The Mentality of the Salem Witch Trials

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What if I told you that the world we live in is much more similar to the 1692 Salem Witch Trials than you thought? Arthur Miller’s play ‘The Crucible’ speaks about these aforementioned trials through the eyes of those living during the era. Chaos in Salem spread after the accusations of witchcraft against Reverend Parris’ slave, Tituba, due to the fact that his daughter, Betty, became ill with no plausible explanation. Tituba, being brought into custody for interrogation, admits to witchcraft, as if she refused, she would be hung. In hopes to save her own life, she names other people across the town, accusing them of witchcraft. This leads to a spiral of false accusations, and a massive court hearing, this ridiculous conspiracy theory results in the death of twenty innocent people. This staggering event shares common values with today’s society, specifically the topics of false accusations, lies, and doing anything to uphold your reputation, whether it be in ‘The Crucible’, or modern day life.

False accusations held one of the largest, if not the largest role in the Salem Witch Trials. After Tituba was accused, she was forced to plead guilty, leading to her falsely accusing many people of the town, saying “You lie, Devil, you lie!' And then he come one stormy night to me, and he say, 'Look! I have white people belong to me.' And I look—and there was Goody Good…[and Goody Osburn]” (Miller, 44). Abigail then admits to witchcraft, saying that she “saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!” (Miller, 45). This led to all of these people being charged with witchcraft, some of which refused to plead guilty, resulting in their deaths. On the other hand, the ones who admitted to save their own lives, begin to accuse even more people of the town of being witches.

False accusations were clearly a very important part of the Salem Witch Trials, and false accusations continue to be an epidemic in today’s society. One major case is the Duke Lacrosse Case of 2006. Three members of the men’s lacrosse team whom attended Duke University were falsely accused of rape by a black female stripper, Crystal Gail Mangum. The district attorney, Mike Nifong, claimed that it was a hate crime. This led to many officials in the men’s lacrosse team being forced to resign. The district attorney was then fired, and charged for “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation”, he was also charged with criminal contempt for tampering with evidence. This is just one of thousands of false accusations, another example of false accusations is the wrongful murder of Jesse Tafero, a 44 year old man who was accused of the murder of two Florida Highway Patrol officers, he was found guilty depsite the lack of evidence, and was executed in 1990. His electric chair malfunctioned three times, resulting in him being tortured for crimes he did not commit. Thankfully, the ones being falsely accused in the Duke Lacrosse Case were found innocent, but unfortunately for Jesse Tafero, he was found guilty and murdered. There are thousands more cases of both men and women falsely accused of crimes, some of which remain in jail falsely to this day.

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The foundation of false accusations falls along the basis of lies, and deception. In ‘The Crucible’, Betty Parris lies, and falsely accuses Abigail Williams of “[drinking] a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife! [Drinking] a charm to kill Goody Proctor!” (Miller, 18). This leads to Abigail being falsely accused of witchcraft, and deception. This is ultimately a turning point in ‘The Crucible’ and is one of the main factors that leads to the death of John Proctor, as from this point onwards, his character becomes angrier until being accused of witchcraft, and his unfortunate murder. The theme of lies and deceit continue throughout the novel, ultimately killing many innocent people, and harming the lives of Salem, and the people whom occupy it.

A major scandal based upon lies and deceit is the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal of 1998. This took place during President Bill Clinton’s second term in office, exposing an affair he had with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, similar to the affair John Proctor had with Abigail Williams. The affair took place from 1995 to 1997, and was revealed in January of 1998. Clinton was accused of sexual harassment, and as a result, was in the process of being impeached. In late January of 1998, Clinton made a televised speech, stating that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky”. Clinton was doing everything he could possibly do in order to maintain his role as president, and his reputation. He was acquitted of all charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, and was held in civil contempt for giving misleading testimony. As he was already being investigated for other scandals, such as the whitewater scandal, he was put on trial for impeachment, however, was voted to remain in office. Bill Clinton’s many lies during not only this case, but his presidency, would have a ripple on the world of politics, and remains as a major remembrance for everyone in the world. Were it not for his lies, deceit, and indifference, the world as we know it would be much different.

These staggering events discussed share common values with today’s society, specifically the topics of false accusations, lies, and doing anything to uphold your reputation, whether it be in ‘The Crucible’ or in modern day life. The Duke Lacrosse case, Jesse Tafero case, and the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, are just a few of the many examples of these topics. The world we live in is not so different then the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, which may come as a surprise. However, us as a society have gradually improved over time, yet we still have a lot of work to do. Next time you read about a major scandal, think about its importance to not only those involved, but to the entire world.

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The Mentality of the Salem Witch Trials. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
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