The inquisition was one of the darkest periods of Christianity, and while most of it occurred in Europe, the newly founded United States was not free from religious fanaticism. One of the most prominent episodes of such craze was the Salem witch trials, which were adapted in The Crucible.
In Salem, Massachusetts, a group of girls and a Barbadian slave dance around a fire like celebrating some kind of rite. There, Abigail (played by Winona Ryder) drinks a chicken’s blood and wishes for John Proctor’s wife to die. One of the town’s men sees them, and surprises them. As most of the girls flee, one of them drops unconscious. The girl won’t wake up and the girls that were seen are questioned about what happened. Among those who arrive at the sick girl’s house, is John Proctor, who had an affair with Abigail.
Some of the men think that the girls are just pretending to be asleep, but others, including the town’s reverend, believe that they are possessed. The girls accuse their slave to be working with the devil and escape the punishment.
Aware of the easiness of accusing someone to be witch, the girls start accusing other women in town, John’s wife among them. The accused are arrested, but John’s servant, and one of the girls who wouldn’t wake up, is asked by him to testify that the sickness was faked. Facing the possibility that they might be accused of lying to the jury, the girls accuse John’s servant of being a witch and put a spell on them. John then confesses to having an affair with Abigail and the reason she is doing all this is to get rid of his wife.
John’s wife is asked if it’s true that her husband had an affair and she lies trying to protect her husband. Moreover, John’s servant accuses him of working with the devil. John and his wife are then apprehended and sentenced to be hanged.
Abigail then tries to escape and asks John to come with her, but he refuses. John is the offered to confess of working with the devil and be freed. However, he chooses to die while keeping his innocence.
The obvious idea we get from this film is how easily people who are supposed to be intelligent, under the spell of religion, will believe anything and, which is worse, harm others without any proof further than their own prejudice. Moreover, this zealotry can be used just like the girls used it against innocents, just to escape their punishment.
The witchcraft ritual also spawns some questions, especially how intolerant of other religions the early Americans could be. It would be nice if this were only at that time, but unfortunately, nowadays we see the same behavior among those who claim to be faithful to the Lord.
If you like historical movies, check this out and then you can get the book or research more on the issue.