Hysteria In The Crucible Essay, Research Paper
Many occasions of mass chaos and ultimate breakdown of society directly
result from hysteria. Hysteria means total loss of control of what seems rational and
righteous. If a community falls into such a state, the results can be devastating. The
Puritan society possesses the perfect conditions for such an event. In Arthur
Miller s play, The Crucible, hysteria plays a key role as the main theme. It portrays
as the main theme because it often becomes the atmosphere of the play and the main
motivator of the character s actions.
First, hysteria seems to take on as the atmosphere of the play, not to
mention that the whole play portrays a hysterical mood. In all four acts of the play
hysteria, in some way, comes out. In act one, hysteria prevails towards the end of
the play when Mrs. Putnam and the others prosecute Tituba. At the beginning of
the prosecution Tituba swears she has never seen nor been in contact with the devil.
As they beat her and tell her if she does not confess then she will be hanged, she
suddenly changes her mind and in a hysterical burst shouts, And then he come one
stormy night to me and say, Look! I have white people belong to me. And I look
and there was Goody Good…Aye, sir, and Goody Osborne. (p.44). Then more
hysteria takes over the scene as Abigail stands and says, I want to open myself! I
want the light of God; I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw
him; I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss his hand. I saw Sarah Good with
the Devil! I saw Goody Osborne with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the
devil. (p.45). Then the whole scene erupts into one big hysterical mess as Betty
awakes to shout out her sightings of the devil. The girls continue to shout out
random names of the townspeople as the curtain falls, leaving the audience in a total
The other reason hysteria acts as a main theme is because it causes all of the
other events in the play. Each time someone acts hysterical, other people become
nervous and hysterical. In act three, Abigail begins the hysteria and chaos by
pretending to suddenly feel a cold wind and see a black bird in the air. She claims it
is Mary Warren and she feels her spirit in her. This of course puts Mary in a state
of shock. Mary then cries out, Let me go Mr. Proctor, I cannot, I cannot. (p.101).
Mr. Proctor then shouts at Abigail, How do you call heaven! Whore!
Whore! (p.101). Then Proctor tries to ruin Abigail by confessing to his sin of
adultery. He fails at doing so and afterwards Abigail starts up again with the black
bird thing. This time Abigail s hysteria sparks all the other girls to side with her
and act as if they see the bird as well. Now Mary becomes totally hysterical
pleading for Abigail to stop. Finally Mary breaks down and pointing at Proctor
says, You re the Devil s man! The whole scene erupts and the judges become
hysterical and believe Mary. The scene ends with the jailing of Proctor.
In conclusion, hysteria seems as the main concept though out the play.
Miller deeply conveys this in every act and shows its devastating effects. He gives
the play a hysterical atmosphere and mood in order to stress the theme even more.
Just the fact of hanging people for witchcraft comes off as a lunacrest idea in
today s courts. Overall, Miller deeply stresses hysteria in the play so the reader will
be more aware of its presence in our history and in every day society as well.