail Williams and how she acquires revenge on Elizabeth and John Proctor. In the past when Elizabeth was sick and John was lonely, he had an affair with Abigail, who was their servant at the time.
Abigail is still infatuated with John, and while John still has some desire for Abigail, he can not go against his morals and make the same mistake twice. The following quote demonstrates John s feelings about Abigail, Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I ll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. (Miller 23). After the affair, Elizabeth immediately kicks Abigail out of their house and does not allow her to be their servant anymore.
Abigail is jealous of Elizabeth and is angry at Elizabeth for kicking her out of their house; for these reasons Abigail wants revenge on Elizabeth. The following quote is one example of how Abigail achieves revenge, You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor! (Miller 19). When drinking blood does not work, Abigail accuses Elizabeth of being a witch. The sequence of events following Elizabeth s arrest leads to Mary Warren accusing John of being a wizard and John being arrested. This is resolved at the end of the play when John Proctor gives his life rather than betray his reputation, neighbors, and friends. Miller is trying to make a larger point than revenge in the play.
His larger point has to do with the parallels of his play to the McCarthy era. The communist hunts and trials of the McCarthy Era were similar to the Salem witch trials that Miller writes about. In both cases the people being accused could drop their charges if they gave someone else s name and passed the blame on. Also in both cases the charges or accusations that were being made were in most cases not made on actual hard evidence, but sometimes on revenge.
The issue of revenge is relevant to today because it is a reoccurring issue that is still very present in today s society. An example of revenge in today s world is the 9/11 attacks on America and the resulting War on Iraq. Many other acts of terrorism are forms of revenge as well. The issue of revenge is important to life because life is way too short to waste all of it holding grudges and plotting revenge. Instead people should forgive and forget. Revenge is a vital issue to the play, as well as life today.
Without the alter motives and vengeance the play would not have been as compelling.