"The Salem witch trials left an indelible stain on the conscience of our country. This is despite their being relatively minor in comparison with other atrocities in American history. From beginning to end, the trials resulted in only 25 or so deaths. This is a drop in the bucket when compared with the deaths of the now-almost-forgotten Indian Wars of the time. Still the witch trials have proved a perennial source of fascination and a subject of ready inquiry in times of reflection and self examination.
"There is something seminal about them – a fundamental early childhood trauma of the American democratic project. The Puritans, in their fierce drive for independence from English control, were embarking on an experiment in grassroots democracy. The monarch was an ocean away, and the colonists continually put up resistance to autocratic rule. The meetinghouse in each New England town was the center for decision-making, and despite the time’s theocratic impulses, the church itself didn't hold as much power as the community of churchgoers did.
"The moral lesson of Salem Village is the danger present in democracy when a community is fractured and estranged, and the leaders who are obligated to heal those divisions instead strive to capitalize on them and thereby hoist themselves into prominence by appealing to the people’s basest fears and superstitions..." [Read More]
The above paragraphs are excerpted from the program notes for PlayMakers Repertory Company's November 2016 production of "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller.