The year is 1692, and Abigail Williams has just cried witch. Under harsh Puritan values, anyone accused and found guilty of witchcraft is to be publicly hung in the town square. The Puritan theocracy, leaving no room for adversity or opposition, has been turned upside down. In Arthur Miller’s drama The Crucible, Miller illustrates the dangers of Puritan theocracy: where personal freedoms are oppressed, cruel and unusual punishments are implemented, and where the leaders can manipulate the holy books and laws to rule with unrestricted power in the name of the divine.
The word theocracy comes from the Greek word “theos” which means God, and the word “cracy” which means law (Dictionary.com). ...view middle of the document...
In Salem Village however, there was no such luxury. The citizens lived in fear under the harsh laws and values of biblical law. If a citizen said anything regarding any aspect of the society in a negative light, then he or she could be thrown in jail. By controlling what the citizens of the society could say, Parris helped to control the rebellious tendencies that some people could spark: most notably John Proctor. Throughout Act one of The Crucible, it is evident that the characters can hardly hold a conversation without someone threatening to sue another person for slander or defamation.
PROCTOR. Is it the Devil’s fault that a man cannot say you good morning without you clap him for defamation? You’re old, Giles, and you’re not hearin’ so well as you did.
GILES. John Proctor, I have only last month collected four pound damages for you public sayin’ I burned the roof of your house and I—
PROCTOR. I never said no such thing, but I’ve paid you for it, so I hope I can call you deaf without charge. Now come along Giles, and help me drag my lumber home (Miller Act I).
This piece from Act one shows how careful the characters must choose their words. Proctor had to pay Giles, a close friend of his, just for saying that Giles burned the roof off Proctor’s barn. A ludicrous case of defamation brought against Proctor, but the citizens of Salem could have been “clapped” with a punishment far exceeding what Proctor received, if they talked negatively about their society, religion, or leaders.
The Puritan society did not accept any religion other than Protestant Christianity. This was one aspect of their society that they would not yield to change. Under absolutely no circumstance was any citizen allowed to practice another religion, or even another sect of Christianity. In Miller’s overture, he explains the ironic religious beliefs of the Puritan people;
For these reasons, among others, they carried about an air of resistance, even of persecution. Their fathers had, of course, been persecuted in England. So now they and their church found it necessary to deny any other sect its freedom, lest their New Jerusalem be defiled and corrupted by wrong ways and deceitful ideas (Overture).
Miller shows the irony of the Puritan Society, who were persecuted in their home country, and in turn, persecute others whom they do not share the same beliefs with.
Thinking freely means challenging the institution of a theocracy, where everyone is supposed to follow one strict way of thinking. When it is brought forth that John and Elizabeth might not believe in witches, the citizens are dumbfounded. Believing exactly what the Bible says, the citizens are astonished that among them, are those that do not believe the Gospel word for word.
HALE. Then you do not believe—
PROCTOR. I have no knowledge of it; the Bible speaks of witches, and I will not deny them.
HALE. And you, woman?
ELIZABETH. I – I cannot believe it.
HALE. You cannot!...
ELIZABETH. If you...