The Salem
Witch
Trials
& The
Crucible
Daily Life in Salem, Massachusetts
• 550 people, 90 houses, 20 square miles
• Most people were poor & uneducated
• Most families had to support themselves: making
their own clothes, planting vegetables, raising
meat
• Farming was often a painstaking task in the harsh
climate and rough, rocky terrain
• Endured many trials and
• tribulations:
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cold winters,
disease
insect infestations
fires
pirate & Indian attacks
Belief in the Devil/Witches
• People saw the Devil lurking behind
every misfortune
• Believed that the Devil was a real,
live enemy
• Believed the Devil’s helpers were
witches
• Believed that their hardships were
the work of the Devil as a punishment
from God
• Witchcraft was a believable
occurrence
• Witchcraft was a felony and
punishable by death
Salem’s Religion
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Most people were Puritans
– Members of a religious group who
left England to escape religious
persecution
Believed in predestination or “fate”
Believed if sinners asked for
forgiveness that they would be forgiven
Believed all people were born sinful
Men & women sat on opposite sides of
church
ALL daily activities were dictated by the
Church
Behaviors and Beliefs
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Believed that Puritanism was the “right” and
only way to live
Believed sickness and failed crops were a
sign of God and, therefore, would not help
their fellow men
Had to wear dark colors/plain clothing at all
times
Children were always expected to behave
as adults
Children did not “play” since toys & games
were seen as sinful distractions
All signs of emotion for all ages were
punished
Most were illiterate but those who did learn
to read only read the Bible or other religious
works
Salem Government & Laws
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America was still under British rule/laws
Salem was theocracy (combined church &
state power) which meant religion could
overtake government
In order to be a judge and determine the fate
of “criminals,” one did NOT need any legal
background whatsoever
Against the law to NOT attend church
Falling asleep in church or stealing food were
punishable in the same way
The Salem Witch Trials
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In 1692, 24 innocent people were killed after
being accused of witchcraft and over 150 were
jailed in Salem, Massachusetts
There was no “real” evidence against witches,
only “spectral” evidence which could be made
up by anyone
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A “Spectre” is the active agent of a live witch who
could toture live humans
A ghost is the active agent of a dead person
People accused their neighbors, most often for
personal suspicion, gain, or just plain hatred
Continued because a “domino effect” occurred
where those who were accused began to
accuse others
Witch Accusations
• Witch accusations spread all across the
Massachusetts Bay area
• Those accused of witchcraft and killed
could not be buried in religious cemeteries
• By 1693, it was recognized that the events
of the Salem Witch Trials were wrong
• There were witchcraft accusations in
America well into the 1700s (especially
women, kids, the insane)
What is a Witch?
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Definitions
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A person who made a pact with
the Devil (traded his/her soul for
special evil powers in which to
torment others)
Those who practiced Wicca, a
religion that is based on nature
The modern witch who wears a
black hat, has a black cat (and
sometimes a wart on her face),
and flies on a broom
How Does One “Prove” Witchcraft?
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Witch “Tests”
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Swim test: victims were tied up and thrown into a
lake…if they sank, they were NOT witches, but
drowned. If they floated they were witches and
killed anyway
Trick knife: a trick knife was used to “stab” the
victims, if they didn’t bleed (which they wouldn’t),
they were witches
Witchcake: a “cake” was made with flour and the
accused’s urine and fed to an animal, if the animal
exhibited strange behavior, the accused was a witch
Confession: if the accused confessed (usually
under torture), it was used as evidence against
that person
Punishment
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In America,
accused
witches were
hanged
In Europe,
accused
witches were
burned at the
stake
The Crucible
• A play written by Arthur Miller
• Published in 1953
• Written during a “modern-day
witch hunt”
– McCarthyism & The “Red Scare”-a
search within America for
Communists
• Themes: Social & economic
pressures
The Crucible vs. Salem
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Differences
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The Crucible is BASED on the Salem Witch
Trials and 1692 Salem
It is not completely historically accurate
Most events did occur and many
characters did actually exist
The Crucible is NOT a historical
account of the Salem Witch Trials
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The Salem Witch Trials & The Crucible