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Betty again collapses inert on the bed in a possible physical form of hysteria showing the affect Abigail can inflict. Throughout the beginning of Act 1 Abigail does not seem to act hysterically, but in-fact acts quite the opposite, cleverly turning the blame from her to the next most obvious victim, Tituba: Then to the next, and the next. In the later stages of Act 1 and throughout the majority of Act 3 Abigail appears to change in the way she behaves, noticing that the adult’s in particular Parris and the judges believe her lies and false accusations, she begins to mimic a false form of hysteria to convince people of the accused guilt.
Knowing of her immense power over the other girls Abigail only needs to scream and the girls will scream, she simply needs to faint and the girls will too. “A wind, a cold wind, has come” Abigail’s eyes fall on the newly accused, Mary Warren, upon this Mercy begins to shiver and shouts “Your Honour, I freeze! ” next is Suzanna “I freeze, I freeze”. Abigail constantly threatens and scares the other girls to make them follow and obey her “… I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down” her persistent bullying and her constant terrorization has led her to be in almost complete control of the girls.
There are many examples of hysterical behaviour during the book. Throughout the play Mrs Putnam, described as a “death-ridden… twisted soul”, does well to excite and aggravate the situation in a hysterical manner. Not averse to heartache and death and with her seven children dieing as babies, Mrs Putnam is superstitious and justly callous. Her first words in the whole play do well to ‘wind up’ and worry everyone present “It is a marvel. It is surely a stroke of hell upon you. ” She later goes on “I’d not call it sick; the Devils touch is heavier than sick. Its death, y’know, its death driving into them…
” But certain characters throughout the play do there up most to act sensibly and stay valiant during the horrific madness. John and Elizabeth Proctor are both accused of witchcraft and are both later hanged, but unlike Mrs Putnam and others throughout the play, both John and Elizabeth do not cripple under the pounding weight of the prejudicial ‘judicial system’ nor do they succumb to the panicking hysterical antics of the majority of the village, but together they eventually show the corruptness and wickedness that the ‘law’ was being enforced with, and together die in a tender scene of solemn martyrdom.
Although hysteria looks to be a big part of the menace that was the 1692 witch hunts there are other more common characteristics and emotions that led to the brutal untimely deaths of many innocent people. During Act 1 the men; in particular Reverend Parris and Mr Putnam, two of the more morally shady characters in the play, are already arguing about money and land. Parris feels he is not paid enough for the work he does and the qualifications he has “I am not some preaching farmer with a book under my arm; I am a graduate of Harvard College…
you will look far for a man of my kind at sixty pounds a year! ” Reverend Parris seems to know of his own importance far more than the other villagers do. In the same conversation, Putnam claims that Proctor has stolen wood from his forest and in turn Proctor accuses Putnam’s grandfather of stealing the land that he actually owns “your grandfather had a habit of willing land that never belonged to him, I may say it plain” .
These arguments, although not centred on witchcraft, are the basis of who is accused of witchcraft and who is accusing who of it. Close friends of Reverend Parris seem not to perish to the untrue accusations of witchcraft, just showing the way the ‘law’ was being manipulated. There are a few cases of revenge being taken out using the accusation of witchcraft, Mr Corey tells the story of how his wife, Mrs Corey, sold Mr Walcott a pig four or five years prior and the pig died, and that he can no longer keep a pig alive because of her witchcraft “…
he goes to court and claims that from that day to this he cannot keep a pig alive for more than four weeks because my Martha bewitched them with her books! ” In en-capturing these historical events Arthur Miller widened the eyes of a generation to the ludicrous and shocking truth behind the witch hunts of 1692 and in doing so, more discretely implied a political parable to the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1940’s and 1950’s. I feel that the horrific events of 1692 cannot be solely pinned on hysteria, however powerful or influential the emotion may be.
How can the cause of these dreadful events be totally blamed on any one factor? Ignorance, greed, revenge and an over whelming abuse of power are just as prominent and to blame as any form of hysteria. James Windle Page 1 of 3 Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.