3 Nov 2023
The Crucible (1996) Continued
Just the Hosts
It's February 1692 and a mysterious illness has befallen two young girls in Salem, Massachusetts. Eleven-year-old Abigail Williams and nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris have been having violent fits, and bouts of catatonia. A doctor declares the cause: Witchcraft! Three women of low social standing are accused. But it is not long before the accusations start to spread. Paranoia overtakes the community. Witches are seen everywhere. Over 150 people are accused, and 25 dead before this infamous witch-hunt finally comes to an end. How could this all have gotten so out of hand? Was it all superstitious nonsense run wild, or does this episode carry important lessons for us today?
Join us in this second and final part of our 2023 Halloween Special as we explore the historical backdrop to Arthur Miller's The Crucible (1996).
If you haven't yet listened to our first episode on The Crucible & McCarthyism, we suggest you do so first.
Witch Hunt -
The searching out and persecution of people accused of witchcraft.
Used colloquially to refer to a similar search for and persecution of people thought to hold subversive or unpopular views.
“In times of uncertainty and upheaval witchcraft accusations would increase, and so there were often more witchcraft accusations during times of war and famine. General fears of witchcraft within society could also feed into specific accusations that originated within local community so that somebody disliked by their neighbours might be more vulnerable to being accused.”
Spectral Evidence -
"Spectral evidence refers to a witness testimony that the accused person's spirit or spectral shape appeared to him/her witness in a dream at the time the accused person's physical body was at another location. It was accepted in the courts during the Salem Witch Trials. The evidence was accepted on the basis that the devil and his minions were powerful enough to send their spirits, or specters, to pure, religious people in order to lead them astray." via USLegal.com
A festival associated with chocolate, pumpkins, and costumes (or, fancy dress). But also with darkness, the dead, and general spookiness. There are many various names for similar festivals observed in different cultures around the world, with roots in Celtic practices, Catholic traditions, and perhaps a little devilry.
Learn more about the origins of Halloween and it's connection to Christianity:
Arthur Miller, "Why I Wrote The Crucible", The New Yorker (21 Oct 1996), pp. 158-164.
Arthur Miller, "Are You Now Or Were You Ever?" The Guardian/The Observer (Saturday, June 17, 2000).
Gerald Weales, ed. Arthur Miller: The Crucible: Text and Criticism. New York: Viking, 1971.
For an overview on the Salem witch trials: You can read a brief history by Jess Blumberg for Smithsonian Magazine; You can find a brief overview with links to learn more at The Library of Congress or The Salem Witch Museum; The University of Virginia has collated a documentary archive of the trials freely available online; finally, JStor daily has a short article on, "What Caused the Salem Witch Trials?" with further reading suggestions.
You can read William Good's letter requesting compensation for the death of his wife, Sarah, and their infant child, HERE.
On Tituba: Start with Chadwick Hansen's excellent article for The New England Quarterly, "The Metamorphosis of Tituba"; read Robert Calif's interview with Tituba in More Wonders of the Invisible World; check out also, Stacy Schiff's article, "Unraveling the Many Mysteries of Tituba" and Bernard Rosenthal's article "Tituba's Story".
On the history of witch-hunts more broadly see: English Heritage's handy rundown of Eight Myths and Misconceptions about witchcraft; The University of Aberdeen's online exhibition on Witchcraft in Scotland; The Library of Congress's research guide on Witch Trials & Witchcraft (specifically related to it's impact on women in France); The National Archives's (UK) research guide on Early Modern Witch Trials; and You're Dead to Me's episode on The Witch Craze, with Prof. Suzannah Lipscomb.
On the legal aspects of witch-hunts and witch trials: Read the full text of The 1604 Act Against Witchcraft; Check out the UK parliamentary archives' helpful article, "Which Witch(craft Act) is Which?"; explore The University of Chicago's legal resources on the Salem Witch Trials; watch Berkley Law's video exhibition on Witch Trials in Early Modern Europe and New England; read the formative witch hunting guide, Malleus Maleficarum (1486) - the second-best selling book of all time!
You can learn more about Spectral Evidence at the Salem Witch Museum, and read New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Chuck Douglas' dissenting opinion in New Hampshire v. Frank W. Dustin (1982), in which he addresses spectral evidence, HERE.
On Jews, Antisemitism, and Witches: Watch a Voice's Against Injustice lecture on "Witch Trials and Antisemitism: A Surprisingly Tangled History"; read Yvonne Owens' article, "The Saturnine History of Jews and Witches"; read Naomi Lubrich's article, "The Wandering Hat: Iterations of the Medieval Jewish Pointed Cap" about the links between the Judenhutt (a pointed hat Jewish men in German-speaking regions were required to wear) and the pointed witch's hat.
On Magic: In our episode we quote from Shaley Patel, in her article, "Is Magic Immoral?" - this is a great introduction into the topic of magic and religion. You can also check out Joe's own scholarship on the topic in his article, co-authored with Ellena Lyell, "Uncovering the Dead, Dethroning the King: Divine Embodiment in 1 Samuel 28:14".