Hysteria In The Crucible Essay Prompts

Hysteria was a major factor in the many accusations of witchcraft that occurred throughout The Crucible.  It helps to understand what hysteria is--an overwhelming fear and excitement that overrides all logic, and is often enhanced and intensified by the presence of others who are acting out on that fear.  

Every time the girls in the play accuse someone of being a witch in court, hysteria played a role.  One girl would pretend to get cold, or see a spirit, or to be attacked by a spirit, and would cry out in fear and pain; the other girls, seeing her do that, caught the emotion like a contagious disease (which is how hysteria works), and would imagine they felt or saw the same things, or at least would react to the fear in the room.  Mary Warren herself, in speaking to the judges, explained how it all happened:  

"I--I heard the other girls screaming, and you, Your Honor, you seemed to believe them, and I--It were only sport in the beginning sir, but then the whole world cried spirits, spirits, and I--I promise you, Mr. Danforth, I only thought I saw them but I did not."

So, for a specific example of hysteria, you can look to the end of Act One. Here, Tituba starts naming people who might be witches, and is praised for it.  So, Abby figures this is her way out of getting in trouble, and starts naming names. By the end of the act, all of the girls have caught on and are hysterically crying out names.

Even better, the girls turn on Mary Warren in Act Three, pretending she is a little bird come to tear their eyes out.  Abigail leads the charge, and all of the other girls follow.  Pretty soon the emotion is so intense that Miller writes in the stage directions, 

"She and all the girls run to one wall, shielding their eyes.  And now, as though cornered, they let out a gigantic scream, and Mary, as though infected, opens her mouth and screams with them."

Note how Miller describes Mary's hysteria as an infection received from the other girls--that, right there, is hysteria.  So, Mary joins them, and eventually accuses Proctor of bewitching her, and the courts, once again, are ruled by hysterics instead of logic.

Here is a video about hysteria in The Crucible:

Mass hysteria is a condition affecting a group of people, that is characterized by irrational behaviors or beliefs, or unexplainable causes of illness. For example, The dancing plague of 1518, The mass hysteria in Brunei, and The Salem Witch trials are outbreaks of mass hysteria. Each of these historical examples have had a group of people that have been affected by the same symptoms, irrational behaviors, or unexplainable causes of illness. The dancing plague of 1518 was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace in July 1518. Numerous people danced for days without stopping over the period of about one month. The outbreak began in July when Frau Troffea began to dance on the street. Within a month about 400 people were dancing also. Concerned nobles seeked help of local physicians to find a cause of the unusual dancing.

The physicians announced that the plague was a natural disease caused by hot blood. Eventually, some of the people died from heart attacks, strokes, and exhaustion. Incidents of mass hysteria occurred at two all girls seconday schools in Brunei. The girls affected by this phenomenon claimed to have been possessed by spirits. These students started to scream, shake, and cry out of the blue. The cause of this mass hysteria is still unknown. The Salem Witch Trials was also an outbreak of Mass hysteria. These trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft ( use of alleged supernatural, magical faculties) in colonial Massachusetts in the 1690’s. The mass hysteria in the salem village started when two young girls (daughter & niece of Reverend Samuel Parris) started to show cryptical behavior.

Other young women started to show similar behavior. Salems inhabitants started to believe that the cause of these cryptical behaviors was ‘witchcraft’. Mass hysteria made a negative impact on this society. Many societies are impacted by irrational fears. An irrational fear is a type of fear that an individual experiences that does not necessarily have any basis behind it. Societies unite to critique and make threats vanish. For instance, in The Salem Witch Trials the town people were trying to get rid of witches.

They accused, tortured, & murdered people who were believed to be performing acts of witchcraft or making deals with Saten. In todays society, groups of people appropriately called homophobs will come together as a whole to protest the sexual preference of other people. The discrimination of others may lead to more people believing that it is correct to judge others which in turn could hurt more human beings. There is really no way to alleviate this problem. When somethings going to happen, we can’t stop it from happening. We just have to learn from the mistakes & never repeat it again.

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