Crucible Is Not History

The Crucible: dance scene

The reinvigoration of still extant pagan practices brought about by a Renaissance revival caused a real “witchcraft” problem. The situation is complex, not so simple as portrayed in a good play but bad history, The Crucible, by Arthur Miller. (Background: Graven Images of Giordano Bruno, Ersjdamoo’s Blog, May 13, 2015.)

Arthur Miller was wrong about some of his facts. For instance, in the 1996 movie version, The Crucible, there is (in the clip hopefully viewable at top) a scene where the African Tituba leads a Voodoo ceremony in the forest. In fact, however, Tituba was Indian, not African, and “if she used any ritual or folk magic at all she learned the practices from her English neighbors and owners.” [1]

Not only was Tituba an Indian, there wasn’t even any wild dancing rite in the woods led by her! Tituba and her husband, John Indian (absent in Arthur Miller’s telling), were asked by a neighbor, Mary Sibley, to bake a special “witch cake,” — made of rye and the girls’ urine, fed to a dog — European white magic to ascertain who the “witch” was who was afflicting the girls. [2]

A splendid critique of Arthur Miller’s misleading “history”, by Margo Burns, an academic historian, is currently available at this link: http://www.17thc.us/docs/fact-fiction.shtml. Among the glaring historical errors found by Burns in The Crucible

  • Miller admits in the introduction to the play that he boosted Abigail Williams’ age to 17 even though the real girl was only 11, but he never mentions that John Proctor was 60 and Elizabeth, 41, was his third wife. Proctor was not a farmer but a tavern keeper.
  • The first two girls to become afflicted were Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, and they had violent, physical fits, not a sleep that they could not wake from.
  • Reverend Hale would not have signed any “death warrants,” as he claims to have signed 17 in the play. That was not for the clergy to do.
  • The hysteria did not die out “as more and more people refused to save themselves by giving false confessions,” as the epilogue of the 1996 movie states. The opposite was true: more and more people were giving false confessions and four women actually pled guilty to the charges.
  • Certain key people in the real events appear nowhere in Miller’s play: John Indian, Rev. Nicholas Noyes, Sarah Cloyce, and most notably, Cotton Mather.
  • “The afflicted” comprised not just a group of a dozen teenage girls — there were men and adult women who were also “afflicted,” including John Indian, Ann Putnam, Sr., and Sarah Bibber — and there were more in Andover, where the total number of people accused was greater than any other town, including Salem Village.

The strange events in and around Salem, Massachusetts circa 1692 appear more clearly in light of a more recent event. On October 11, 1925, the UK Sunday Express carried a report with this headline: “Evil Spirit Haunts a Girl.” 19-year-old Gwynneth Morley had been haunted for 12 months by a “mischievous spirit” – a poltergeist – driven almost to a state of distraction, threatened with a lunatic asylum, and finally cured by the help of a band of spirit Indians. The case drew the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous as the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Through Doyle’s influence, the 19-year-old Morley was brought to London for psychic treatment. The mediumship of a Mrs. Barkel is credited for the apparent cure of Gwynneth Morley. [3]

MYTH: No witchcraft was practiced in Massachusetts.
FACT: Witchcraft was widely practiced in 17th century New England.

MYTH: The behavior of the afflicted girls at Salem was a fraudulent conspiracy.
FACT: The afflicted persons at least suffered from “genuine pathological hysteria.”

MYTH: The afflicted persons were encouraged by the clergy, especially Cotton Mather. The ministers whipped up a mass hysteria.
FACT: The clergy were, from beginning to end, wary of what was happening. Cotton Mather “was a model of restraint and caution…” [4]

——- Sources ——-
[1] Aronson, Marc. Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Atheneum Books, 2003.
[2] “Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: Fact & Fiction (or Picky, Picky, Picky…)”, by Margo Burns. Revised: 10/18/12. http://www.17thc.us/docs/fact-fiction.shtml
[3] Gwynneth Morley case described in: Summers, Montague. The History of Witchcraft and Demonology. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2007. (Originally published 1926).
[4] Hansen, Chadwick. Witchcraft at Salem. New York: George Braziller, 1969.

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About ersjdamoo

Editor of Conspiracy Nation, later renamed Melchizedek Communique. Close associate of the late Sherman H. Skolnick. Jack of all trades, master of none. Sagittarius, with Sagittarius rising. I'm not a bum, I'm a philosopher.
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