Who Are Most Responsible for the Hysteria in The Crucible?
Mass hysteria is anything but harmless as shown in Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible. In this story the town of Salem, Massachusetts is hit with a wave of mass hysteria and panic due to rumors of witchcraft spread by many people of Salem, but some are more responsible for the disaster than others. Those who are most responsible for the hysteria that ravaged the town of Salem are Abigale Williams, Reverend Hales, and Judge Danforth.
Abigale uses her own cunning to outsmart the people of Salem and trick them into a mass panic, “I danced for the Devil; I saw him; I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil! (Act 1 1053-1056) This shows that Abigale falsely confesses to witchcraft and accuses others of being with the devil just to get herself out of trouble, in turn causing the first bit of hysteria in Salem. She also uses others to further the state of hysteria in Salem, “Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will leave you shuddering.”(Act 1 353-360) This shows that she influences others through threats to go along with her lies furthering the hysteria in Salem. She goes through the greatest lengths just to keep the ruse going and keep herself looking innocent, “The girl, the Williams girl, Abigail Williams, sir. She sat to dinner in
Reverend Parris’s house tonight, and without word nor warnin’ she falls to the floor. Like a struck beast, he says, and screamed a scream that a bull would weep to hear. And he goes to save her, and, stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly, he draws a needle out. And demandin’ of her how she come to be so stabbed, she (to Proctor now) testify it were your wife’s familiar spirit7 pushed it in. (Act 2 799-808) This shows that Abigale will do anything including harming herself and playing the victim just to further the hysteria in Salem and to keep herself looking innocent.
Reverend Hale Unintentionally causes hysteria simply by conducting research and doing his job, “Aye, we’ll discuss it. (to all) Now mark me, if the Devil is in her you will witness some frightful wonders in this room, so please to keep your wits about you. Mr. Putnam stand close in case she flies”. (Act 1, 832-835) This shows that by Reverend Hale saying that the girl might fly spreads the theory of witchcraft through Salem. Reverend Hale is also responsible for some of the people falsely confessing to witchcraft, “I have no power on this child, sir. You most certainly do, and you will free her from it now! When did you compact with the Devil?” (Act 1, 937-939) This shows that reverend Hale pressures people into confessing to witchcraft and seeing the Devil even when they really haven’t, resulting in the hysteria growing because of more and more people confessing and seemingly confirming other people’s suspicions. Hale is also directly responsible for people being imprisoned, “Let the marshal bring irons!” (Act 1, 1072) This shows that Hale, being taken by the hysteria, believes that some people of Salem really are witches and has them arrested for their supposed crimes.”
Judge Danforth causes hysteria and overall chaos by being stubborn, and not admitting his mistakes, “I cannot pardon these when twelve are already hanged for the same crime. It is not just.” (Act 4 246-248) This shows that Danforth would rather let innocent people hang then admit his mistakes, this adds to the hysteria because since the hangings are continuing people really think that those who hung really were witches otherwise, they wouldn’t be hanging. Danforth also adds to the overall chaos as since he is the one that orders the hangings, “Goody Proctor, you are not summoned here for disputation. Be there no wifely Tenderness within you? He will die with the sunrise.” (Act 4 368-370) This shows that Danforth adds to the confusing chaos in Salem since he is about to hang another innocent man. Danforth is also very incompetent, and this proves to be fatal for some, “Is that document a lie? If it is a lie, I will not accept it! What say you? I will not deal in lies, Mister! (Proctor is motionless.) You will give me your honest confession in my hand, or I cannot keep you from the rope. (Proctor does not reply.) Which way do you go, Mister? (Act 4 732-737) This shows that Danforth adds to the hysteria by trying to make proctor sign his name on the document that will slander his name forever by claiming he has confessed but since he refuses to sign, trying to keep his good name, he will now hang for it.
By the end of author Miller’s story, it is clear that Abigale Williams, Reverend Hale, and Judge Danforth are most responsible for the mass hysteria and chaos in Salem, while some unintentionally and deliberately these characters are most definitely the culprits for the wave of mass hysteria and chaos that that swept through the town of Salem, Massachusetts.