Throughout the years, witchcraft has been the common fear of mankind. In England, the legal definition of a witch was “a person who hath a conference with the devil to consult with him or to do some act”. In early modern Europe, women were thought to be witches due to their biblical association with the devil, the superstitions and misunderstanding of the people of Europe, and the negative perceptions of those who deviated from the social norm. As a result, these beliefs and superstitions led to the death of thousands of alleged witches. (Witch Hunts) Witches were thought to be consults of the devil who gave up their bodies and led others away from the church for the devil in exchange for otherworldly power.
How accurate is it to say that persecution was most intense in areas where influential people were able to promote action against witches? (30) In the years 1580 to 1650 the witch hunts of Europe took place against a backdrop of rapid social, economic, and religious transformation. Witch hunting was the hostility, accusations and campaigns aimed at a person or a group in the community holding views considered unorthodox or a threat to society and the intensity of these hunts varied in different European countries. The role of prominent individuals such as King James VI in Scotland and Mathew Hopkins in England was a significant cause of the increase in the intensity of witch persecutions and is a major factor in the ‘from above’ argument for causes of the witch craze. However, the most important factor for the intense persecution of witches at this time was the socio-economic situation across Europe in the form of plague, widespread poverty and the growing suspicion of women.
Germany lead historically with the highest death toll in Europe. Witch-hunts were the brutal ramification of economic crisis, widespread social disenfranchisement, religious instability and polarization due to the emergence of Protestantism. The atmosphere of intolerance and decades of war, of debilitating natural disasters, famine, and the Bubonic plague, was the breeding ground for fear, jealousey, gossip, slander, hearsay, and suspicion. Most often it was sparked by a conflict between women, neighbors, family members, a need to find a scapegoat, a greed to possess what another had gained. Sadly so, the persecution of women, men, and children on the basis of accusations of sorcery is still in practice globally, and growing at an alarming rate in developing countries, as neocolonialism creates a climate of unrest, dependency, poverty, unsurmontable debt, and frustration in the face of consumerism, socio-economic and political flucuations.
Women were seen as mortal, yet at the same time they were seducers and manipulators. The novels main idea is about the conflicts that women, who were influenced by the Victorian Age, suffered. Grace’s identity is confusing, as it is made complex by her either trying to protect her innocence or by hiding her guilt. Atwood does an excellent job getting the reader to question this, but her main issue focuses on survival, and how the search for Grace’s true identity is symbolically the search that all women living in a suppressed environment are involved in. This theme is very true to Atwood’s feminist pursuit, which is seen in her other novels as well.
This began an outbreak of hysteria that would result in the arrest of over one hundred-fifty people and execution of twenty women and men. The madness continued for over four months. The notorious witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts occurred from June through September. It is a brief, but turbulent period in history and the causes of the trials have long been a source of discussion among historians. Many try to explain or rationalize the bizarre happenings of the witch hunts and the causes that contributed to them.
During the early decades of the 14th century to 1750, Europeans executed between 200,000 and 500,000 witches, most of which were women. (Ben-Yehuda, The European Witch Craze of the 14th to 17th Centuries: A Sociologist's Perspective). The nature and timing of the executions and the persecutions that preceded these women were based upon the changes of the Inquisition, as well as their distinct differences played within the medieval society. In conclusion to these changes within the medieval social order, the witch craze accounted for the need of a redefinition of moral boundaries. The fact that these executions and the accompanying demonological theories were accepted and popular amongst society can be further explained through the lack of social and ethical standards of people, which spread throughout society at that time.
When English colonists began the new American colonies, they brought the fear of witchcraft with them across the sea. Before the American colonies had even begun, England experienced a similar witch hunting phase. In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull called the "Summis desiderantes" which openly called for hunting down, torturing and finally executing Satan worshipers, otherwise known as witches. Even when this
The Salem Witch Trials + Arthur Miller= A Good Movie Arthur Miller's The Crucible delivers a powerful message to its modern American viewers about one of the more controversial chapters of our country's history. As a dramatization of the Salem Witch Trials, the movie brought the historical context of the time period to the big screen. The trials, which began in 1692 and resulted in the deaths of nineteen people, demonstrated the dangers of allowing the blurring together of church and state so closely that a legal trial was used to determine the fate of those who "were working with the devil" (Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, Williams, Gross, Brands, 83). The story is set in seventeenth century Massachusetts, where Puritanism had become the social norm. One of the key themes is that under time of stress and adversity, neighbors, friends, and even family members have a tendency to turn on each other when they allow fear to govern their actions.
Jill Lepore, in her book New York Burning, explores the conspiracy known as Great Negro Plot of 1741 in the British colony of New York to revolt. She explains the conspiracy and the related incidences in chronological order along with detailed historical background of the trials of convicted slaves for the “plot”. She does not give clear opinion on whether the conspiracy should be considered hysteria of whites, or a real plot planned by black slaves. However, considering the social and economical background of 1741, New York was in a devastating state where economic depression, declining food and fuel supply, and unbearable cold weather angered most of population in the city (59). The conspiracy was believed to be true by these furious people who were blind to even recognize what they believe.
Historically witchcraft has been thought of as violent horrible things. They tortured and killed many innocent people, although the exact opposite is what happened at the Salem Witchcraft Trials. Nineteen women and five men were hung on Salem’s gallows hill. They were all accused witches, who were all also innocent. How did the witch-hunt in 1692 begin, and why there?