The play The Crucible written by Arthur Miller is set in a Puritan society; a society which is a theocracy, where priests and church figures have all the power. The setting of the play takes place in the village of Salem. This village is very strict when it comes to religion. Everyone was in each other’s business trying to find weaknesses of others in order to make themselves look and feel purer. This society of division and paranoia is what motivated people to engage in witch hunts. The Salem Witch Trials is a result of the corrupt Puritans beliefs.
The people of Salem corrupt beliefs is the main cause of the Salem Witch Trials. Arthur Miller is speaking to the audience right in the beginning of Act 1 and he was introducing Reverend Parris as well as the people of Salem. Miller’s author note says, “Like the rest of Salem, never conceived that the children were anything for being permitted to walk straight, eyes slightly lowered, arms at the sides, and mouths shut until bidden to speak” (Miller 4). This quote relates to the stance of the corrupt beliefs because it shows that the children felt the need to get the attention they want and in order to get the attention they felt the need to stir up some trouble. The message shown from the quote is that the Puritan beliefs of God are not the way it should be. It should not be people against neighbor but it should be you and your neighbor as a family. As it is known with prior knowledge of the Puritans, they are meant to be religiously pure. Arthur Miller is still introducing the norms of the Salem people. He provides an explanation of the human condition for hysteria. Miller’s author note says, “Long-Held hatreds of neighbors could now be openly expressed, and vengeance was taken, despite the Bible’s charitable injunctions” (Miller 7).
According to this quote, this is the only time they are allowed to go against the Bible by holding grudges against fellow humans. They used the biblical premise of the witch trials to mask the true nature of their selfishness and greed. Miller uses this quote to explain the religious indifference. Even though the people were supposedly very religious, they jumped at the chance to condemn others. They used the witch trials as an excuse for their immorality. McCarthyism was clearly used since they were throwing false accusations at each other with little evidence. Miller wanted the readers to see the terrible times among them where a neighbor would turn against neighbor. This was a dark era for the Puritans.
As one goes further in the book, the people of Salem tries to impose their beliefs on everyone that is not Christian. John Proctor is seen speaking to Parris in the first Act of The Crucible. The conversation between Parris, Proctor, Putnam, and Giles led to this conversation and Parris keeps on trying to say he needs things like money, a house and so on. Then Proctor says, “Proctor: Can you speak one minute without we land in Hell again?. Parris: It is not for you to say what is good for you to hear” (Miller 30). Parris tries to assert his religious authority to Proctor whereas Proctor is uninterested in the minister’s message. Parris suggests that there is a battle going on, a battle of good vs. evil and Proctor is on the wrong side. John Proctor complains to Parris about the sermons Parris gives that always relate to Hell. Proctor believes Parris is not worthy to be a preacher and despises his consistent attempts to bully the community by instilling fear in its members.
In fact, Proctor claims that his poor attendance at church is due in part to Parris himself. Proctor says, “I have trouble enough without I come five miles to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention God anymore” (Miller 28). Proctor also believes that Parris is more concerned with the acquisition of money and earthly things. Proctor is talking about the hypocrisy of their so-called religion. Instead of preaching about the goodness of God and having faith, the witch trials go on. People point to each other and blame each other of using witchcraft, for their own benefit! To seek vengeance! To get more land, power and other things they’ve got their greedy minds on. Proctor also says that because of these witch trials, God seems so unimportant. They are no longer praising God, but praying or preaching about each other’s damnation.
In the second Act of The Crucible, Reverend Hale is talking to Elizabeth and John Proctor. Reverend Hale believes the Proctors to be good Christian people. During the course of their conversation, Hale expresses concern that the Proctors haven’t been to church as often as they should, and that their third son has not been baptized. John and Elizabeth explained that it was due to the fact that Elizabeth has been sick but really they don’t like Parris at all. Hale talks to them about the religion and then he found out that the Proctor’s last son was not baptized and says, “God keep you both; let the third child be quickly baptized, and go you without fail each Sunday into Sabbath prayer; and keep a solemn, quiet way among you” (Miller 70).
Hale begins questioning the Proctors about their religion. He points out Proctor’s irregular church attendance and asks him why his third son has not been baptized. Proctor says he finds Parris greedy, but Hale is not moved. Hale then asks him to recite the Ten Commandments. He remembers nine but must ironically be reminded of the last — adultery — by his wife. John Hale urges Elizabeth and John Proctor to adhere to the rituals of religion for their own safety. He hopes to prevent an outcome that by now is inevitable to prevent an accusation of witchcraft. He is trying to look out for them so nobody has any doubts about their holiness. The people of Salem developed a theocracy -combining state authority with religion- in order to establish unity. If everyone in the community shares the same beliefs, they support one another. They sustain a sense of kinship and similarity with one another. Miller writes, “the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combination of state and religious power” (Miller 7).
This tie to the corrupt puritan beliefs because by using the law about witches the witch hunts were an opportunity to publicly express guilt and sin, they were able to express and take vengeance. As a part of the initial setting, the narrator explains how a theocracy which is based on the principle that some people should be included and some excluded from society because of their religious beliefs and actions or else it leads to witch hunts like the Salem witch hunts. This is basically the idea that when religion is taken to the extreme could lead to a tragedy.
Salem was a community that believed God was the one in the highest authority and that religious laws and state laws are equal. The corrupt Puritan beliefs caused all these witch hunts. Puritans that were trying to establish a fundamental religious community controlled the village. Religious sins were seen as legal crimes. This made the society paranoid. Everything in this Puritan society is either good or evil. They are intolerant of anything against social norms, so expressing your thoughts were not allowed. The people tried to blame others in order to survive leading to terrible mass hysteria.